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Success or Happiness

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Success or Happiness
We always think that money can buy happiness and if we have money we are living the good life. Even Aristotle would agree that money can’t buy happiness. But what if you are poor and struggling and trying to reach success because you need to support your family. Can that success buy happiness? Because when you are struggling and trying to make ends meet it can be frustrating. We can definitely look at the movie Pursuit of Happyness and try to think what would Aristotle think of the story and would he agree on the main character, Chris’s, definition of happiness.
In the movie Pursuit of Happyness there is a guy name Chris Gardner who is trying his best to support his family by selling portable bone density scanners. And for Chris to be able to pay rent and daycare fees, he has to at least sell 2 scanners each month. Throughout the movie he has a hard time selling them and it gets to the point where he can’t pay his bills. In result of him not being able to pay his bills, his wife ends up leaving and he also gets evicted from his home and the only person he has left is his son Christopher (Pursuit of Happyness). So his only option to not live on the streets and to give his son a good life is to find a good paying job. When I was watching the movie, one scene that stood out was the scene when Chris was walking through the Financial District in San Francisco after a long day of trying to sell his scanners. But as he is walking he sees a man in a suit and tie stepping out of a nice sports car. So Chris approaches him and he says to the man “ I got two questions for you. What do you do? And how do you do it?” The man tells Chris that he is a stockbroker and that you have to be good with numbers and that no schooling is required. After that encounter Chris stops to take a look at his surroundings and he notices that all the people leaving work look happy and he asks himself why he can’t look like that (Pursuit of Happyness). Aristotle would definitely argue with him and tell him that people who are into getting money don’t know happiness. Happiness is about appreciating what you have and looking past your misfortunes. But when we think of Chris’s situation he needs a stable job to provide for his son and his job selling scanners isn’t working so his only choice is to find a good paying job. So in the midst of him sleeping in motels and homeless shelters with his son and trying to sell the rest of his scanners he lands a internship at a stock firm along with other 20 interns trying to land a job at the firm after 6 months. Through this process Chris was going through struggles but he looked past his misfortunes and was determined to land the job after six months of his internship. And I think Aristotle would praise Chris for going through this bumpy patch in life, which has made Chris strong. Going back to the time when Chris found out his wife was leaving him, Chris thought about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence and when he stated “Our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and Chris thinks to himself how did Thomas Jefferson know to put the pursuit part in there and that we can’t actually have happiness no matter what (Pursuit of Happyness). From this statement we can see that Chris thinks that to have happiness in life you have to pursue it and make it happen. Once again Aristotle could agree as well disagree with Chris because in The Nicomachean Ethics in Chapter Nine of Book One, Aristotle believes that happiness can be learned and if your happy you can look past misfortunes as well if you live the right way you can be prepared for those misfortunes. And I think Aristotle would agree that Chris is learning what happiness is through as he goes through this journey of succeeding and providing a good life for his son. I think he would disagree because Chris thinks happiness is getting a job that pays good money. Even in Routledge Philosophy Guidebook To Aristotle on Ethics by Gerald J. Hughes, he says that Aristotle believes that making money is not what makes our lives fulfilled, since people only want money for what it brings, pleasure (Hughes 11). But you have to think of Chris’s situation, he is living in motels and homeless shelters and he doesn’t want his son to live that life, so he is working really hard to find a stable job so his son can live the life of not living on the streets and so that he won’t have to struggle anymore. So we definitely know Chris is not trying to get a job for the pleasures, but for what is best for his son and himself.
