By Nathaniel Macijeski ’14
Northfield Falls, Vermont
We designed a survey of Macalester students to test the Aristotelian model of friendship.
Nathaniel Macijeski ’14
My first-year course, Ethics: Happiness and Philosophical Inquiry, introduced me to the high
level of intellectual discourse at Macalester. I also was intrigued by the complexity with which a
philosopher could analyze something such as happiness.
Take, for instance, the insights of Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness. For
him happiness is a subjective state of mind, a “you-know-what-I-mean” feeling that we
commonly understand to be intrinsically good. The main idea of his book is that due to our own
psychological shortcomings, we are unable to plan a happy life for ourselves, and that instead
we must merely “stumble” upon such a life. This idea runs contrary to the virtue-based model
of happiness championed by Aristotle and a multitude of contemporary thinkers who interpret
happiness not as a feeling, but as a state of being.
I collaborated with two classmates on an experiment designed to test a philosophical theory
of happiness. We designed a survey of Macalester students to test the Aristotelian model of
friendship. Aristotle divided friendship into three types: the useful, the pleasant, and the “good,”
the latter being founded on mutual respect for one another’s virtues and thus conducive to
happiness. We gathered information about each participant’s level of involvement in a variety
of everyday activities related to each type of friendship and compared the responses to another
survey gauging each participant’s reported level of happiness.
Macalester’s unique, interactive atmosphere is the direct result of having so many different
perspectives from around the country and the world right here on campus. There is little doubt
in my mind that such insightful discussion is part of what the ancient Greeks had in mind when
they spoke of eudaimonia, or “human flourishing.”