Aristotle on the Purpose of Life

In this video, Monte explores an approach to the question “What is the purpose of life?” developed by the Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). Aristotle reasoned that just as artificial things (such as tools and workers) have characteristic capabilities with respect to which they are judged to be good or do well, so each kind of natural thing (including plants and humans) has characteristic capabilities with respect to which can be judged, objectively, to be good or do well. For plants and animals these mostly have to do with nutrition and reproduction, and in the case of animals, pleasure and pain. For humans, these vegetative and animal capabilities are necessary but not sufficient for our flourishing. Since reason and the use of language are the unique and highest capabilities of humans, the cultivation and exercise of intellectual friendships and partnerships, moral and political virtue, scientific knowledge and (above all) theoretical philosophy, was argued by Aristotle to be the ultimate purpose of human life.

Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of California, San Diego

My research and teaching focuses on Greek philosophy, especially Democritus and Aristotle, and their influence on modern philosophy and science. I am particularly interested in the development of the scientific method, and its application to cosmology, anthropology, and political science. I am current working with D.S. Hutchinson of the University of Toronto, on a reconstruction of a lost work of Aristotle: the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy).

View Website