What is the good life? As a child I believed that the definition of a good life was one in which I finished college, got a good job and went on to raise a family. It would be a life without hardships or conflict, filled with nothing but contentment and joy. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that a good life was more than that because living meant more than just a preconceived notion of a good life.
I think the meaning of what a good life is can be found in Alasdair McIntyre, a Scottish philosopher, claim that “the good life for man is the life spent in seeking for the good life for man, and the virtues necessary for seeking are those by which will enable us to understand what more and what else the good life for man is”. There is no better way to grasp what he is saying than by analyzing the fantastical movie Groundhog Day. Phil Connors, the lead character in the movie, is a TV weatherman who goes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day event.
When Phil tries to leaves after completing his assignment he finds he can’t and that he is now stuck in a time loop where he is subjected to living out the day of February 2 over and over again. At first Phil is portrayed as a sort of Machiavellian character. He detaches himself not only from conventional morality but from society as well. He makes statements throughout the beginning of the moving showing just how cynical his views are about people as a whole.
As the time loop begins Phil dives into all the vices he can possible imagine, including robbing an armored truck and deceiving woman in order to have sexual relations with them but as time draws on Phil realizes that his actions are not giving him a sense of pleasure any longer and at this point he attempts to connect with Rita Hanson, the news producer that has accompanied him on his assignment. He tries to become the man he believes Rita wants by acting out the virtues and characteristics she values but the attempt ends with Rita slapping him.
At this point in the movie Phil still didn’t understand that the act of being virtuous is more than just the act of being virtuous. You have to embrace the belief and values behind the act otherwise you are being insincere and dishonest. As the movie progresses we begin to see a different man emerge. Phil starts to live out a purpose filled life in which he engages with others around him. He becomes an active part in society and he realizes the things he placed as important no longer are, like his fame, because at the end of the day all of those things are washed away and he has to begin again the next day like the day before never happened.
At the end of the film, one the last day that repeats we see a man who embraces being virtuous, not because he is expected to but because he wants to. He wakes up and starts his day trying to be a better man than he was the day before, not for others or to end the curse but for himself and for the feeling of contentment he receives in being a better man. The result is that the curse finally ends. Was that the lesson the universe trying to teach Phil? Is it the same thing that MacIntyre claims?
That to live a good life is more than just about fame and money, it’s about connecting with others and seeking out virtues that not only better ourselves but better those around us. But it’s more than that, we also have to embrace the beliefs behind the virtues we seek, not just simply committing the act of being virtuous. So ask yourself this, do you attempt to live a better life every morning you wake or do you simply move forward through life doing as you believe others expect you to and not what is necessary to living a truly good life?