The purpose of education is not the assimilation of facts or the retention of information, but the habituation of the mind and body to will and to act in accordance with what one knows.
The life of pleasure eventually fades and exasperates the pleasure-seeker because it is not a life that is sufficient unto itself. Pleasure demands a never-ending list of luxurious accessories, the acquisition of which wears man down with work and worry. In the end, the pleasure seeker becomes preoccupied with what he lacks to complete his picture of happiness; gratification never catches up with his desire, and consumption consumes the consumer. By the same token, the practical life falls short of completeness. The wealth one acquires in a business is a useful thing, but as such, it exists for the sake of something else. […]
So we arrive at the theoretic life - not to be confused, as Professor Burnet (1976) warns, with the contemplative or passive life.
'What Aristotle calls theoria is emphatically an activity. The fact is that he includes a good many things in it which we are too apt to regard as wholly different, things of which we fail to realize as he did the fundamental identity. In the first place, scientific research is theoria, and no doubt Aristotle was thinking chiefly of that. But so too is the artist's life, so far as he is not a mere artificer, and so is all enjoyment of art and literature. So too is the life of the religious man who sees all things in God.'
Aristotle defends the theoretic life as the true end of education and the source of happiness. One does not require more than the bare necessities in life to achieve happiness in thought, nor is the active life of the mind dependent upon inherently unequal endowments of nature. One need be neither strong nor handsome, well-born nor gregarious, nay, not even brilliant to participate happily in the theoretic life. […] [T]he theoretic life is the life of virtue, so long as we mean by virtue all that the Greek arete expresses: the life that knows and reveres, speculates and acts upon the Good, that loves and reproduces the Beautiful, and that pursues excellence and moderation in all things.
Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education