Hedonistic theories of well-being in antiquity

Authored by: Tim O’Keefe

The Routledge Handbook Of Philosophy Of Well-Being

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415714532
eBook ISBN: 9781315682266
Adobe ISBN: 9781317402657


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Ancient ethics is commonly, and rightly, characterized as “eudaimonistic.” At the start of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle sets out the overall framework within which most ancient ethicists operate: the highest good is eudaimonia, or happiness, which is valuable for its own sake and not for the sake of anything else. Everything else that is valuable is valuable either as an instrumental means to achieving eudaimonia or as a constituent of eudaimonia. (For Aristotle, wealth would be an example of an instrumental means to eudaimonia, whereas interacting with your friends would be one of its constituents.) Aristotle notes that, while everybody agrees that eudaimonia is the highest good, this is a “thin” agreement merely on what to label the highest good, as people sharply disagree on what the substance of eudaimonia is (NE I 1095a17–22). 1

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