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Eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯moníaː]; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, /jdɪˈmniə/) is a Greek word commonly translated as 'happiness' or 'welfare'; however, more accurate translations have been proposed to be 'human flourishing, prosperity'[1] and 'blessedness'.[2]

In the work of Aristotle, eudaimonia (based on older Greek tradition) was used as the term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider (and also experience) what it really is, and how it can be achieved. It is thus a central concept in Aristotelian ethics and subsequent Hellenistic philosophy, along with the terms aretē (most often translated as 'virtue' or 'excellence') and phronesis" ('practical or ethical wisdom').[3]

Discussion of the links between ēthikē aretē (virtue of character) and eudaimonia (happiness) is one of the central concerns of ancient ethics, and a subject of much disagreement. As a result, there are many varieties of eudaimonism.

Definition and etymology

In terms of its etymology, eudaimonia is an abstract noun derived from the words eu ('good, well') and daimōn ('spirit'), the latter referring to a minor deity or a guardian spirit.[4]

Definitions, a dictionary of Greek philosophical terms attributed to Plato himself but believed by modern scholars to have been written by his immediate followers in the Academy, provides the following definition of the word eudaimonia: "The good composed of all goods; an ability which suffices for living well; perfection in respect of virtue; resources sufficient for a living creature."

In his Nicomachean Ethics (§21; 1095a15–22), Aristotle says that everyone agrees that eudaimonia is the highest good for human beings, but that there is substantial disagreement on what sort of life counts as doing and living well; i.e. eudaimon:

Verbally there is a very general agreement; for both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that it is [eudaimonia], and identify living well and faring well with being happy; but with regard to what [eudaimonia] is they differ, and the many do not give the same account as the wise. For the former think it is some plain and obvious thing like pleasure, wealth or honour… [1095a17][5]

So, as Aristotle points out, saying that eudaimon life is a life which is objectively desirable, and means living well, is not saying very much. Everyone wants to be eudaimon; and everyone agrees that being eudaimon is related to faring well and to an individual's well-being. The really difficult question i

In the work of Aristotle, eudaimonia (based on older Greek tradition) was used as the term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider (and also experience) what it really is, and how it can be achieved. It is thus a central concept in Aristotelian ethics and subsequent Hellenistic philosophy, along with the terms aretē (most often translated as 'virtue' or 'excellence') and phronesis" ('practical or ethical wisdom').[3]

Discussion of the links between ēthikē aretē (virtue of character) and eudaimonia (happiness) is one of the central concerns of ancient ethics, and a subject of much disagreement. As a result, there are many varieties of eudaimonism.

In terms of its etymology, eudaimonia is an abstract noun derived from the words eu ('good, well') and daimōn ('spirit'), the latter referring to a minor deity or a guardian spirit.[4]

Definitions, a dictionary of Greek philosophical terms attributed to Plato himself but believed by modern scholars to have been written by his immediate followers in the Academy, provides the following definition of the word eudaimonia: "The good composed of all goods; an ability which suffices for living well; perfection in respect of virtue; resources sufficient for a living creature."

In his Nicomachean Ethics (§21; 1095a15–22), Aristotle says that everyone agrees that eudaimonia is the highest good for human beings, but that there is substantial disagreement on what sort of life counts as doing and living well; i.e. eudaimon:

Verbally there is a very general agreement; for both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that it is [eudaimonia], and identify living well and faring well with being happy; but with regard to what [eudaimonia] is they differ, and the many do not give the same account as the wise. For the former think it is some plain and obvious thing like pleasure, wealth or honour… [1095a17][5]

So, as Aristotle points out, saying that eudaimon life is a life which is objectively desirable, and means living well, is not saying very much. Everyone wants to be eudaimon; and everyone agrees that being eudaimon is related to faring well and to an individual's well-being. The really difficult question is to specify just what sort of activities enable one to live well. Aristotle presents various popular conceptions of the best life for human beings. The candidates that he mentions are a (1) life of pleasure, (2) a life of political activity, and (3) a philosophical life.

The "Questionnaire for Eudaimonic Well-Being" developed in Positive Psychology lists six dimensions of eudaimonia:[6]

  1. self-discovery;
  2. perceived development of one's best potentials;
  3. a sense of purpose and meaning in life;
  4. investment of significant effort in pursuit of excellence;
  5. intense involvement in activities; and
  6. enjoyment of activities as personally expressive.

Eudaimonia and areté

Sculpture of a face.
Epicurus identified eudaimonia with the life of pleasure.

