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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A125-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

The literal sense of the Greek word eudaimonia is ‘having a good guardian spirit’: that is, the state of having an objectively desirable life, universally agreed by ancient philosophical theory and popular thought to be the supreme human good. This objective character distinguishes it from the modern concept of happiness: a subjectively satisfactory life. Much ancient theory concerns the question of what constitutes the good life: for example, whether virtue is sufficient for it, as Socrates and the Stoics held, or whether external goods are also necessary, as Aristotle maintained. Immoralists such as Thrasymachus (in Plato’s Republic) sought to discredit morality by arguing that it prevents the achievement of eudaimonia, while its defenders (including Plato) argued that it is necessary and/or sufficient for eudaimonia. The primacy of eudaimonia does not, however, imply either egoism (since altruism may itself be a constituent of the good life), or consequentialism (since the good life need not be specifiable independently of the moral life). The gulf between ‘eudaimonistic’ and ‘Kantian’ theories is therefore narrower than is generally thought.

Citing this article:
Taylor, C.C.W.. Eudaimonia, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A125-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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