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As we saw, in Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle gives an account of what he sees as the best life for humans. In your essay, you will need to:

  • Explain Aristotle’s idea of the optimal life and then take up the question of whether this is the best life for us.
    • If Aristotle’s life of eudaimonia is not best, what would be better?  Give reasons in support of your view.  How would you convince an intelligent open-minded person of your view?  (Note that one can acknowledge that his view has good parts or good ideas and still go on to argue that another kind of life or another focus in life would be better.)
    • If his optimal life is best, what makes it better than other views?  Specifically compare it to at least two other plausible views (these may or may not be views we have discussed, but they should be plausible candidates; do not commit the fallacy of attacking a straw man).  How would you convince an intelligent open-minded person that his view is better than either of these?
  • Be sure to consider and to respond to a serious objection to your conclusion or to your argument.

Objectives:   One of the objectives for this assignment is to consider carefully  Aristotle’s view as it has been highly influential and is somewhat similar to U.S. culture’s perspective.  This gives us a chance to reflect on some assumptions that we are all exposed to regularly.  Another objective is to think carefully about whether we would be better off adopting a different view.  Improving the ability to construct a good argument is always an objective of these assignments.

Citations:  We will continue to give citations in the way that we have been doing.  Remember that some authors’ ideas are cited in different ways (e.g., Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics where we give the book number and then section number).

If you quote from or use ideas from sources other than our assigned readingsfull citations must be given (MLA format).

As before, you do not need to have a “Works Cited” section for this assignment if you only cite from our assigned readings.  If you use other sources, then full bibliographic information is needed.  As before, you need not use sources other than our course readings for this assignment.  However, if ideas from other sources are helpful to your argument, then use them.  Just be sure to cite them appropriately.  The Purdue Owl link in our “Course Resources” provides a lot of helpful information.  Let me know if you have questions.

Length and format:  The essay should be approximately 1000-1200 words in length (no more than 1500, please).  Double-spaced.  Good grammar, spelling and writing in general are always expected.  Give your essay a title that reflects the material in an interesting way.  Do not put your name on your submission.

Due date:  This is due before midnight, Tuesday, April 5th.  For each day that they are late, they lose 10% of the total points (7.5 pts).

Evaluation:  These essays are worth 75 points and will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Evidence of understanding of Aristotle’s ideas
  • Quality of the argument for the superiority of his view or another view
  • Consideration of a reasonable objection and thoughtful reply
  • Good writing

I recommend looking over the specific rubrics to be used in evaluating this essay when working on this.  (There are different rubrics depending on whether your essay supports Aristotle’s view or argues for another perspective; the points are the same, but what one needs to do differs.)  Looking at the rubrics can help you avoid allotting the majority of space in your essay to an aspect that counts less than another (note, for example, how the number of points allotted to explaining Aristotle’s view relates to the number for your argument regarding what is best or how his view compares to two other views).  The rubrics can be viewed by clicking on this specific assignment in the “Assignments” section of this site.  Scroll down that page and you will find the rubrics or a place to click for it if they do not already show up.