Eudaimonia (A Comprehensive Guide)

Happiness is one of the oldest concepts known to human beings. Almost every aspect of our life is driven by happiness and we tend to do things which make us happier.

We earn money so we can buy things which make us look good or make us feel good. We make and eat different types of food which also make us happier.

We are probably living in the pursuit of happiness. However, does this ever occur to you what happiness actually is?

It might be a question asked by a number of people and thanks to every growing research that we have the answer(s) to this question.

Nowadays you can define happiness in a number of ways.

People in the field of psychology are especially aware of the fact that happiness has a number of definitions because operational definitions are a constant work in progress in this field.

However, even with all those definitions and options, this article will focus on a concept named ‘eudemonia’.

Eudemonia is probably one of the oldest concepts and it has stood the test of time for many reasons. We shall discuss what eudaimonia and how the concept came into being.

Why eudemonia is important and what its factors are and how it can be measured.

Before moving to the depths of eudemonia, let’s first discuss life and its purpose.

  • The Purpose in Life

According to Aristotle, the overall purpose of human life is to accept our human nature and to flourish into the best versions of ourselves.

We have been inspired by the ideas of hedonism and we are often influenced to acquire an expensive lifestyle and use things that will make us happy just for a shorter period of time.

These choices of ours are motivated by perpetual advertising and hyper use of social media.

However, eudemonia frees you from these ideas to impress others and Aristotle laid emphasis on internal happiness and subjectivity in the concept of eudemonia. 

  • What is eudaimonia?

In the simplest terms, eudemonia is often taken to mean happiness but if it we translate from the original Greek, it can be translated into flourishing as well as well-being.

If we look at the literal meaning of eudemonia, it comes from a prefix of EU meaning good or well suffix daimon meaning spirit, soul, or self.

The concept gained popularity from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics which is philosophical work to explain ‘science of happiness’.

Eudemonia is about individual happiness as two psychologists mentioned in their book ‘well-being is not so much an outcome or end state as it is a process of fulfilling or realizing one’s daimon or true nature, i.e. of fulfilling one’s virtuous potentials and living as one was inherently intended to live’.

If we translate eudemonia into happiness, it can be a little misleading. Greek philosophers thought that eudemonia means achieving the best conditions which are possible for a human being in every possible sense of happiness, morality, meaningful life, and virtue.

The ultimate goal of philosophy was to be a better person in order to fulfill the unique potential of every human being individual. 

The concept of eudaimonia was important to many Greek philosophers including Socrates, the father of Greek philosophy.

Aristotle argued that eudaimonia can be achieved by working hard towards it by excelling at tasks, cultivating your virtues without being influenced by the circumstances.

He also believed that to achieve eudaimonia you have to be in the right place and to create a balance between activities and your wisdom.

Aristotle was in favor of believing that accepting our roles as parents, children, doctors and others all human beings share a purpose which is a thing that makes us all human.

In order to achieve that purpose and have eudaimonia, you have to excel at that purpose as well and you can do it by controlling your emotions, being a moral person and thinking, and working with reason and logic.

Aristotle believed these to be advanced and uniquely human abilities. In the light of above-mentioned details, eudemonia can be defined as “fulfillment, living a moral life, moral, spiritual success and human flourishing.

Eudemonia has an element of subjectivity into it and it can be seen as more and less dogmatic at once and it can be seen embedded deeply into the notions and virtue ethics and virtues.

This article will help you understand the concept of eudaimonia with Aristotle as well as the significance of eudemonia towards the happiness and well-being of a person as it is viewed in positive psychology.

Eudemonia has many implications for subjective well-being and we shall help you know and understand these implications. 

  • Eudemonia vs. Happiness

As the word, eudemonia is often used as a synonym to the word happiness but as it was explained earlier there is a lot more to the concept of eudaimonia.

The English word ‘happy’ has a totally different origin from the origins of eudemonia.

The word ‘happy’ comes from a Norse word ‘happy’ and it means luck or fortune and mostly linked with perhaps, I just happened to see him, hapless or happenstance.

All the above-mentioned words are linked with random occurrences or luck or fortune. In English origin ‘happiness’ essentially meant ‘fortunate’ or something to that context.

However, eudemonia is not linked with luck or fortune. Eudemonia works everyone in the same way without any concern of luck or no luck.

