A Discussion on Aristotle’s Definition of Eudaimonia

According to Aristotle, what is eudaimonia?

Discuss Aristotle says that there is a purpose to life and that purpose is eudaimonia, which is happiness. Stevenson says to use caution when approaching Aristotle’s meaning of happiness. This is not the happiness that we think of as pure pleasure and the satisfying of appetites. Eudaimonia is “connected with the notion of having a good guardian spirit… it does imply meeting an objective ethical standard”. So happiness as the end aim of life is not the stimulation of constant pleasures, as was emphasized in the society of A Brave New World, rather it’s an ideal state of mind that encompasses using all of our faculties properly to strive for virtue in all actions and thoughts. This happiness “implies that a person is leading an admirably fulfilled life”. Aristotle’s goal was to lead people to become good by promoting virtue. He thought that people couldn’t simply have knowledge and apply commandments because the circumstances of every occasion would be different and therefore must be considered. Aristotle said, “The human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with excellence”. This activity belongs to a good man who acts with virtue. Stevenson defines Aristotle’s virtue as “a mean between two extremes”.

This sounds similar to the Buddha’s “middle way”. These two systems’ goals, however, are very different. Buddhists sought a goal that would last for eternity while Aristotle sought a goal for the human experience. The goal of Buddhism is to “Dismantle the unexamined (and false) belief in separate individuality or the idea of the self” whereas Aristotle wanted to “discern more clearly what is already before our eyes”. Buddhists use the middle way to find a life in this world that will lead to their realization of a false self, and thus Nirvana. Aristotle on the other hand, was more of a materialist and wanted a political state to raise the young in a manor that would be conducive to acting with virtue and thus achieve the human ideal for a society or individual. Both Plato and Aristotle thought that this ideal political state could lead to the ideal human experience, they differed however on what the ideal was. Plato was concerned with harmony of the tripartite structures of the soul (reason, emotion and spirit) so he believed that people, and societies, experience problems when the parts of the individual, or parts of the society, are out of balance. Aristotle on the other hand says that “things go wrong when human action, characters, and lives do not measure up to these (virtuous) ideas”. To me I see problems arise when a political state takes charge to achieve the ideal of human life. It sounds too much like a quote from A Brave New World. “That is the secret of happiness and virtue-liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapably social destiny”.

I believe too much like the rejected scientist of “A New Theory of Biology” to think that maintenance of stability is all there is in life. Although Aristotle and Plato’s ideals could lead to the perfect stable society that many people dream of when speaking of peace, I believe that a good political state would practice virtue rather than instilling virtue. Because “stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability” I think that if a political state were created to govern absolutely then it should use virtue and find a way of balancing stability with instability to give humans an ideal experience. Plato’s ideal is described by the Greek word dikaiosune, which can mean morality or proper functioning. Plato’s definition of morality is defined as doing a job properly. In the Republic he states, “Where each of the constituent parts of an individual does its own job, the individual will be moral and will do his own job”. This proper job in an individual is harmony between the tripartite structures of the soul.

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