Epicurus' ethical theory is hedonistic. (His view proved very influential on the founders and best proponents of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.) Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and that pain is the only intrinsic bad. An object, experience or state of affairs is intrinsically valuable if it is good simply because of what it is. Intrinsic value is to be contrasted with instrumental value. An object, experience or state of affairs is instrumentally valuable if it serves as a means to what is intrinsically valuable. To see this, consider the following example. Suppose a person spends their days and nights in an office, working at not entirely pleasant activities for the purpose of receiving money. Someone asks them "why do you want the money?", and they answer: "So, I can buy an apartment overlooking the ocean, and a red sports car." This answer expresses the point that money is instrumentally valuable because its value lies in what one obtains by means of it – in this case, the money is a means to getting an apartment and a sports car and the value of making this money dependent on the price of these commodities.

Epicurus identifies the good life with the life of pleasure. He understands eudaimonia as a more or less continuous experience of pleasure and, also, freedom from pain and distress. But it is important to notice that Epicurus does not advocate that one pursue any and every pleasure. Rather, he recommends a policy whereby pleasures are maximized "in the long run". In other words, Epicurus claims that some pleasures are not worth having because they lead to greater pains, and some pains are worthwhile when they lead to greater pleasures. The best strategy for attaining a maximal amount of pleasure overall is not to seek instant gratification but to work out a sensible long term policy.

Ancient Greek ethics is eudaimonist because it links virtue and eudaimonia, where eudaimonia refers to an individual's well-being. Epicurus' doctrine can be considered eudaimonist since Epicurus argues that a life of pleasure will coincide with a life of virtue. He believes that we do and ought to seek virtue because virtue brings pleasure. Epicurus' basic doctrine is that a life of virtue is the life which generates the most amount of pleasure, and it is for this reason that we ought to be virtuous. This thesis—the eudaimon life is the pleasurable life—is not a tautology as "eudaimonia is the good life" would be: rather, it is the substantive and controversial claim that a life of pleasure and absence of pain is what eudaimonia consists in.

One important difference between Epicurus' eudaimonism and that of Plato and Aristotle is that for the latter virtue is a constituent of eudaimonia, whereas Epicurus makes virtue a means to happiness. To this difference, consider Aristotle's theory. Aristotle maintains that eudaimonia is what everyone wants (and Epicurus would agree). He also thinks that eudaimonia is best achieved by a

"Whoever wants eudaimonia must consider these three questions: First, how are pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics) by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?" Pyrrho's answer is that "As for pragmata they are all adiaphora (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastoi (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantoi (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.[9]

With respect to aretē, the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus said:

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If one defines a system as an attachment to a number of dogmas that agree with one another and with appearances, and defines a dogma as an assent to something non-evident, we shall say that the Pyrrhonist does not have a system. But if one says that a system is a way of life that, in accordance with appearances, follows a certain rationale, where that rationale shows how it is possible to seem to live rightly ("rightly" being taken, not as referring only to aretē, but in a more ordinary sense) and tends to produce the disposition to suspend judgment, then we say that he does have a system.[10]

Epicurus' ethical theory is hedonistic. (His view proved very influential on the founders and best proponents of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.) Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and that pain is the only intrinsic bad. An object, experience or state of affairs is intrinsically valuable if it is good simply because of what it is. Intrinsic value is to be contrasted with instrumental value. An object, experience or state of affairs is instrumentally valuable if it serves as a means to what is intrinsically valuable. To see this, consider the following example. Suppose a person spends their days and nights in an office, working at not entirely pleasant activities for the purpose of receiving money. Someone asks them "why do you want the money?", and they answer: "So, I can buy an apartment overlooking the ocean, and a red sports car." This answer expresses the point that money is instrumentally valuable because its value lies in what one obtains by means of it – in this case, the money is a means to getting an apartment and a sports car and the value of making this money dependent on the price of these commodities.

Epicurus identifies the good life with the life of pleasure. He understands eudaimonia as a more or less continuous experience of pleasure and, also, freedom from pain and distress. But it is important to notice that Epicurus does not advocate that one pursue any and every pleasure. Rather, he recommends a policy whereby pleasures are maximized "in the long run". In other words, Epicurus claims that some pleasures are not worth having because they lead to greater pains, and some pains are worthwhile when they lead to greater pleasures. The best strategy for attaining a maximal amount of pleasure overall is not to seek instant gratification but to work out a sensible long term policy.

Ancient Greek ethics is eudaimonist because it links virtue and eudaimonia, where eudaimonia refers to an individual's well-being. Epicurus' doctrine can be considered eudaimonist since Epicurus argues that a life of pleasure will coincide with a life of virtue. He believes that we do and ought to seek virtue because virtue brings pleasure. Epicurus' basic doctrine is that a life of virtue is the life which generates the most amount of pleasure, and it is for this reason that we ought to be virtuous. This thesis—the eudaimon life is the pleasurable life—is not a tautology as "eudaimonia is the good life" would be: rather, it is the substantive and controversial claim that a life of pleasure and absence of pain is what eudaimonia consists in.

