How Much Are Our Goals Worth? #66
Aristotle on knowing what is really important
Welcome to the next post in our year-long philosophy experiment, where we try out six different philosophies of life and see how they work out for us! Subscribe to the mailing list and you’ll get an email every few days with thoughts and inspiration. There’s a discussion forum here, and I’d love to have your feedback on the whole project and to hear how you’re doing and whether you find this useful and fun.
These first two months, we will try to live according to the advice of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). Last time, we talked about how virtues must be deep and balanced. Today, we’ll see what Aristotle says about having the right goals.
Aristotle: Virtue makes the goal right, phronesis [practical wisdom] the things toward the goal.
There is some discussion on what exactly Aristotle means by that, but generally, he seems to be saying that there are two components that we need to pay attention to when we look at our goals in life:
First, we must know how to achieve our goals; how to make “the things toward the goal” work in our favour. But also, and more importantly,
Second, we need to know that the goal is right, which means that we must make sure to pursue only worthy goals.
This is what we mean when we say that someone is “wise.”
Knowing what goals are worth
Take a thief as an example: if he’s a good thief, he will know how to steal something effectively and how to avoid being caught. He will have fulfilled the first condition: he will know how to achieve the goal of stealing what he wants to steal. But is the thief, therefore, a wise man?
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