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What is Eudaimonia according to Aristotle?

Explain Aristotelian Metaphysics within the Context of Eudaimonia. In other words, how does one achieve Eudaimonia or how does Aristotle link happiness to good character?

As a Greek word, Eudaimonia literally implies happiness or welfare. As a central concept in Aristotelian metaphysics and political philosophy, Eudaimonia is being equated with the highest virtue, as Aristotle clearly states: "If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue…”. According to Aristotle, Eudaimonia is the central purpose of human life and existence, and he firmly believed that Eudaimonia can be achieved only through the cultivation of virtues. Aristotle argued that if an individual is virtuous, he can never be miserable. The virtuous man behaves in a reasonable way, and that begets him the Eudaimonia (Ryan et al., 2013). As an activity that essentially belongs to the soul, Eudaimonia is achieved when a human being lives well and does well in the affairs of the world. According to Aristotle, happiness is the ulterior aim and end that humans should try to achieve, and it is an activity that involves both moral and intellectual arête. Every human being is endowed with an inherent capacity to become good and noble, and a man can be good by constant practice, and thereby achieve Eudaimonia.

The Doctrine of the Mean is an important doctrine of Confucianism, which is being known for representing a sense of moderation, rectitude, sincerity and rectitude. The important concept that guides and underlies the  Doctrine of the Mean, is that no one should act in excess than what is required, and that a sense of balance and harmony is required for leading a healthy life. Aristotle has also spoken of the importance of following the Doctrine of the Mean. According to Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean, just the way excess of any element in body leads to disease, while the balance of the elements restores health, an excess of behaviour will also prevent a man from achieving ethical excellence (Dudley,2 017). Excellence of character can be achieved only when the acts and emotions of an individual are performed and experienced at the right time in the right way or the right amount. Self-watchfulness, Leniency and Sincerity are the three attributes that can help one achieve mean in life that will lead to his happiness, enabling him to lead a virtuous life.

How is Eudaimonia achieved?

The philosophers believe that there are two kinds of passion- the concupiscible passion and the irascible passion. As far as the concupiscible passion is concerned, the passion refers to those passions which stand related to a sense of good and evil. For example, love is an example of a concupiscible passion that is related to good and again sorrow is also an example of a concupiscible that is related to evil. Hence, passions such as joy, grief, sorrow, pain, or love are examples of the concupiscible passion. The irascible passion, on the other hand, refers to those passions which are known for following the irascible appetite. Hence, fear, courage, hope and timidity are the common examples of irascible passions (Hauerwas, 2016). According to Aristotle, a soul is not a corporeal thing, and yet the structure of the soul is such that it does require bodily parts and organs for proper functioning. For example, one would need sense organs to enable to act of self-perception of the soul. Unlike the body that refers to the matter, the soul refers to the form. However, since the soul if the form of the body, its structure makes it impossible to live without the body, according to Aristotle. Aristotle believes that the soul is nothing but the sum total of all the operations of the human body, and it enables a man to become a human being rather than a mere body of flesh. However, the immorality of the soul is an absurd concept.

A wide variety of arguments have been claiming and establishing the existence of God. While Plato and Aristotle referred to the existence of a cosmological being, philosophers like Descartes claimed that a benevolent power like God does and should exist for the evidence of the senses to be meaningful. Without the existence of God, it is impossible to explain the origin of mankind or the world at large, establish a sense of meaning, control and harmony that acts as a guiding force in the Universe.  However, Immanuel Kant clearly rejected the idea of existence of any God, by stating the clear distinction between the natural objects which we can actually experience such as the observable world, and “supersensible” objects such as God, divine being or soul. Kant believed that one can only consider the knowledge of those things which he can experience, and existence is not merely a property that can be attributed to any object or being like God. Similarly, David Hume has also rejected the idea of God, by stating that human beings usually tend to attribute anthropomorphic attributes to unseen forces, which however can never the survive the application of scientific standards. Hume claimed that God is a complex idea the existence of which cannot be proved or disproved by human reasoning, and hence his existence cannot be established (Alter & Howell, 2015).

The Doctrine of the Mean in Aristotle's Philosophy

As far as the nature of God is concerned, God is deemed as the spiritual force that transcends everything and everyone on earth, and is distinguished from the ordinary mortals in its immortality. Although many religions have diverse names for Gods, God is believed to be one, undivided and an absolute power. Thus, immortality and spirituality define God. Besides, God is also believed to be the omnipotent, omniscient force that pervades within and without the world. Although there are some attributes present in both God and man, there is always an Otherness quality of God that distinguishes God from any mortal existing on the earth (Putra et al., 2015). God is not only immortal and invisible, but is also omniscient and omnibenevolent, offering justice to the world. Most importantly, God is self-existent who is neither created nor can be destroyed. On the other hand, any form of evil is a negative phenomenon, and it is something that lies in direct opposition to the creative nature of God. Evil refers to a sense of destruction, pain and agony, and an act or a power is considered to be evil if he involves the act of un-doing the being. While good involves acts that assist in the creation of a better world, the evil reverses the process of becoming, and compels people to lapse into non-being.

