Eudaimonia according to Aristotle

Aristotle was born of a physician father who died while he was young. He was sent by his uncle to study at Platos academy when he attained the age of seventeen years. He remained for quite sometime as a student but later became an associate for twenty years. Aristotle left the academy shortly after the death of Plato. He moved to Mytilene where he associated with Theophrastus till the time of his death. The biological research of these two men thrived while they were in Lesbos. Aristotle was invited by Philip of Macedon as a tutor to his son who was by then thirteen years old. The information Aristotle gave to the lad, who later became one of the greatest men on the face of the earth, remains a mystery to date. Aristotle went back to Athens and established his own school. At this school, Aristotle lectured, wrote, and talked about philosophy with students as well as associates. After the death of Alexander, it became very difficult for people of Macedonia to stay in Athens. This made Aristotle to flee to her mothers birth place vowing that, he would not allow Athenians to violate philosophy the way they had done at the time of Socrates. A significant portion of Aristotles writing survived after his death. Critical consideration of these writing illustrates a variety of subjects portraying a wide range and depth of his interests. Desire for knowledge and understanding in all aspects of life were the main driving forces for Aristotle. He was both a scientist and a philosopher, who could easily make the translation from the general behavior of living organisms to theorizing concerning the great understanding of everything in the world that have no cause.

As stated by Stevenson, the natural world was the base for Aristotles philosophical and scientific interests. His answers to every question were based on the natural science. When asked the meaning of good life, his answer was simply naturalistic. He wondered the amount of controversy that existed as all human actions are aimed at a certain end that was good. The good, as Aristotle reasoned, is what all things aim at. When asked what this good might have been as it was something chosen for its own sake, Aristotles answer was eudaimonia. Eudaimonia according to Aristotle is a sense of well being or flourishing. The fulfillment of the basic roles and performance of characteristic practices are what well being of a thing consists of.  Human happiness, and well being, is then the fulfillment of roles and performance of activities that characterize life for human being. The term eudaimonia was a combination of two words eu meaning good and daimon which meant a spirit or a god. According to Aristotle, being eudaimon is living in a way that is well-supported by divine powers. He regards eudaimon as a replacement for living well.  The term eudaimonia initially illustrated the state of having a guardian spirit also known as eudaimon. It was perceived that a person who had a guardian spirit was destined to have a lot of wealth in life and also be at peace with himher and the society, and therefore be happy.

Aristotle was the father of eudaimonia. He was the one who introduced as well as explored the Nicomachean Ethics when he stated that every act that was good would make a person have a great well being. He argued that everything in the world had a purpose for which it was intended. He states that as each and every part of our body has its function, the same case applies to human beings. Every person has a role heshe is supposed to play in the society. These roles are unique and differ from one person to the other. All human beings, in line with that statement, have a purpose for which they were created, and therefore for one to achieve a good life heshe must fulfill that purpose. He argued that for people to fulfill their purpose, they must adopt certain behaviors as well as attitudes which he referred to as virtues. This meant that the desire for people to be prosperous in life led to them becoming good.

The term Aristotle uses to depict the highest human good is the general conversion of the Greek eudaimonia, happiness. With eudaimonia, Aristotle means something that is more of well being or thriving than any feeling of contentment. He says that happiness is the action of sane soul according to virtues.

For Aristotle, eudaimonia was an end in itself rather than something to be sought, for a particular reason. He believed that it was not something to be followed to lead to a certain outcome, but an outcome in itself.  It included a sense of physical and psychological well being of an individual over time. Eudaimonia according to Aristotle is not constituted by honor wealth, or authority, but by rational performance according to virtues throughout life. A performance like that depicts the virtues of character which include honesty, friendliness as well as pride intellectual principles such as reasonableness in decision making scientific understanding as well as mutually beneficial relationships. People should not desire eudaimonia either arguing that, it is their duty to look for it, or for the purposes of increasing the happiness they experience in the world. If people wanted to acquire eudaimonia for the purpose of happiness, then eudaimonia would not be the end but happiness would be. The aspiration to get eudaimonia is a defining feature of the significance of being human. People do not attain eudaimonia through actively seeking it rather eudaimonia is attained by arranging our search for all that which is good in the correct manner. The desire to be prosperous is a characteristic feature of being human. Aristotle believed that eudaimonia was the purpose of human life because it can affect all our choices as well as decisions. He argues that if one takes a look at the people and the type of activities they do, one realizes that they only carry out tasks they believe they are going to succeed on. People do not dedicate their time and effort into things they predict they may fail.

