Marx and Aristotle on the Highest Good
Aristotle claims that the most perfect happiness is a life of contemplation, which is a life as close to the supremely happy lives of the Gods as is possible in human life. This life is more perfectly happy because contemplation, in taking itself as its own object, cannot so easily be deprived of what is necessary for it and thus remains less subject to misfortune. I shall argue that, while there are many affinities between Marx’s conception of the highest good and this conception from Aristotle, Marx differs crucially by taking the highest good to be human rather than godlike. For Marx, the counterpart of being removed from the vicissitudes of fortune is the reduction to a minimum of what he terms the sphere of necessity. The highest good is not a life of contemplation but rather the pursuit of ends that human beings individually and collectively choose for themselves independently of the demands of survival and reproduction.