St. Augustine tried to understand “soul” in order to gain an insight into the idea of a Supreme Being. He believed that the human soul is essentially corporeal, and it is immortal. A soul enables one to think, judge, feel and reflect. Being incorporeal, the soul can never be perceived, but it is discovered to our consciousness by our living energy. The human soul is of two types- a pars inferior which possesses the vital and sensitive powers and a pars superior which possesses the intellectual or rational powers of the mind (Holscher, 2016).

While discussing about material reality, Aristotle rejected the idea that there is any form of real or ideal world, apart from the material world one lives in. Aristotle stated that if such an eternal, unchanging world would have existed, how the world relates to the material, imperfect world of mankind. Thus, the former is imaginary, and the latter is real. However, as per the Christian metaphysics, there is an ideal world that is beyond the physical world. According to Aristotle, God is the Prime Mover and First Principle that is the ultimate cause behind the creation of earth and human beings. However, unlike the Christian view of God, Aristotle does not speak of a Holy Spirit, or Father, whose Holiness should be worshipped in the Churches. Aristotle believes that the body and soul both are interrelated parts of human existence, whereby while the body moves, the soul helps the body to move. On the other hand, the Christians believe in the immortality of a soul that represents the Divine Power, which is thoroughly rejected by Aristotle, who believes that soul has no independent existence outside the body.

Concupiscible and Irascible Passions According to Aristotle

Plato brings in an idea of the Absolute Truth that is equated with the idea of ultimate reality of the world. The idea of reality according to Plato creates in people a sense of Absolute Truth. On the other hand, St Augustine believed reality to be external to human mind in general, and that a human being must have faith so that they can experience the semi-real reflection of reality. The absence of reality in a creature makes him non-God, while the presence of reality implies a Divine Truth.                            

While reconstructing theological perspective on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and politics, it can be said that the reason, an essential attribute of the human mind helps a man to distinguish between the right and the wrong. The idea of God is closely associated with the idea of performing virtuous actions, and leading a noble life, and hence the anything good, virtuous and noble is termed as just, and reflecting the principles of the Absolute Truth.

Machiavelli believed in the individual power of a man in capturing and retaining his power, and consequently he took no interest in any abstract concept such as ideal world, or God or virtue. According to him, the highest pursuit an individual can engage in, is to capture and hold power, and thus his moral rules are not virtuous acts dictated by God, but are practical rules about how to hold power (Machiavelli, 2017). An action is good not because God commands it, nor because it comes from virtue, but because its consequences are the attainment and keeping of power. Machiavelli was a man who was believed that the political environment is corrupt and dangerous, and mankind is essentially wicked, hence one will not gain anything by believing in God, or upholding the importance of virtue in human life.

Both Hobbes and Locke spoke of the man living in a primitive world, without the presence of nay political authority or formal checks on the behaviour of the respective individuals. However, if this was to continue man could never move out of his primate state and hence people realized the importance of natural law governing mankind. Hobbes and Locke both had argued that the state had arisen out of a voluntary agreement, or social contract, made by individuals who recognised that only the establishment of sovereign power could safeguard them from the insecurity of the state of nature. However, while Locke and Hobbes claimed that a man  was inherently evil, and his natural state was man, and hence required a government, Rousseau believed that man was inherently good (Skyrms, 2014). According to him, that stage of society where the individuals could stay independent was the best.

The Nature of God in Aristotelian Metaphysics

According to Hobbes’s theory of social contract, each individual man was interested in his own good, and he can fight with other men for his own glory. Hence, to keep his self-interestedness in check, an authority should be present. Unlike Hobbes, Locke did not believe man was immoral, but claimed that being free and independent, and hence he can take liberties with his rights (Ogbuju, S., & Eneh, 2016). Hence, a king should be there whose power will be based on the consent of mankind. Rousseau, on the other hand, did not believe in monarchy, and claimed that a man should submit to the general will of the public, and not the political will of any man.      

According to Kant, the fundamental concept of morality is reason, and in fact pure practical reason is the only possible way of determining what ought to be done without reference to empirical contingent factors (Aune, 2014). A rational will is free from any bias, and is the most logical alternative to be acted on. As opposed to reason as taught by Kant, Kierkegaard believes that an individual can be moral if he believes in the absurd ideas such as God which cannot be proved rationally. Nietzsche does not believe in morality, as he states that moral codes are forcefully imposed on a specific section of people to favour the interest of a selected few. Sartre as opposed to Kant and Kierkegaard, believes in the individual responsibility of a man in deciding what is right for him, as his consciousness enables him to understand how things are or how it should be. Sartre does not acknowledge the importance of relying on a moral code of conduct external to human mind.

