Defining Eudaimonia

Defining Eudaimonia

Eudaimonia is a term which comes from Aristotle’s work called ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ and means individual well-being and happiness. It combines the prefix eu (meaning good) and daimon (spirit).

Socrates also delved in goodness and the virtues of knowledge leading us to achieve ultimate good.

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  • Plato believed that because we feel unhappy internally when we do something wrong, eudaimonia is the highest feeling of moral thought and behaviour where there is real happiness from within. Happiness, according to him, was about living in the pursuit of various virtues, central to flourishing.
  • Plato never mentioned the term eudaimonia, but his writings on the concept of courage, justice, wisdom and moderation point towards the same domain of wellbeing.

Aristotle in his many works has provided numerous interpretations of eudaimonia, explaining it as something reflecting the pursuit of virtue, excellence and the best within us. According to him, eudaimonia is a rational activity aimed at the pursuit of what is worthwhile in life.

Having an intention to be virtuous was an important factor for eudaimonia.

Aristotle
“…Some identify happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophic wisdom, others with these, or one of these, accompanied by pleasure or not without pleasure; while others include also external prosperity…it is not probable that…these should be entirely mistaken, but rather that they should be right in at least some one respect or even in most respects.”
  • A life of satisfying one’s appetites, like material wealth, lust, power is a life suitable to beasts and is a laughable way to live.

  • A rational life with empathy, virtuosity and courage is the pursuit of eudaimonia in an everyday setting.

  • Though fate or luck does play a role in our long-term happiness, it by no mean hinders our quest for individual self-realization, with adverse situations and circumstances performing the role of a catalyst, not a hindrance.

Subjective Well Being (SWB) and Psychological Well Being (PWB) are two modern equivalents of the psychological research on Eudaimonia, for psychologists and behavioural scientists studying the definition, measurement, distinctiveness and relation with other happiness and wellbeing concepts.

It is defined in the modern context as: “quality of life derived from the development of a person’s best potentials and their application in the fulfillment of personally expressive, self-concordant goals." (Sheldon, 2002; Waterman, 1990; 2008)

EWB takes into account self-realization (knowing oneself), developing our self-knowledge and using these potentials to fulfil one’s life goals.

  • Know what life goals you have, what you strive for, your core beliefs and drivers of life.
  • Focus your capabilities and skills towards the attainment of the goals.
  • Developing your best potentials driven by your inner desire to reach the pinnacle of your domain.
  • Get engaged in your activities, perform the required actions and get active in your pursuit.
  • Express your goals, desires, progress and feelings to others, getting feedback and support.

Hedonic pleasures like consumerism or gluttony are the more visible, accessible and immediate ways to attain an instant jolt of happiness, however temporary.

While eudaimonic well being is associated with authenticity, excellence, meaning, and virtuous living, hedonic well being is more about the absence of distress, comfort, enjoyment and pleasure.

Eudaimonic activities that can be practically pursued:

  • Seeking to pursue excellence in one’s life.
  • Following one’s beliefs.
  • Using one’s core competencies.
  • Learning or gaining insight into something.

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Pursuing happiness

We all say we want to be happy, but happiness is often out of our grasp. Maybe the problem is not so much with us, but with the concept of happiness.

A better concept is eudaimonia, which means 'good soul,' 'good spirit,' or 'good god.'

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IDEAS

One of the reasons why Stoicis...
One of the reasons why Stoicism is enjoying a revival today is that it gives concrete answers to moral questions.
Our Fixation With Happiness
  • Most of us actively try to build our lives around a constant state of happiness.
  • The problem is that very few people choose to do great things or want to make an effort to achieve something (which results in happiness).
  • Instead, most people simply rush towards attaining happiness, which they mistakenly assume will be a result of their avoiding unhappiness at all costs.
  • This neurotic, obsessive pursuit of happiness is what leads to problems like depression and listlessness (acedia).

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