Most believe that they only have one chance at living on this planet. With the limited amount of time that people do have, it makes for important work discovering and deciding just what to do. The quest seems filled with obstacles and bright spots. Sometimes seeming as if designed and at the next moment completely abstract. Is there some sort of blueprint or signage that can be followed? Just what exactly is a “good life”? The answer to this question may be found in one of the first great, recorded philosophers, Plato.
Plato believed that in order to attain the good life, one must exemplify the ultimately real form of goodness. One may attain this through a balance of the three different sections of their personality; the mind, will and appetites. When these three sections are operating at their full moral virtue, that is ruled by reason, a good life will result. St. Augustine should be mentioned alongside Plato because he adapted Plato’s theory to Christianity. St. Augustine said that the ultimate form of Plato’s is actually God, the ultimate form of goodness period. If you love God and do what you will, you will do good.
Plato’s student Aristotle tries to bring the forms down to earth a bit. Aristotle holds that people need to try to perform their natural functions. Man’s natural function is to reason. A person who reasons and holds the universal good habits of balance and moderation will have a good life. As Augustine did with Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas reconciles Aristotle’s natural function theory with God. Aquinas looks to take what he feels are the basic natural human functions of faith, love and hope and make them be the natural functions of humans as instrumental means to an intrinsically good end.
A somewhat more simplified version of how to lead a positive existence comes from the Epicureans. Epicurus spoke of a simple life led trying to avoid unnecessary pain. This may be achieved by avoiding unnecessary and unnatural desires such as wealth or fame, limiting natural but unnecessary desires such as sex and satisfying desires which are natural and necessary such as shelter and food. While the Epicureans wanted no part of pain, it seems that the Stoics embraced it. Stoics believe that there is some sort of Logos or natural order of the universe and that everything happens necessarily.
They believe that all should play their “parts” in life as actors with no control over the plot and script. Remain uninvolved emotionally in your fate and you will be untroubled. Sharply contrasting the Stoics would be the Hedonists who believe in the maximum amount of individual pleasure possible. Thomas Hobbes of the 17th century, contrary to many of the aforementioned, views things as they are rather than how they should be. Hobbes views the world as made up of selfish, brutal and stupid people. As a result of the state of mankind it is necessary to selfishly protect one’s own interest in order to attain a bearable life.