Looking on this whole situation, Aristotle would probably feel like Chris is seeking happiness because he want his son to be happy but he feels like Chris is only in for the money. In The Nicomachean Ethics it states, “As for the life of the businessman, it does not give him much freedom of action. Besides, wealth is obviously not the good we are seeking, because it serves only as a means; for getting something else” (Aristotle 9). Like I’ve mentioned before about Chris getting a job for the money and that he is not in it for the money, I believe that Chris is not in it for getting something else that happens to be money. Chris is in it to prove that he can be somebody and that he is not a failure and I think he wants to prove that to his son so that his son can be happy because no child wants to see their parent struggle and try to make ends meet, it’s a terrible feeling. And Chris wants this job at this stock firm so he can provide a stable life for his son and so that his son won’t be upset or unhappy seeing his father struggle. Aristotle would agree on that because he thinks that people need other people to be happy. Christopher needs his father to be happy but again how can he be happy when he sees his dad struggling to make ends meet. But I also think Christopher is happy because he sees that his dad is working really hard to succeed and him trying to get the job at the stock firm.
When Chris was working at his internship at the stock firm he was networking with other people and in the midst of this he thought of Thomas Jefferson again and the times he has mentioned happiness in the Declaration of Independence. Chris thought it was a strange word to be in that document but he thinks Jefferson was an artist and that Jefferson called the English the disturbers of our harmony. So Chris questioned his disturbance of harmony and whether he would make it or not (Pursuit of Happyness). As movie starts to come to an end we find out that Chris does make it. Throughout the movie Chris worked hard to fulfill this life of happiness and he succeeds because he looked past his misfortunes and was determined. At the end of the movie Chris is taking his test on his last day of his internship at the stock firm. For him to land the job he has to get a hundred percent on the test. And he does and he gets the job. I think Chris did not only get the job because of the test, he got it because he loved his internship at the stock firm and he showed the bosses that he was passionate about the job. And I think if your passionate about your job you will be happy and you’ll want to succeed more. Aristotle would also agree on that as well because Chris practiced moral values because he practiced good habits through his journey to happiness and was determined. Even though Chris struggled he made sure he had his bills paid, he made sure he studied each day and he made sure his son Chris got an education as well have a healthy lifestyle he also accepted the fact that him landing this job at the stock firm was going to take time. And that’s another thing Aristotle strongly believes, he believes that happiness takes time and it took time for Chris to be happy (Aristotle 18-20). Since Chris practiced good moral values and accepted the fact it’ll take time to be happy it helped him succeed in the end, sort of like karma, what goes around comes back around. After Chris landed the job at the stock firm he was crying happy tears and was proud that he succeeded something worthy in life, a well paying and stable job. Even though Aristotle would disagree with Chris with the whole money situation another author who talks about Happiness would disagree with him too. The author Shawn Achor who wrote the book, The Happiness Advantage, talks about this formula to happiness that is followed by society and that formula is: If you work hard then you’ll be successful and when you become successful then you will be happy. Achor believes that this formula is broken because he thinks that if success can cause happiness then every employee who gets a promotion should be happy (Achor 3). But this formula was definitely not broken when Chris got his job because he was grateful and happy. Aristotle would disagree because in Book 2 he believes when someone achieves or succeeds you will become happy because of practicing moral values and that is what Chris did he practiced good habits to get where he wanted and now he is happy (Aristotle).
When we look at happiness and try to find the true definition it can be quite the challenge trying to figure it out. But when we look at the movie The Pursuit of Happyness and The Nicomachean Ethics we can definitely find the meaning. The meaning of Happiness is being able to look past misfortunes and having someone in your life that makes you happy. And even though there were times where Chris was unhappy and thought he was not going to make it anywhere in life he looked past his misfortunes and made sure they didn’t bring him down. The result of him looking past his misfortunes it made him determined and strong, which led him to get the job he wanted and now he is happy he can provide the life he can for his son Christopher.

Works Cited

Achor, Shawn. The Happiness Advantage. New York: Crown Business, 2010. Print.

Aristotle. The Nicomacheaen Ethics. Trans. J.A.K Thomson. London: Penguin, 2004. Print.
Hughes, Gerard J. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Aristotle on Ethics. London: Routledge, 2001. PDF.

Pursuit of Happyness. Dir. Grabriele Muccino. Perf. Will Smith and Jaden Smith. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2007. DVD.

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