Chapter Nine

1. In Plato’s Republic, Glaucon attempts to convince Socrates that living virtuously often comes at the expense of one’s happiness. Explain and discuss the two examples Glaucon offers to make his case. Do you agree with Glaucon that being virtuous and being happy are regularly at odds with one another? What reasons do you have for thinking as you do?

2. According to eudaimonists, to live a happy life is to live an excellent life: a complete life that lacks nothing that would make it better. Using the analogy of an excellent knife, explain the process by which we can go about determining the elements of an excellent life. Can you think of some features that a life would need to possess in order to be excellent? Explain these as well as the reasons behind your answer.

3. Explain the three different ways the chapter discusses for how to understand our purpose in life. Which one do you think is best, and why?

4. Plato thinks that the life of justice or virtue is necessary and sufficient for living happily and that when one acquires virtue this leads one to think about happiness in the proper way that reveals this understanding. Do you agree with Plato, and why or why not? Explain the reasoning behind your answer.

5. According to Plato, to be happy is to experience an inner harmony of the soul. What does he mean by this? In answering this question, be sure to explain the three distinct principles of the soul and how they work together properly. How does the analogy of the shepherd, sheep, and sheepdog illustrate the harmony of the soul?

6. Plato offers the illustration of a disharmonious soul through the story of Leontius. Thinking about your own experience, is there a time when you think you experienced a disharmony in your soul that could be explained using Plato’s three-part division? Explain.

7. Explain the difference between the king, the tyrant, and the democrat, according to Plato. What reasons does he offer for thinking that the tyrannical person is the most miserable and unhappy?

8. Explain why Plato believes that most pleasures of the body are not really pleasures at all but are at best a neutral state, or merely the absence of pain. Do you think Plato is correct to think physical pleasures are illusory, and why or why not? And if this were correct, how would it alter your plan of life in order to achieve happiness?

9. Why is it that Plato thinks the democratic person will eventually end up being the tyrant? Do you agree with this claim, and why or why not?

10. Plato makes an analogy between the health of the soul and the health of the body. Explain this analogy as well as how philosophy represents a type of medicine for the soul.

11. According to Aristotle, “Those who say that the victim on the rack or the man who falls into great misfortunes is happy if he is good, are, whether they mean to or not, talking nonsense.” Why does Aristotle think this, and in what ways does this represent an objection to Plato? Do you agree with Aristotle, and why or why not?

12. Aristotle thinks that an excellent life is one in which a person performs the function of humanity well. What is the function of humanity, according to Aristotle? In answering this question, be sure also to explain why he dismisses the possibilities that our function is to merely live, to have sentience, or to life a life of virtue.

13. What are the many elements that Aristotle thinks are required for living an excellent life? Be sure to explain each of these and why Aristotle thinks they are necessary.

14. We see, then, that Aristotle, unlike Plato, thinks that we need conventional goods for an excellent life. Who do you think is closer to the truth in this respect, and why?

15. According to Aristotle, pleasures and satisfactions are important to the happy life, but how they are achieved is central to their value. Do you agree with this claim, and why or why not?

16. Explain Aristotle’s idea that pleasure usually attends activity done well. How does this relate to Aristotle’s claim that we should not separate out the pleasure from the activity as our ultimate goal?

17. Explain how Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach can explain what it means to live a eudaimon life without needing to rely on the Greek notion of a telos. What does she mean by a “capability,” and how does this differ from a “functioning”?

18. What are the ten different capabilities Nussbaum identifies? Do you agree with her that these seem to be essential ingredients in the happy life, and why or why not?

19. Explain Nussbaum’s claim that the capabilities correspond to common spheres of human experience and represent ways to best respond to these challenges.

20. Richard Kraut criticizes Aristotle’s objective account of happiness. Explain in detail his two major objections to Aristotle’s view, being sure to offer an example for each objection.

21. Kraut defends a subjectivist account of flourishing. Explain the similarities and differences between Kraut’s subjectivist view and Aristotle’s objectivist view of happiness. Which do you agree with more, and why?