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Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in The Movie Hercules

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The manner by which Aristotle opens up Nicomachean Ethics is with the saying of “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good.” This quote addresses that regardless of what your identity is or where you are in today’s present-day, there is one fulfilling hope that unites every one of us as human-kind, and that is to be happy. Aristotle comprehended this and built a wide cluster of virtues that we should follow to carry on a more righteous life and at last accomplish the human desire for happiness. Similarity, the Disney movie Hercules, can express this message that happiness is the most significant thing in everyday life, being consistent with yourself will cause hard work to content. In analyzing the ethics framework between Hercules and Nicomachean Ethics, one can trace the following components are relatable: teleology, friendship and virtues.

Aristotle is keen on discovering what the highest human good may be. The best good would be something that we work and desire for as an end in itself. For Aristotle, accomplishing happiness is the telos of human life: “Happiness ,then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action”. Each action that an individual ever does is for the outcome of happiness, and if an individual has accomplished happiness, at that point they have satisfied their telos and carried on with a “good life”. In relation to the movie, Hercules, telos and virtue ethics are strongly displayed. In the beginning of the film, Hercules continually makes poor choices and the townspeople dreaded him due to his strength. He has not quite developed his virtue yet, by thinking he was “saving” the agora, instead it got destroyed. Therefore, Hercules confesses a desire to fit in with the community and create friendships (characteristics Aristotle focuses that a virtue individual must have). His purpose is then express through the song of: “Go the Distance”. Hercules sings to articulate that he’s going to try his best to reside in and isn’t going to give up until he achieves it. Once achieved, that’s when he believes he could be content: “ I will find my way, I can go the distance/I’ll be there someday, if I can be strong/I know every mile will be worth my while/I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong.” Hercules main purpose is to be happy with a decent life.

Friendship is another significant segment to Aristotelian ethics. He details three different categories of friendship: helpfulness, pleasure, and complete friendship. From these three types, Aristotle believes that friendship found in the good are the best sorts of friendships. “In poverty as well as in other misfortunes, people suppose that friends are their only refuge…it is a help also to those in their prime in performing noble actions, for ‘two going together’ are better able to think and to act.” In other words, as people we always need someone else for comfort and a helpful hand to live a steady life. In comparison to the movie, Hercules jeopardies his mortal life to save Meg. After battling Hades, Hercules turns into a genuine hero and Meg’s spirit returns back into her body. Hercules is then given a decision to either choose to remain on Earth with Meg and his friends or join the gods in Mount Olympus. As a result, he discovered that he will stay on Earth since he had developed virtue and found happiness with his friends. That being said, by developing bonds between these individuals , that’s where he calls it “home” and true happiness.

In addition, Aristotle also emphasized that virtue is through habit and practice as opposed to through thinking and guidance. “Virtue, being of two kinds, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching , while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit.” (W.D. Ross) For intellectual virtue, rehearsing practices will contrast with any ability. As an example that Aristotle discussed in the reading, “men become builders by building”, “lyre-players by playing the lyre” and such on. In Hercules, intellectual virtue is strongly viewed when Hercules meets Phil and begin hero training. After days and days of heavy obstacle training, Hercules becomes stronger and builds courage. This demonstrates Hercules will turn into a hero by practicing roles as a hero, just as builders practice to build in order to become good builders. At the end, Hercules becomes a hero by practicing heroism.

To conclude, Aristotle believes there exist some extreme “good” that every human actions aim for. That each individual and/or “thing” has a purpose in life. Happiness is what drives the highest human good. To be happy, individuals have to develop moral virtues and build complete friendship (along with other contributions). In fact, Hercules movie proves certain aspects of Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics. From Hercules having a goal (telos) to “fit in” with the community to then, building courage and bravery by becoming a hero (intellectual virtues). As a result, this explains that happiness doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a timeline of a cycle.

Works Cited

  • “Aristotelian Ethics.” Aristotelian Ethics, by W. D. Ross, 1925. Oxford University Press .
  • “Hercules.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 27 June 1997, www.imdb.com/title/tt0119282/.
  • Rana, Zat. “Aristotle’s Philosophy of Friendship Still Matters Today.” Medium, Medium, 21 Sept. 2019, medium.com/s/can-we-talk/aristotles-timeless-advice-on-what-real-friendship-is-and-why-it-matters-c0878418343f.
  • “Walt Disney Records (Ft. Roger Bart) – Go the Distance.” Genius, 1 Jan. 1997, genius.com/Walt-disney-records-go-the-distance-lyrics. 

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