Throughout the Ethics Aristotle is concerned with identifying what the good is for human beings. In other words, he wanted to define the purpose or function of human existence. In Book 1 we see him define this good as happiness and in the last section he states that the happy person has “stability…and keeps the character he has throughout his life” (Irwin and Fine 362). This last section was thought provoking for me and made me question whether it was possible for a person’s true character to change throughout a lifetime.
In chapter 10 of book 1 Aristotle discusses what it means for a human being to be happy and what is needed to categorize someone as a happy person. During this discussion Aristotle states that while fortune can fluctuate throughout a lifetime, unless they are subjected to great misfortunes, the happy person perseveres with the same character he had before. The happy person will continue to go through life choosing activities that express virtue regardless of what comes in their way.
While Aristotle thoroughly discusses the life of the happy person, he never discusses the life of the unhappy. If the same stability that is used to describe the happy person is applied to the unhappy this would mean that the unhappy never had a chance to reach the good or fulfill their life’s purpose. If this were the case then the unhappy would have nothing to live for and would have no goal to aim for. Contrary to this belief, I believe that the unhappy have a chance to change for the better and become a happy person as well. By recognizing that they are not expressing virtue in their actions and changing this they too can achieve happiness.