The cogito ergo sum is an idea propounded by Descartes, which literally means “ I thinks, therefore I exist”. Descartes believed that in case the entire world turns out to be an illusion, the only thing a person can be sure of, is his own existence. The only thing real in such an illusory world is the idea of “I” as he himself is capable of thinking. However, Descartes himself stated that all the senses can be trusted if God is said to exist. Since God is the omniscient and omnipotent being, the idea of human mind as an essentially defining feature of human existence is subjugated to the concept of a greater force (Hertogh, 2016).

St. Augustine's Concept of the Soul

The terms are explained below:

Realpolitik: It is a political system of a country based on the specific needs of the country rather than the moral obligations of its residents.

Social Contract: It is a form of agreement between the ruled and the ruling people to determine the nature of society the people would live in, and to explain the moral obligations, each would have.

Tyranny: This refers to the extremely cruel and oppressive government ruling a nation or a society.

Despotism: This is a political scenario where the monarch or ruler holds absolute power, and is an autocratic leader, allowing none to ventilate any idea against him (Heywood, 2017).

Plutocracy: Plutocracy is a form of government that constitutes only the wealthy and elite class of rulers ruling in favour of the interest of their class.

Polity: It is an organized society, where a group of people have collectively united  by a self-reflected cohesive force such as identity, who have a capacity to mobilize resources, and are organized by some form of institutionalized hierarchy.

Monarchy: A form of government headed by a king.

Dictatorship: A form of government led by one individual or party who works to keep his power intact.

Oligarchy: A society governed by a small group of people.

Democracy: A society governed by people elected by the common men as their representatives.

Timocracy: A form of government where one needs to possess property and wealth to rule.

Common Good: Common good refers to anything that is shared by or is beneficial to all the members of a society.

Natural Law: Natural law states that certain rights are inherently and naturally present in human beings and cannot be denied.

Liberalism: Liberalism is a political doctrine that believes in enhancing the liberty of all the members of the society.

Utilitarianism: It is a doctrine that believes that an action can be considered to be right and moral only if it can prove to be beneficial to maximum number of people.

Kierkegaard’s teleological suspension of the ethical implies the suspension of the ethical law in order to fulfil the divine purpose. Kierkegaard believes that an individual having absolute faith in God must set aside the normal canons of ethics and humanity before the command of religion (Kierkegaard, 2013). For example, Abraham sacrificed his son at God’s command, even though the act is immoral.

According to Fidet et Ratio, faith and reason has a close relation as both combined together helps an individual explore the truth (Orr, 2014). It claims that the absence of either one will diminish man's ability to know himself, the world and God

Reference List:

Alter, T., & Howell, R. J. (2015). The God Dialogues: A Philosophical Journey.

Aune, B. (2014). Kant's theory of morals. Princeton University Press.

Dudley, J. (2017). Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean.

Hauerwas, S. (2016). Habit Matters: The Bodily Character of the Virtues. Ecclesia and Ethics: Moral Formation and the Church, 71.

Hertogh, C. P. (2016). Thought Experiment Analyses of René Descartes' Cogito. Trans/Form/Ação, 39(3), 9-22.

Heywood, A. (2017). Political ideologies: An introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.

Holscher, L. (2016). The Reality of the Mind: St Augustine's Philosophical Arguments for the Human Soul as a Spiritual Substance.

Kierkegaard, S. (2013). Kierkegaard's Writings, VI: Fear and Trembling/Repetition (Vol. 6). Princeton University Press.

Machiavelli, N. (2017). The prince. Knickerbocker Classics.

Ogbuju, S., & Eneh, O. C. (2016). Locating the reality of the social contract theory and the failed state concept in Nigeria’s governance. Sustainable Human Development Review, 6(1-4).

Orr, J. A. (2014). The development of the use of reason in Karol Wojtyla and its influence in John Paul II's Fides et ratio (Doctoral dissertation, Liverpool Hope University).

Putra, D. A., Hum, A. N. M., & Hum, S. H. M. (2016). The Ignorance of People to The Nature of God in Nawal El Saadawi’s The Fall Of The Imam Novel (1987): a Sociological Approach (Doctoral dissertation, Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta).

Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2013). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. In The exploration of happiness (pp. 117-139). Springer Netherlands.

Skyrms, B. (2014). Evolution of the social contract. Cambridge University Press.

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