Aristotle on the Meaning of Life

In Stephen Leach & James Tartaglia (eds.), The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers. London: Routledge. pp. 56-64 (2018)
Monte Johnson
University of California, San Diego
Aristotle is the first philosopher on record to subject the meaning of life to systematic philosophical examination: he approaches the issue from logical, psychological, biological, and anthropological perspectives in some of the central passages in the Corpus Aristotelicum and, it turns out, in some fragments from his (lost) early popular work the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy). From an Aristotelian perspective, in asking about life’s “meaning”, we may be asking either a theoretical question about the definition of the term life (and this either generically or with specific reference to human life), or a practical question about the final end or purpose of life (or human life). Aristotle carefully considered both questions, and in his view answering the theoretical question is the key to answering the practical question. In brief, his theoretical view is that humans are distinguished from all other living things, and thus defined by their ability to use reason; thus his practical view is that the end or purpose of human existence is intellectual activity, especially doing philosophy.
Keywords Aristotle  Meaning  Life
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