What is Eudaimonia? Aristotle and Eudaimonic Well-Being
“…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.”
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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.
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.
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.
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:
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Unlike happiness, eudaimonia is not an emotion: It is a state of being or doing. It is more stable and cannot so quickly be taken away from us.
Eudaimonia is a much deeper and richer concept than happiness and is viewed in terms of living a worthwhile life. It has everything to do with hard work.
Socrates equated eudaimonia with wisdom and virtue, stating that he who is not wise cannot be happy.
Plato broadly agreed with Socrates. Plato writes that justice and injustice are to the soul as health and disease are to the body. For Plato, an unjust man cannot be happy because he is not in ordered control of himself.
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