The Eudaemonists is a group of individuals inspired by Aristotle's concept of Total Human Well Being, or Eudaemonia.
A Eudaemonist could be characterized as an individual who strives to immerse himself or herself in everything that makes life wonderful and worth living, as individuals who strive to excel at their talents, who seek happiness through rational pursuits, and who value the ability for all intelligent beings to share in their pursuit of happiness.
Aristotle argued that just as a good musician does injustice by playing an instrument poorly, a person does his own ethical duty an injustice by refusing to reason. A good musician should play an instrument as best he can, and a good human should reason as best he can. The capacity to reason is the single largest differentiator between humans and other beings on this Earth, and as such it is the most uniquely human. To embrace humanity, one must embrace the uniqueness that we hold, and one must embrace reason. Similarly, the capacity to recognize and reflect upon the deepest workings of nature, of beauty, and passion are powerfully and primary human definers. To me, to embrace reason, nature, beauty, science, and passion is to be a Eudaemonist.
Eudaemonism is neither a religion nor a cult, it is a philosophy or a set of rules helping to define the nature and meaning of existence. The word actually originates from Greek. 'Eu' means well and 'daemon' means spirit. Which is why an eudaemon is commonly known as a spirit of rationality. In Greek, 'eudaemonia' translates to 'the state of being under the protection of a benign spirit, a good genius'. This philosophy was first raised by Aristotle and basically it tells us to obtain happiness by leading a life according to reason.
Everyone seeks to lead a happy existence. But how do we achieve true happiness in life? By following a rational existence and living life our own way. However, this is easier said than done, for life itself holds many rules and constraints. Very often we are forced to do things which we do not like, simply in order to fit in, and many in the world do not even have the luxury to ponder such things.
Eudaemonism is a Principle or Idea in ethics and refers to any conception of ethics that puts human happiness and the complete life of the individual at the center of ethical concern. Eudaemonic society encourages each citizen to achieve happiness through striving to fulfill completely his or her own potential. The word eudaemonism comes from the Greek word for happiness, or more accurately: total human well-being. It is solely a technical term and has no popular equivalent, though sometimes humanism comes close. Aristotle is the model eudaemonist, and really the founder of eudaemonism.
Eudaemonism is in stark contrast to existentialism, which rejects happiness as a bourgeois fantasy, and lies in contrast to stoicism, which rejected human emotion all-together.
Aristotle argues that the highest human good is Eudaemonia. It is, he says, our only self-sufficient goal and the ultimate goal of all human action. Most of our actions are ultimately whiddled down to trying to attain happiness, but happiness is not present for the sake of something else, it is a end of its own, and not a mean.
A notable religious parallel would be to that of the Jewish concept of the 'chosen people'. Traditional Judaism teaches that the Jews are the chosen people, not in a sense of arrogance, but in that it is their duty to work that much harder to achieve their maximum potential as the chosen of God. Aristotle makes the same appeal, but feels that it is simply the duty of all people to do as much.
A Eudaemonist's Profile
I am a skeptic and an atheist. I do not believe in life after death, magic, spirits or 'souls' in the Christian sense. I do however believe in people, and the amazing, beautiful and wonderful and fascinating things that people can and are able to do and accomplish. Skeptics do not discount emotions, skeptics will never tell you that 'beauty' does not exist. They may tell you that your concept of beauty is no more valid than anyone else's, but that makes it no less important to them. Carrying this philosophy to the extreme, I find myself intrigued by absolutely everything that people do that they find joy in doing, and if I am unable to find joy in that activity, then I am losing out. Everything is interesting.
I remember a story about Carl Sagan when a listener at a lecture approached him and said 'without God, what is special about life' or something to that effect. Carl replied 'Life is what you make of it'. As a skeptic I find that life is a most wonderful and amazing thing, and being aware of that makes life even more precious. And then being able to do things that one finds joy in is immensely more profound and fascinating still. Not believing that we exist after we die makes me realize how lucky I am to have this life, and that since this is the ONLY one I will get, I better make of it what I can. Coupled with my knowledge of science, and especially chaos, I must say that realizing that each and every thing I do and that each decision I make may have profound and drastic consequences on the entire rest of my life gives me pause when making important decisions, even not so important ones.
Becoming a skeptic has greatly increased my appreciation for life, and everything that makes life worth living. Becoming a Eudaemonist has helped direct me toward finding total human well-being and embracing joy in all its forms in life.
Eudaemonia in the dictionary;
(1) Eudaemon /u-de'man/ n. A benevolent spirit or genius.
(2) Eudaemonia /u-de'mo'nea/ n. A state of complete well-being, as defined by the philosophy of Aristotle; good fortune; true happiness as arising from a rational satisfaction.
(3) Eudaemonic /u-demon'ik/ adj. Of, pertaining to, or tending to produce happiness; concerned or done for the sake of happiness.
(4) Eudaemonism /u-de'ma-niz-am/ n. The doctrine that happiness or welfare, as defined by a reasonable man, is the chief good.
Personally, I just try to live my life to the fullest and enjoy myself as much as possible along the way. As for the unhappy things which come along, I view them as inevitable and learn to accept them. I hope that this piece of advice is useful for everyone, and that you will be able to lead a happy life as well
While a life of reason and rationality is certainly very subjective, I do have my own set of principles which I follow. These are simply my own ideas of Eudaemonia, and do not necessarily relate to others, as different people have different levels of reason and rationality they endorse to persue joy in life.
- More comments on Eudaemonism -
Some discussion on the History of the word and the teaching of Aristotle
- Eudaemonists Mailing list -
Share your enjoyment of life, your thoughts and ideas with others.
How does one go about being a Eudaemonist? They concentrate on a systematic effort to enjoy life, to embrace themselves in everything that makes life worth living, and use logic and rationality as the mechanism of that persuit.