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Eudaimonism is a philosophy that defines right action as that which leads to "well being." The concept originates in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. In Aristotle eudaimonism means that all correct actions lead to the greater well being of the individual human. By extending well being from the narrowest concerns to the largest, all social rules can be adduced. Augustine of Hippo adopted the concept as beatitudo, and Thomas Aquinas worked it out into a Christian ethical scheme. For Aquinas, well-being is found ultimately in a direct perception of God, or complete blessedness.
The word eudaimonism comes from the Greek word for happiness (eudaimonia), and refers to any conception of ethics that puts human happiness and the complete life of the individual at the center of ethical concern. This is solely a technical term and has no popular equivalent. Aristotle is the model eudaimonist, and really the founder of eudaimonism. By contrast, note that existentialism rejects happiness as a bourgeois fantasy, and that even Stoicism really turns its back on eudaimonism in Aristotle's sense.
Another founding father of the ideals of eudaimonism is Plato whose examples show that even the people considered by society to be "evil" will feel guilt at doing something they can easily get away with because it is the wrong thing to do and therefore cannot make them happy. In these scenarios the above stated ideals are reversed — people must do good because people cannot be happy doing evil. One example of Platonic theories is his Ring of Gyges, which makes the wearer 'invisible' (freeing the person from all guilt of association or guilt of action) — possibly referred to in The Lord of the Rings, as well as many other fictional interpretations. Most people wonder at what they would do if turned invisible, yet Plato argues that in the end the one who wears it will do what is right because doing what is wrong, even without fear of punishment, simply makes that person miserable. In his argument Plato theorizes that the human soul has three parts:
- reason and judgement — our contemplation
- spirit, courage, and pride
- and finally our appetites and desires.
He argues that a person cannot be happy without all of those aspects of the soul existing in harmony with each other, and the only means of achieving such harmony is by doing good deeds. According to Plato a just person will rein his or her desires using reason and spirit, and therefore will be happy because he is balanced and also can go out and do good in the world, whereas an unjust person simply follows his or her desires blindly and is torn because the other two portions of the soul rail against his or her actions.
See also Edit
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