Virtue on Aristotle
As mentioned above, Eudaimonia is defined as a supreme good, which becomes the ultimate goal of everyone pursues. What is the ultimate goal? It is the final purpose and will not be the way to achieve other purposes. For example, we can say that earning money is the purpose of working. So how about the purpose of making money? Some will say that making money is to obtain a better life. However, Eudaimonia is different. People do not pursue it for another reason; they pursue Eudaimonia for Eudaimonia itself. Therefore, Aristotle believes that happiness is the ultimate and the highest goal.
According to Aristotle, the highest good also must fit into three criteria. First, it should be desirable for itself. Second, it is not desirable for the sake of some other good. Third, all other goods are desirable for its sake. Besides, Aristotle later includes that the highest good must be acted upon because if one does not act to achieve any aim then they will never achieve it. In other words, the highest good is a solitary nucleus, which all other goods are acted upon on it. For Aristotle, this supreme good is Eudaimonia . Aristotle says that there is a highest good for man. If there is a plurality of goods, then they cannot all be of equal standing and one of them must be the highest good. The highest good for man must be Eudaimonia. Happiness is self-sufficient and is an end in itself, not a means to a further or higher end . Therefore, there cannot be a higher good for man.
Aristotle states that eudaimonia is activity that engages and displays excellence that is characteristic of a human being. The man who performs the activity that displays the greatest excellence characteristic of a human being achieves the greatest happiness. This means that an activity that a human being perform alone or performs better than anything else. What a thing or person alone does or does better than anything else is his function (ergon). For an instance, cutting is the function of a knife, and the excellence of a knife consists in its cutting well, or the quality that enable it to do so. Making shoes is the function of a cobbler, and the excellence of a cobble consists in his making shoes well, or other quality that enable him to do this.
(D) Conceptions of Eudaimonia and Happiness
Every action has a single and the same ultimate end, and this is happiness, since happiness is not sought for the sake of other things and all other things are sought for the sake of happiness. There must be such an end, or every action would be performed for the sake of some further end and there would be an infinite series of means and ends. From above description, we can see that, obviously, happiness does not mean the highest value, and not every kind of happiness is worthy of desire. The kind of happiness that is worthy of desire in itself is different from other happiness in kind and origin.
Aristotle distinguished them by happiness that is worth pursuing and happiness that is not worth pursuing. The former is not good in itself, and the latter is good in itself. So how do we distinguish between them? Aristotle stated two activities of human beings, that is, perceptual and non-perceptual activity. Perceptual activity can be directly felt shuch as the desire for delicious food and sexual desire. In contrary, non-perceptual activities includes reading, enjoying works of art and listening to musics. Correspondingly, happiness is divided into emotional happiness and non-perceptual happiness, and the former is not worth pursuing.
Furthermore, there are also philosophers distinguished eudaimonia into two. The divine activity such as muse is the greatest eudaimonia, while the reality activity with virtue is the inferior eudaimonia. These two kinds of happiness are not opposite and repulsive. Thomas Aquinas pointed out that philosophers, who is, wise people, are “the most eudaimonia of all, while the eudaimonia of those citizens are inferior. This is because they only care about the thing that change, not the sacred and invariant thing.
Aristotle’s concept of hierarchical eudaimonia doest not emphasize opposition and difference, but more positively. The person he defines is social, rational, based on seeking knowledge, and pursuing self-transcendence. They tend to achieve the rise of the soul, thereby achieving perfection of man. He pointed out that “the greatest eudaimonia can only be enjoyed by God, because only God can do without any external goodness, and it is perfect in itself to be able to carry out the never-ending thoughts.Aristotle believes that happiness is procedural, not temporary and static. Although it is impossible to achieve maximum eudaimonia as an individual or philosopher. As a generational replacement in the process of human development, this kind of human mediation is infinitely contiuous and uninterrupted. In this seemingly perpetual process, human beings constantly surpass themselves and develop contiuously, so they are getting closer and closer to the greatest eudaimonia.
Philosophers like to ask extreme question. For instance, the question they often ask regarding happiness is: “A happy pig who only know how to drink and eat and a philosopher who thinks about the pain of life, who is happier? The philosopher thinks that superficial hapiness is not worth it when comparing to profound meditation. Those philosopher really did not consider the feeling and opinions of the pig. At least, it reminds us that happiness should eudaimonia should not be equated with simple happiness.
Seligman, the father of positive psycology, proposed a more comprehensive model of eudaimonia, that is, PERMA model. It explains the true meaning of eudaimonia. In the PERMA model, the fiirst element of happiness is positive emotion. Positive emotions represent light, smiling, relaxed and inspiring, and thus becoming the most primitive essence of eudaimonia. The second element of eudaimonia is concentration and commitment. When we were engaged in intense activities such as rock climbing, dancing and even taking exams, we do not have too much positive emotions. The event attracts all our attention. With our focus and commitment, we feel and create a special order and rhythm when doing things. We use all our strength of the muscles of our body and mind when we are involved in something. We feel our own growth under this steady, serene and calm condition. This is called the joy of concentration.
The third element of eudaimonia is relationship. We all live in certain social relationships. Love and friendship are the foundation of our living. Friends and loved ones carry the warmth, pride, responsibility and meaning of life. Next, the fourth element of eudaimonia is the meaning of life. Although the meaning of life is important, people cannot solve the problem of reality through the speculation of it. On the contrary, the problems that we meet in real life makes us confused about the meaning of life. Once we understand the answer of this question, we will be firm and calm. Mo matter where we are, we are clear about what we are chasing for. Last, the fifth element of happiness is achievement. We all hope that we will become winners in life, and mostly not for money, but only for standing higher compared to others.
In a nutshell, eudaimonia is always associated with happiness. People are more familiar with specific happiness than abstract eudaimonia. A good meal, a wonderful movie, a date or a walk under spring sunshine will make us happy. However, happiness has its limitations. It is not a good idea to equate happiness with eudaimonia. This will narrowing the meaning of happiness and the possible improvement for eudaimonia. More importantly, we need a rich, vigorous, creative and meaningful life compared to a happy life.