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Individual differences |
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Eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία) is a classical Greek word commonly translated as 'happiness'. Etymologically, it consists of the word "eu" ("good" or "well being") and "daimōn" ("spirit" or "minor deity", used by extension to mean one's lot or fortune). Although popular usage of the term happiness refers to a state of mind, related to joy or pleasure, eudaimonia rarely describes a state of mind, and the less subjective "human flourishing" is therefore often preferred as a translation.
In popular usage, eudaimonia often referred to situations of prima facie good fortune, such as material prosperity. In Greek philosophy, however, eudaimonia's less obvious relation to virtue or excellence (aretē) was an important theme. In Plato's and Aristotle's work, we find arguments for the claim that virtue is a necessary, even sufficient, condition for eudaimonia, a claim that also influenced Epicurean and Stoic thought.
Socrates' philosophy, as it is represented in Plato's early dialogues, contains two related claims about eudaimonia. The first is the strong inter-dependence of eudaimonia, virtue (aretē), and knowledge (epistemē): virtue is a sort of knowledge, perhaps 'knowledge of good and evil', and it is this knowledge that is required to reach the ultimate good, eudaimonia being the prime candidate for this ultimate good. The second, sometimes called "psychological eudaimonism" or "Socratic intellectualism", is the claim that the ultimate good, eudaimonia, is what all human desires and actions aim at.
Plato's middle dialogues present a somewhat different position. In the Republic, we find a moral psychology more complex than psychological eudaimonism: we do not only desire our ultimate good, rather the soul, or mind, has three motivating parts - a rational, spirited (approximately, emotional), and appetitive part - and each of these parts have their own desired ends. Eudaimonia, then, is not simply acquired through knowledge, it requires the correct psychic ordering of this tripartite soul: the rational part must govern the spirited and appetitive part, thereby correctly leading all desires and actions to eudaimonia and the principal constituent of eudaimonia, virtue.
According to Aristotle, the hierarchy of human purposes aim at eudaimonia as the highest, most inclusive end. This is the end that everyone in fact aims at, and it is the only end towards which it is worth undertaking means. Eudaimonia is constituted, according to Aristotle, not by honor, or wealth, or power, but by rational activity in accordance with excellence. Such activity manifests the virtues of character, including courage, honesty, pride, friendliness, and wittiness; the intellectual virtues, such as rationality in judgment; and it also includes non-sacrificial (i.e., mutually beneficial) friendships and scientific knowledge (knowledge of things that are fundamental and/or unchanging is the best).
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