Posted by: Joel Britton | January 24, 2009

Eudaimonia

According to Aristotle, we all act for a reason. In his words, “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good.”  Now if Aristotle is to be listened to, each decision is made for its own sake, or for the sake or something else. You can see this in your own life. Did you really want that cup of OJ you just got? No, you wanted the tang of the juice, the satisfaction of quenching your thirst, and (perhaps) the knowledge that you made a healthy choice and kept to your diet. The orange juice is simply a vehicle through which you reached what you really wanted.

Aristotle’s brilliance lies in pushing this train of thought a bit further, and clarifying what it is we’re after. His answer? Happiness. Flourishing. Living life as it ought to be lived. Eudaimonia.

One facet of human experience noted by the philosopher was that we tend to call many things good. A knife, a book, a friend, a race, a act of charity, a house — the list goes on. As we apply these labels, we import a curious concept into our language: that most things are meant for some kind of purpose, and that they can be judged insofar as they fulfill or fail to fulfill that purpose. That book was interesting, held my attention, and gave me some excellent leisure time. It was a good book. The knife was dull, poorly maintained, and rusty. It was a bad knife. Donating to that organization was generous, well thought out, and kind. That was a good action.

With this in mind, Aristotle sets out to find what it is that is (1) good for humans, and (2) the final goal we seek. He calls it Eudaimonia. In future posts I hope to lay out more of what Eudaimonia is and means, and chronicle some of my own attempts to seek it.  In the meantime, check out an interesting article on one of the critical aspects to the good life: friendship.

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Responses

  1. […] and the Cardinal Virtues Previously, I introduced the concept of Eudamonia. A concise explanation of Eudamonia states, Why do I study […]


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