One important difference between Epicurus' eudaimonism and that of Plato and Aristotle is that for the latter virtue is a constituent of eudaimonia, whereas Epicurus makes virtue a means to happiness. To this difference, consider Aristotle's theory. Aristotle maintains that eudaimonia is what everyone wants (and Epicurus would agree). He also thinks that eudaimonia is best achieved by a life of virtuous activity in accordance with reason. The virtuous person takes pleasure in doing the right thing as a result of a proper training of moral and intellectual character (See e.g., Nicomachean Ethics 1099a5). However, Aristotle does not think that virtuous activity is pursued for the sake of pleasure. Pleasure is a byproduct of virtuous action: it does not enter at all into the reasons why virtuous action is virtuous. Aristotle does not think that we literally aim for eudaimonia. Rather, eudaimonia is what we achieve (assuming that we aren't particularly unfortunate in the possession of external goods) when we live according to the requirements of reason. Virtue is the largest constituent in a eudaimon life. By contrast, Epicurus holds that virtue is the means to achieve happiness. His theory is eudaimonist in that he holds that virtue is indispensable to happiness; but virtue is not a constituent of a eudaimon life, and being virtuous is not (external goods aside)

Epicurus identifies the good life with the life of pleasure. He understands eudaimonia as a more or less continuous experience of pleasure and, also, freedom from pain and distress. But it is important to notice that Epicurus does not advocate that one pursue any and every pleasure. Rather, he recommends a policy whereby pleasures are maximized "in the long run". In other words, Epicurus claims that some pleasures are not worth having because they lead to greater pains, and some pains are worthwhile when they lead to greater pleasures. The best strategy for attaining a maximal amount of pleasure overall is not to seek instant gratification but to work out a sensible long term policy.

Ancient Greek ethics is eudaimonist because it links virtue and eudaimonia, where eudaimonia refers to an individual's well-being. Epicurus' doctrine can be considered eudaimonist since Epicurus argues that a life of pleasure will coincide with a life of virtue. He believes that we do and ought to seek virtue because virtue brings pleasure. Epicurus' basic doctrine is that a life of virtue is the life which generates the most amount of pleasure, and it is for this reason that we ought to be virtuous. This thesis—the eudaimon life is the pleasurable life—is not a tautology as "eudaimonia is the good life" would be: rather, it is the substantive and controversial claim that a life of pleasure and absence of pain is what eudaimonia consists in.

One important difference between Epicurus' eudaimonism and that of Plato and Aristotle is that for the latter virtue is a constituent of eudaimonia, whereas Epicurus makes virtue a means to happiness. To this difference, consider Aristotle's theory. Aristotle maintains that eudaimonia is what everyone wants (and Epicurus would agree). He also thinks that eudaimonia is best achieved by a life of virtuous activity in accordance with reason. The virtuous person takes pleasure in doing the right thing as a result of a proper training of moral and intellectual character (See e.g., Nicomachean Ethics 1099a5). However, Aristotle does not think that virtuous activity is pursued for the sake of pleasure. Pleasure is a byproduct of virtuous action: it does not enter at all into the reasons why virtuous action is virtuous. Aristotle does not think that we literally aim for eudaimonia. Rather, eudaimonia is what we achieve (assuming that we aren't particularly unfortunate in the possession of external goods) when we live according to the requirements of reason. Virtue is the largest constituent in a eudaimon life. By contrast, Epicurus holds that virtue is the means to achieve happiness. His theory is eudaimonist in that he holds that virtue is indispensable to happiness; but virtue is not a constituent of a eudaimon life, and being virtuous is not (external goods aside) identical with being eudaimon. Rather, according to Epicurus, virtue is only instrumentally related to happiness. So whereas Aristotle would not say that one ought to aim for virtue in order to attain pleasure, Epicurus would endorse this claim.