Eudemonia is one of the many objectives we desire for the sake of our well being. According to Aristotle, all animals including human beings grow, perceive, and nourish themselves. What establishes our well being is the rational faculty which is distinctively human. Eudaimonia according to Aristotle is therefore an activity of soul in accordance with excellence or good quality. Human beings flourish when they do all things that are typically human in a good way.

Aristotle did not ignore the significance of external goods, for example, authority, wealth and friends in a life that is eudaimon. Aristotle accepted that people, who were born with some disabilities, slaves, as well as those born in socially challenging situations, do not have the ability to attain eudaimonia. He also believed that if one do not have other external goods such as, beauty, godly kids, and good birth, it is unlikely for that person to be eudaimon. He believed that it was very hard for people to be born ugly, be childless, lose very close relatives and be happy at the same time. According to him, even the most virtuous person can be robbed of eudaimonia by death of a family member or a close friend.
When discussing happiness, the whole life of a person is considered and not just moments derived from that life. As a result, the illogical suggestion which state that, one can only become happy after death is questioned after the whole life of an individual is examined. A good person will however act in accordance with virtues. Even in circumstances which are stressing to an individual, a virtuous person will always act in a good manner, carrying himselfherself in a better way and will not be brought down by a weak spirit.

According to Aristotle, people who are eudaimon do not merely enjoy life, but take pleasure in living productively. Death can greatly affect the reputation as well as success of a person unlike emotional well being. This makes Aristotles eudaimonia discussion more relevant even after death. This idea links the ethics to Greek customs directly in which happiness involves popularity after death and success of ones siblings. Aristotle believed that eudaimonia is the greatest good it is an immanent thing in humans, but which is enjoyed as a reflection of the life of God who is pure. A human life that is similar to that of God must therefore be full of happiness.

A significant feature of ancient Greek social life is illustrated when happiness is closely linked to success and fulfillment. Exile in ancient Greek was perceived as something worse than death, because they had a strong identity to the city-state which they belonged. There was no clear distinction between what was public and what was private as it is in the contemporary world. Accordingly, contentment was not considered a personal matter which depended on the emotional state of a person, but as a reflection of the position a person held in the community. An individual who occupied a proper position in the social setting and who apparently fulfilled the roles as well as expectations of that position was considered to be happy, due to the fact that, for the Greeks happiness was not just a matter of feeling, but living the right way. According to Aristotle, happiness is not a state, but an activity. Aristotle stated that eudaimonia requires actions, such that it is insufficient for an individual to have definite characters to behave in specific ways. He thinks that it is very important for an individual to exercise his characters in accordance with the capacities of reason. He characterized happiness using the term energia. He stated that happiness is not composed of certain dispositions, but of certain ways of life. He thus contradicted happiness with virtues, which he considered a state of being, in saying that happiness is energy. He asserted that, when one posses all the right virtues, heshe is bound to live a good life. Happiness on the other hand, as he stated, is the activity of living a good life which all virtuous persons are inclined towards.

Aristotle also distinguishes good qualities of a character from intellectual qualities. He stated that, intellectual quality is the superiority of the rational element of soul. He noted that the irrational element also have some aspects that are rational and capable of being argued with reasons. Aristotle, as stated by Stonia (1997), argued that eudaimonia is gained when rational capacities of a human being are developed properly. Moral virtue, as Aristotle depicted, is the disposition of actions to choose aspects that exist between the extremes of surplus and insufficiency. He said that it is a must that these choices are made with a reason as would be determined by an individual of practical wisdom. Possession of moral qualities according to Aristotle implied the possession of intellectual qualities, because practical knowledge is an intellectual quality. Theoretical contemplation according to Aristotle is the highest of all intellectual qualities. This is the activity Aristotle identified as the greatest form of eudaimonia.

