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date: 20 October 2018


An approach to ethics that focuses primarily on eudaimonia (variously translated ‘happiness’, ‘flourishing’, ‘well being’, and generally understood as the highest human good). For eudaimonists the central questions are first ‘What is eudaimonia?’, and next, having established that it is F (e.g. virtue, or pleasure), ‘What is F?’ Ancient Greek ethical thinkers were eudaimonistic in this broad sense. The fundamental contrast is with a generally modern perspective for which the primary problem is morally right action and its determination. Classifying a theory as ‘eudaimonist’ makes a formal claim, leaving open the theory's substantial specification of eudaimonia. Hedonist philosophers who equate eudaimonia with pleasure, and aretaic ones who identify it as virtue or some variant, are equally eudaimonists. Still, ‘eudaimonism’ is sometimes unfortunately used as if its very meaning picks out the aretaic sort of theory (possibly because this is felt to be philosophically more satisfactory than hedonistic rivals.) ‘Eudaimonism’ is also occasionally used to invoke the idea that one's own eudaimonia is the supreme goal of one's action. Our texts do not support such a strictly egoist interpretation, although they naturally assume that self-concern gives each person an immensely important reason for avoiding mistaken conceptions of eudaimonia.


T. Irwin, The Development of Ethics 1 (2007).Find this resource:

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