He did not mean the happiness of enjoying ice cream on a hot summer day, or a vacation to a tropical paradise, and not even having the perfect mate and perfect children. We need an understanding of Aristotle's reasoning to understand how the pursuit of happiness is tied to democracy, and our democracy is not compatible with Christianity. The Christian understanding of humanity is not an understanding of humanity that is compatible with democracy, and I think our democracy is in seriously trouble until we are aware of that. We are not made of mud but a god that made us more like angels than animals, and we were not thrown out of Eden because Eve ate the wrong fruit. Here is the reasoning behind a democracy, instead of a kingdom, and I want to know what you think this exlanation.
The Hierarchical View of Nature
In order to explain human happiness, Aristotle draws on a view of nature he derived from his biological investigations. If we look at nature, we notice that there are four different kinds of things that exist in the world, each one defined by a different purpose:
Mineral: rocks, metals and other lifeless things. The only goal which these things seek is to come to a rest. They are "beyond stupid" since they are inanimate objects with no soul
Vegetative: plants and other wildlife. Here we see a new kind of thing emerge,something which is alive. Because plants seek nourishment and growth, they have souls and can be even said to be satisfied when they attain these goals
Animal: all the creatures we study as belonging to the animal kingdom. Here we see a higher level of life emerge: animals seek pleasure and reproduction, and we can talk about a happy or sad dog, for example, to the extent that they are healthy and lead a pleasant life
Human: what is it that makes human beings different from the rest of the animal kingdom? Aristotle answers: Reason. Only humans are capable of acting according to principles, and in so doing taking responsibility for their choices. We can blame Johnny for stealing the candy since he knows it is wrong, but we wouldn't blame an animal since it doesn't know any better.
It seems that our unique function is to reason: by reasoning things out we attain our ends, solve our problems, and hence live a life that is qualitatively different in kind from plants or animals. The good for a human is different from the good for an animal because we have different capacities or potentialities. We have a rational capacity and the exercising of this capacity is thus the perfecting of our natures as human beings. For this reason, pleasure alone cannot constitute human happiness, for pleasure is what animals seek and human beings have higher capacities than animals. The goal is not to annihilate our physical urges, however, but rather to channel them in ways that are appropriate to our natures as rational animals.