Aristotle on Eudaimonia

In the sixth section of the tenth book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle begins to wrap up his argument by bringing us back to eudaimonia, that difficult-to-translate word that Aristotle has put forth as his candidate for the ultimate end we all ought to be aiming for.

Aristotle reminds us of what he’s already said on the subject (mostly in Book ):

  • Eudaimonia is an activity, not a disposition.
  • Eudaimonia is among those activities that are good in and of themselves, not those that are good for the sake of something else.

Two things that seem to meet this description are 1) virtuous actions, and 2) recreational actions. Both are done for their own sake (remember that Aristotle has said that the virtuous person does virtuous acts for the love of acting virtuously, and not for any utilitarian results).

There’s a sort of vulgar understanding of “the good life” in which recreation takes a big role (“Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous”). But Aristotle thinks it’s a mistake to look to the decadent ruling class to figure out what the ends of life are. If recreational amusement were the ultimate end of life, how trivial life would be. Instead, look to the virtuous.

Recreation has its place, not as an end in and of itself, but as a way of relaxing in preparation for, or to recover from, more noble activity. That is to say that, truly understood, recreation isn’t an end to itself but is a means to an end after all. A life of eudaimonia is a virtuous one, which is more a matter of exertion than amusement, pleasurable though it be.

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics


The following excerpt, from the edition of Catholic World, concerns a tax resistance campaign in occupied Germany.

Violent disorders have marked the month in Germany. These have sprung from two sources — internal economic discontent and outbursts of national dissatisfaction over recent events in Upper Silesia. A movement for a general refusal to pay taxes, originating in Württemberg, spread rapidly to other towns, principally Stuttgart, which was without gas, electricity and water for several days. The strike began in the Daimler motor works in Württemberg, where the workers refused to allow the deduction of the legal tax of ten per cent from their weekly wages, because of dissatisfaction with the Württemberg government of Centrists and Democrats, who are charged with endeavoring to institute the old capitalist regime. Regardless of this purely Socialist argument, the masses of the people throughout Germany protest that they have good ground for refusing the ten per cent deduction to a Government which makes no effort to seize excessive and often fraudulent war and revolution profits, does not punish men compromised by the Kapp rebellion, and which shows neither power nor ability to right various injustices. The discontent of the people is finding expression in disastrous strikes and lockouts. In the Siegerland mines near Cologne, and also in Essen, the tax refusal has been the cause of violent disorder, and several mine and factory officials have been severely wounded.

Despite these disorders, however, there is strong opposition, even among Socialists, toward any alliance with the Bolsheviki. Recently in Berlin the Federal Congress of Independent Socialists heard the report of its delegation to the Communist Congress at Moscow, which was to the effect that Bolshevism was impossible in Germany, and that even in Russia this form of government, if government it could be called, has no future. The visiting delegation seems to have been thoroughly disillusioned by its view of actual conditions under Bolshevik rule, and its members delivered violent speeches of denunciation of Sovietism, which one speaker declared to be more militaristic and oppressive than the despotism of the Tsar.

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