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Eudaimonia: The supremely happy life

Tabensky, Pedro Alexis (1998) Eudaimonia: The supremely happy life. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The fundamental question I have set out to attempt answer in this piece is 'What does a happy life consist in?' I attempt to answer this question by firstly showing that the sense of happiness at issue here is the one Aristotle refers to as eudaimonia - the sense that refers to the shape of the life of a person as a whole. More specifically, the sort of life at issue, I argue later on, is the sort of life of a person who has actualized the potentials that define persons as such. In order to give this last claim some persuasive force I provide an explanation and a defense of Aristotle's teleological conception of nature (physis). Here I argue with Aristotle that the nature of persons as such is an ethical ideal - the telos of persons qua rational creatures. It is important to stress that the sense of rationality used here is not just any sense, and it is certainly not the sense of rationality we use when referring exclusively to conscious rational thought. Rather, the sense of rationality at issue is one that pertains to the organization of all those aspects of our lives that define us as creatures who have beliefs, propositional attitudes generally, such as desires and emotions, and behavior that for the most part accords with these attitudes (meaningful behavior). It is the possession of this sort of rationality that defines us as rational creatures. Indeed, the ethical ideal that defines the lives of persons as such - what I refer to as the eudaimon ideal – is an ideal of rationality.

This ideal of rationality, which is constitutive of a eudaimon life, cannot be understood in isolation from an understanding of how we relate to others. With the help of Donald Davidson particularly, I argue that we are by nature creatures that live in community, such that there is no sense in which we can properly conceive of what it is to be a person, let alone a eudaimon individual, independently of considering the nature of our associations with others. Indeed, we develop the enduring qualities of character - the virtues - required for acting in accordance with our defining ethical ideal in the intimacy of our direct webs of love, and paradigmatically, in the intimacy we establish with those who have a practical understanding of how to live a good life. I further argue that the ethic one learns in these intimate relationships is the ethic that defines what I refer to as communal justice - the system of basic principles that regulate human interaction generally. In short, I establish an intimate link between individual virtue and communal justice, such that it is not possible to produce a hard and fast distinction between how one ought to live one's private life and how one ought to act in public. Indeed, the very basis for speaking of virtue and of justice is that we are creatures who have a common telos, which is the achievement of happiness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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