As stated by Lense (2009), Aristotles approach to moral values is teleological he argued that if life is to be worth living, it is for the sake of something that is an end in itself. In explanation to this, he said that, the end must be pleasing for its own sake. If there is something that human beings perceive as good, then it must be pleasing for the sake of it. Pleasure is one conception that is famous and of the highest human good. This pleasure consists of things such as of food, drinks, sex and any other good thing in life as well as intellectual pleasure. There are also those who prefer a life of honorable deeds in the political arena that is their pleasure. Scientific and philosophical contemplation, according to Aristotle, are the third highest human good. The answer, to the issue what good life is, therefore reduces to philosophical, political and voluptuary life. These three provides the solution of the ethical questions.

Virtues of different people are subsets of their good qualities. These virtues however, are not innate they are acquired and may be lost if a person misuses them. Aristotle refers to these qualities as abiding states that vary from temporary passions which include rage and compassion. Virtues are conditions of personality that find expression both in action and in purpose. Moral qualities are expressed in recommendations for action according to good plan of life. Virtues are also expressed in actions that are aimed at avoiding extremes as well as defects. A very good example is when a temperate individual restrains from drinking or eating too much and also avoids drinking or eating too little.

Virtues according to Aristotle settle on the middle ground, between surplus and insufficiency. Good qualities are also involved with feelings in addition to purpose. For example, an individual may be extremely concerned with sex or lack interest in it. The temperate person on the other hand will take the average position. Heshe will neither be full of lust or frigid. Although moral qualities are means of passion as well as action, it is not always the case that all forms of passion and actions have the capability of an honorable mean. Some actions exist of which there is no right quantity, as any quantity of them is in surplus for example murder and adultery as indicated by Aristotle. Virtues therefore occupy the middle ground between two contrary voices in addition to being concerned with modes of action as well as passion.

Aristotle said that eudaimonia is an activity of the soul that conforms to excellence and virtue. The role of soul according to Aristotle is an introspective act that uses human faculty for reason. He differentiated between non-speculative and speculative virtue saying that, speculative virtue is the activity of the soul whereas non-speculative virtue is the activity of the body. He argued that if a person acts in a way that is not rational it can only lead to a way of life that neither develops eudaimonia nor leads to happiness. Eudaimonia does not merely mean a choice of divine virtues by reason, but acting on as well as being compliant to those virtues. Aristotle said that virtue without integrity is of little benefit. He therefore depicted eudaimonia as the rational choice of acting from virtues and actually executing that act.

Aristotle noted that virtues take different forms and in some instances they require selflessness. He said that performing a virtuous act does not automatically make one virtuous one must constantly perform virtuous acts until they become hisher second nature in order to become virtuous. He believed that nobody could either be born with virtues or turn virtuous overnight. Aristotle asserted that, although virtues are essential aspects for the attainment of eudaimonia, happiness is not itself a virtue, but a virtuous activity He states that living a good life involves doing something and not simply being in a certain situation. Aristotle asserted that being eudaimon is the highest end there is no person who attempts to live well for the purpose of some further objectives. Each and every subordinate goal, including wealth, resources and health, is sought as it promotes well being, not because they are involved in well being. One can therefore be mistaken as to whether or not hisher life is eudaimon due to the mistaken conception of eudaimonia or the meaning of living well as a human being which is mostly believed to be physical pleasure and luxury.

The two accounts of eudaimonia as expressed by Aristotle have problems. The term flourishing has problems in that both animals and plants flourish, but eudaimonia is only meant for rational beings. Trouble that arises with happiness is based on the modern perception of it in that it is influenced by writers to describe things that are subjectively determined. An individual is the only one who can say whether heshe ishas been happy throughout life and not another person. No one, as asserted by Ray (1989), has the capability of reading the inner being of a person to tell whether heshe is happy or not. When a person is said to be happy, the public generally means that, heshe seems contented with the events that are happening in hisher life. Happiness is not all that constitutes eudaimonia eudaimonia constitutes of all the events that make people happy regardless of whether they know them or not. Flourishing on the other hand, which depicts a persons well being, can be recognized by other people. An individual can state that heshe is healthy whereas the general public can clearly see that the person is not well.


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