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What is a good life?

Virtuous activity? In my case quite modest. Teaching kids to sail and swim, I guess. Raising a family, turning the garden into a large veg patch. Loving the sea and the south downs.

Hugo Dixon

As the world celebrates the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness today (March 20), we should reflect on what a good life actually consists in. The best starting point is Aristotle, who said that eudaimonia (conventionally translated as “happiness” but better understood as “living well”), was the ultimate end of human life.

The first thing to note about the ancient Greek philosopher’s conception of a good life is that it is one of activity not passivity. Aristotle, therefore, ruled out a view, all too common both in his time and today, that happiness is the same as a life of pleasure. Sure, a life without pleasure would not be a good one. But not all pleasures are good ones and a life that is orientated around pleasure-seeking is not be a happy one. Aristotle argued that a good life consists in virtuous activity and that acting in this way is…

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