Aristotle and Achieve the Honorable

For over 200 years the name Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.) was virtually synonymous with philosophy. His most influential doctrine included the notion that morally virtuous people seek moderation in all things. He also believed that as people get older, they seek happiness. The great philosopher proposed that this state is achieved primarily through achieving the honorable.

As I walked to high school every day for three years, I saw Hollywood High School’s motto prominently displayed: ACHIEVE THE HONORABLE. Last weekend I had the honor of speaking at Alumni Day at Hollywood High School and mentioned that the motto was no longer there. The old sign had been replaced with an electric sign giving the name of the school—but without the motto.

I think that today’s students who attend my old high school are missing a very important message.

Aristotle believed that fully developing one’s powers in pursuit of excellence is essential to the good life. Engaging in the right activities for their own sake brings more satisfaction than acting properly for some material gain. This is the exact reason that in the Hierarchy of Social Development, Level D (internal motivation), rates higher than Level C (external motivation).