Eudaemonism


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Eudaemonism

 

in ancient times the interpretation of life and later, in ethics, the interpretation and theoretical justification of morality according to the principle that happiness, or “bliss,” is man’s highest goal.

A premise of ancient eudaemonism was the Socratic idea of inner freedom, achievable through the individual’s self-knowledge and nondependence on the outside world. Although eudaemonism and hedonism arose at the same time and were closely interrelated, they are in a certain sense opposites. Happiness is not simply Aristotle’s protracted and harmonious pleasure but rather the result of overcoming the desire for sensual gratification—a result achieved through practice, self-restraint, asceticism, renunciation of one’s attachment to the outside world and its blessings, and consequent freedom from external necessity and from the vicissitudes of life; happiness is judicious reasoning, identical to true virtue.

For the Cynics, the governing principle of life is the struggle against the passions that enslave mankind. The Cyrenaics’ doctrine is essentially an elaboration of the same motifs—namely, that happiness depends not on external circumstances but on the right attitude toward them. The Stoics define man’s inner freedom as the joyful submission to fate, inasmuch as what has meaning for man depends only on man’s attitude toward external circumstances and not on life’s vicissitudes.

In the modern age this ideal of inner freedom has been developed by many philosophers; B. Spinoza, in particular, showed exceptional acuity in his antithesis between rational consciousness and sensual passions and in his purely intellectual conception of bliss—amor del intellectualis, or “intellectual love of god.”

The French materialists, such as C. A. Helvétius and P. Holbach, gave the concept of happiness a frankly hedonist cast; naturalist motifs became predominant in eudaemonism, as can be seen particularly in English utilitarianism.

T. A. KUZMINA

References in periodicals archive ?
Notwithstanding Italians' allegedly humorous disposition, the narrator over breakfast defends saudade against the Spaniard's salero, although the defence modulates into interrogation of the Spaniard's bluff eudaemonism (but by implication of imputed Italian characteristics too).