What Makes the Good Life Good?
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“The happy life is the pleasant life” is a statement that both many ancient and contemporary philosophers would agree to. However how they understand it to be true can differ greatly. In this thesis, I am interested in investigating the role of pleasure in the good life from both an ancient and contemporary perspective. I will first examine how Aristotle characterizes pleasure as a necessarily morally appropriate and objective feature of a good life. I will then contrast Aristotle’s understanding with contemporary philosopher Fred Feldman’s subjective hedonistic eudaimonic thesis. Where Aristotle’s description integrates various goods such as pleasure and virtue to come to a complete description of the good life, Feldman’s thesis focuses on only the one good of subjective pleasure as what accounts for human well-being. In this way, Feldman avoids problems of elitism and perfectionism found in Aristotle’s writings, but fails to account for how various goods should integrate and relate within a good life and thereby fails to satisfy a demand for a complete description of living well. Whether or not we should make this demand upon a eudaimonic thesis may be where ancient and contemporary thinkers differ most greatly and is where I will leave this thesis.