Eudaimonia is a challenging word to translate. Simplistic definitions of it vary from ‘happiness’ to ‘flourishing’ to ‘the good life.’ It is especially necessary to have a full understanding of the idea of eudaimonia when reading Aristotle, because the concept plays an important role in both his ethical and political theories. For Aristotle this includes achieving a state of being good and kind with others. He thinks that being generous, altruistic and charitable belong also to eudaimonia. The happy person (eudaimon) lives in the pursuit of human excellence, has a sufficient supply of external goods and lives that way throughout a complete lifetime.
Aristotle’s definition of eudaimonia is long and involved. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that eudaimonia means ‘doing and living well and being content’. For Aristotle this implies that eudaimonia involves activity and striving for excellence. It is human nature to strive for self-development. Therefore the best form of eudaimonia is gained by the proper development of one’s best powers and the most humane attitude. This identifies us as ‘rational animals’. It follows that eudaimonia for a human being is the attainment of excellence (arete) through the use and application of reason. Further, he claims this excellence cannot be isolated and so it requires social competence as well as high professional standards. One needs to be fully engaged in the activity of his/her work and in a social network of friendships in order to achieve success.
He specifies that this good must be both final and self-sufficient, and, after explaining what he means by these qualifications, shows how Eudaimonia meets both of them. Thus, the first part of his definition is, ‘Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action.’ (1097b). In Aristotle’s ethical theory, eudaimonia is a virtue. Aristotle gives his definition of virtue later when he describes it, saying,...
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