Aristotle on the Purpose of Life [9:09]


Professor of Philosophy Monte Johnson discusses Aristotle’s theory of the purpose of life, one of the first secular theories of purpose and meaning that makes no reference to god, a deity, the supernatural, or religion.  Aristotle focuses on ergon, or the function of an object, and arete, or excellence in performing that function.  Architects build houses and saws cut wood.  An excellent architect builds great houses and a good saw cuts quickly.  Aristotle then asks, what is the function of a human being and what does excellence look like?  In short, using our intellectual and moral capacities and capabilities – which make us unique compared to plants and animals – to their fullest provides purpose.

Discussion Questions

  • How does this theory bring in science and objective facts about plants, animals, and humans ato define purpose and morality?
  • What kinds of faculties, in kind or degree, make us uniquely human?
  • What is important that we develop in order to flourish as human beings?

Keywords: morality, Aristotle, ethics, moral theory, virtues, meta-ethics, flourishing, philosophy, purpose, meaning


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