Wisdom of Life

Aristotle: On the Wisdom and the Meaning of Life

“Knowing yourself

is the beginning of all wisdom.

“Man is a goal-seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. And happiness depends upon ourselves.

One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy. Happiness is a state of activity.

There is an ideal of Excellence for any particular craft or occupation; similarly there must be an Excellence that we can achieve as human beings. That is, we can live our lives as a whole in such a way that they can be judged not just as Excellence in this respect or in that occupation, but as Excellence, period. Only when we develop our truly human capacities sufficiently to achieve this human Excellence will we have lives blessed with happiness. Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.

Happiness does not consist in amusement. In fact, it would be strange if our end were amusement, and if we were to labor and suffer hardships all our life long merely to amuse ourselves. The happy life is regarded as a life in conformity with virtue. It is a life which involves effort and is not spent in amusement. Without virtue, man is most unholy and savage, and worst in regard to sex and eating.

Happiness is a quality of the soul, not a function of one’s material circumstances. The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. Men create gods after their own image, not only with regard to their form, but with regard to their mode of life.

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those — the art of living well.

Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach. Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way. You become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self.

Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.

The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think.

Wise men speak when they have something to say, fools speak because they have to say something.

The wise man does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is willing, in great crises, to give even his life–knowing that under certain conditions it is not worth while to live. He is of a disposition to do men service, though he is ashamed to have a service done to him. To confer a kindness is a mark of superiority; to receive one is a mark of subordination. He does not take part in public displays. He is open in his dislikes and preferences; he talks and acts frankly, because of his contempt for men and things. He is never fired with admiration, since there is nothing great in his eyes. He cannot live in complaisance with others, except it be a friend; complaisance is the characteristic of a slave. He never feels malice, and always forgets and passes over injuries. He is not fond of talking. It is no concern of his that he should be praised, or that others should be blamed. He does not speak evil of others, even of his enemies, unless it be to themselves. His carriage is sedate, his voice deep, his speech measured; he is not given to hurry, for he is concerned about only a few things; he is not prone to vehemence, for he thinks nothing very important. A shrill voice and hasty steps come to a man through care. He bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of his circumstances, like a skillful general who marshals his limited forces with the strategy of war. He is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy whereas the man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy, and is afraid of solitude.

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.

He who has overcome his fears will truly be free. Through discipline comes freedom.

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.

No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.

Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.

Yes, the truth is that men’s ambition and their desire to make money are among the most frequent causes of deliberate acts of injustice. All earthquakes and disasters are warnings — there’s too much corruption in the world.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”


~Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic school of philosophy, and the Aristotelian tradition.

Selected Quotes from Nicomachean Ethics, Politics and Metaphysics, by Aristotle

©Excellence Reporter 2020

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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