Stoic philosophy begins with Zeno of Citium c.300 BC, and was developed by Cleanthes (331–232 BC) and Chrysippus (c.280–c.206 BC) into a formidable systematic unity.[11] Zeno believed happiness was a "good flow of life"; Cleanthes suggested it was "living in agreement with nature", and Chrysippus believed it was "living in accordance with experience of what happens by nature."[11] Stoic ethics is a particularly strong version of eudaimonism. According to the Stoics, virtue is necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia. (This thesis is generally regarded as stemming from the Socrates of Plato's earlier dialogues.) We saw earlier that the conventional Greek concept of arete is not quite the same as that denoted by virtue, which has Christian connotations of charity, patience, and uprightness, since arete includes many non-moral virtues such as physical strength and beauty. However, the Stoic concept of arete is much nearer to the Christian conception of virtue, which refers to the moral virtues. However, unlike Christian understandings of virtue, righteousness or piety, the Stoic conception does not place as great an emphasis on mercy, forgiveness, self-abasement (i.e. the ritual process of declaring complete powerlessness and humility before God), charity and self-sacrificial love, though these behaviors/mentalities are not necessarily spurned by the Stoics (they are spurned by some other philosophers of Antiquity). Rather Stoicism emphasizes states such as justice, honesty, moderation, simplicity, self-discipline, resolve, fortitude, and courage (states which Christianity also encourages).

The Stoics make a radical claim that the eudaimon life is the morally virtuous life. Moral virtue is good, and moral vice is bad, and everything else, such as health, honour and riches, are merely "neutral".[11] The Stoics therefore are committed to saying that external goods such as wealth and physical beauty are not really good at all. Moral virtue is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia. In this, they are akin to Cynic philosophers such as Antisthenes and Diogenes in denying the importance to eudaimonia of external goods and circumstances, such as were recognized by Aristotle, who thought that severe misfortune (such as the death of one's family and friends) could rob even the most virtuous person of eudaimonia. This Stoic doctrine re-emerges later in the history of et

The Stoics make a radical claim that the eudaimon life is the morally virtuous life. Moral virtue is good, and moral vice is bad, and everything else, such as health, honour and riches, are merely "neutral".[11] The Stoics therefore are committed to saying that external goods such as wealth and physical beauty are not really good at all. Moral virtue is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia. In this, they are akin to Cynic philosophers such as Antisthenes and Diogenes in denying the importance to eudaimonia of external goods and circumstances, such as were recognized by Aristotle, who thought that severe misfortune (such as the death of one's family and friends) could rob even the most virtuous person of eudaimonia. This Stoic doctrine re-emerges later in the history of ethical philosophy in the writings of Immanuel Kant, who argues that the possession of a "good will" is the only unconditional good. One difference is that whereas the Stoics regard external goods as neutral, as neither good nor bad, Kant's position seems to be that external goods are good, but only so far as they are a condition to achieving happiness.

Interest in the concept of eudaimonia and ancient ethical theory more generally had a revival in the 20th century. G. E. M. Anscombe in her article "Modern Moral Philosophy" (1958) argued that duty-based conceptions of morality are conceptually incoherent for they are based on the idea of a "law without a lawgiver."[12] She claims a system of morality conceived along the lines of the Ten Commandments depends on someone having made these rules.[13] Anscombe recommends a return to the eudaimonistic ethical theories of the ancients, particularly Aristotle, which ground morality in the interests and well-being of human moral agents, and can do so without appealing to any such lawgiver.

Julia Driver in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains:

Anscombe's article Modern Moral Philosophy stimulated the development of virtue ethics as an alternative to Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Social Contract theories. Her primary charge in the article is that, as secular approaches to moral theory, they are without foundation. They use concepts such as "morally ought", "morally obligated", "morally right", and so forth that are legalistic and require a legislator as the source of m

Julia Driver in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains:

Anscombe's article Modern Moral Philosophy stimulated the development of virtue ethics as an alternative to Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Social Contract theories. Her primary charge in the article is that, as secular approaches to moral theory, they are without foundation. They use concepts such as "morally ought", "morally obligated", "morally right", and so forth that are legalistic and require a legislator as the source of moral authority. In the past God occupied that role, but systems that dispense with God as part of the theory are lacking the proper foundation for meaningful employment of those concepts.[14]

Models of eudaimonia in psychology and positive psychology emerged from early work on self-actualization and the means of its accomplishment by researchers such as Erik Erikson, Gordon Allport, and Abraham Maslow.[15]

Theories include Diener's tripartite model of subjective well-being, Ryff's Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being, Keyes work on flourishing, and Seligman's contributions to positive psychology and his theories on authentic happiness and P.E.R.M.A. Related concepts are happiness, flourishing, quality of life, contentment,[16] and meaningful life.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai has been described as eudaimonic well-being, as it "entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment."[17]

See also

tripartite model of subjective well-being, Ryff's Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being, Keyes work on flourishing, and Seligman's contributions to positive psychology and his theories on authentic happiness and P.E.R.M.A. Related concepts are happiness, flourishing, quality of life, contentment,[16] and meaningful life.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai has been described as eudaimonic well-being, as it "entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment."[17]