Eudemonia urges you to work towards being a better person and excel at daily activities.

Luck plays a role in you being happy but Greek philosophers believe that luck has nothing to do when it comes to being the best version of yourself.

Moreover, eudemonia is a state of being while happiness is just an emotion. Happiness is something created or destroyed by a person at any time while eudemonia takes a lot of time and effort and it is a long-lasting state of being.

Happiness can be achieved with smaller acts like eating your favorite food or a person can be happy through immoral means like cheating and then doing better at an exam but eudemonia lays emphasis on being a morally good person essentially. 

  • Eudemonia: Enduring Happiness

We can find happiness in the little things possible like going out shopping or getting ice cream with our loved ones.

However, these smaller things bring you happiness which is short-lived. While the sense of fulfillment that lingers on with you emerges from acts of eudemonia.

For instance, if you choose to eat healthily, do exercise and bring on lifestyle changes which help you live a happy life bring you happiness which will be long-lasting.

This is the example of practicing eudemon concepts in your life.

If we start applying these concepts to our daily living, we can live the best life possible which will be filled with fulfillment and meaning. 

  • History of Eudaimonia

The roots of the concept of eudaimonia date back to Aristotle but there other Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato (who was Aristotle’s mentor) also played an important role in defining the concept of eudaimonia.

Let’s take a brief look at the history of eudaimonia.

  • Socrates

Socrates believed that virtue is a form of knowledge and the knowledge should be of good and evil.

According to him, all the virtues including courage, piety, and justice are all our knowledge.

He believed that acquiring knowledge is important to achieve the ultimate good. 

  • Plato

Plato’s views were not much different from Socrates’ and he believed that people feel unhappy when they do something which they know is wrong.

According to Plato, eudemonia was the highest and ultimate aim of both moral thought and behavior.

The ultimate goal often sounds similar to Maslow’s self-actualization and it is mostly accepted in psychological literature. 

  • Aristotle

According to Huta and Waterman, Aristotle’s eudaimonia reflects “pursuit of virtue, excellence and the beast within us”.

That is, he believed eudemonia was a cogent activity aimed at pursuing ‘what is worthwhile in life’.

Aristotle diverged from Plato’s views on the concept of what was enough to achieve eudaimonia. He believed that virtue is sufficient but not enough because a person intends to be virtuous too instead of simply doing virtuous acts.

According to Aristotle, material wealth, honor, and power do not cause happiness and eudaimonic happiness can only be brought after doing virtuous acts. 

  • How to Achieve Eudemonia

Almost every one of us wants to be permanently happy, isn’t it?

If your answer is yes then you should look at the tips given below to get eudaimonic happiness.

There is no absolute formula for eudaimonic happiness but a few simple things will get you through a long way. 

  1. Know Thyself

Yes! This famous quote by Socrates can be a lifesaver for you if you want to achieve eudaimonic happiness.

However, knowing about your nature is not enough, you will have to know your strengths, weaknesses, your dreams, goals, and aspirations. A sense of purpose makes people feel a lot better, research has shown.

It is also seen that people who spend their lives trying to bring happiness in other people’s life (like social welfare) tend to live a happier and healthier and longer life. 

  1. Focus your Skills 

Once you have found what you are looking for, you need to focus all your skills and capabilities on these goals.

Once your life becomes goal-directed you feel a lot better and you need to understand that you have to intend virtuous too. 

  1. Express Yourself

It just doesn’t mean you have to be eloquent to tell others how you feel. It means that you need to perform behaviors that express and tell who you are.

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FAQ about Eudemonia

What was Aristotle’s take on a happy life?

Aristotle thought that happiness is an ‘intermediate’ or a ‘golden mean’ somewhere in between deficiency and excess. 

What is the role of externalities in achieving eudemonia?

According to Aristotle “he is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life.” 

In which book, Aristotle explained eudaimonia?

Aristotle’s book on eudaimonia was called ‘Nichomacean Ethic’.

What is the implication of eudemonia in modern psychology?

Eudemonia has strong and myriad implications on subjective well-being as well as psychological wellbeing and positive psychology. 

  • References

WHAT DOES ‘EUDAIMONIA’ MEAN?:Help me flourish org

Eudaimonia: Philosophy terms

What is Eudaimonia? Aristotle and Eudaimonia wellbeing by Catherine Moore (2020)

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