I am taking an introduction course to philosophy at my university. And the professors are translating "Eudaimonia" to "A happy life", or "A good life", used "Living a good/happy life". My course is in Norwegian, so this is again translated from Norwegian. What i am asking is basically, are there other translations of "Eudaimonia"? It seems to me that the translations of living a good life does not bring out all the essence of the meanings when "Eudaimonia" is used in texts from Plato, Aristotle and Rosalind Hursthouse in the curriculum.

  • Wikipedia – user3164 May 3 '13 at 9:31
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    Eudaimonia is a moralized, or value-laden concept of happiness, something like true or real happiness or the sort of happiness worth seeking or having. Living a life in accordance with virtue is necessary for eudaimonia. Life devoted to physical pleasure or the acquisition of wealth is not eudaimon, but a wasted life. – Annotations Jul 19 '13 at 23:29

The following is from Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon:

εὐδαιμον-ία , Ion. -ιη, ἡ, A. [select] prosperity, good fortune, opulence, h.Hom.11.5, Pi.N.7.56, Hdt.1.5,32, Hp.Ep.11 (v.l.), etc.; χρημάτων προσόδῳ καὶ τῇ ἄλλῃ εὐ. Th.2.97; of countries, Hdt.5.28, 7.220, etc.; “μοῖρ᾽ εὐδαιμονίας” Pi.P.3.84: pl., E.IA591 (anap.), Pl.Phd.115d. 2. [select] true, full happiness, “εὐ. οὐκ ἐν βοσκήμασιν οἰκεῖ οὐδ᾽ ἐν χρυσῷ” Democr.171; εὐ. ψυχῆς, opp. κακοδαιμονίη, Id.170, cf. Pl.Def.412d, Arist.EN1095a18, Zeno Stoic.1.46, etc. b. [select] personified as a divinity, SIG985.8

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    χρημάτων προσόδῳ καὶ τῇ ἄλλῃ εὐ.: "Giving money and other eudaimoniae" but on its own could be out of context, it's unclear if money is eu. or the act of giving it εὐ. οὐκ ἐν βοσκήμασιν οἰκεῖ οὐδ᾽ ἐν χρυσῷ: "Eudaimonia is not found (does not inhabit) in the souls of beasts (animals) or in gold". Just for reference – rath Jul 28 '13 at 3:45

Eudaimonia is translated by Martha Nussbaum, a moral philosopher in the Anglo-American tradition as Flourishing in her book The Fragility of goodness. She comments that it is the 'human good, rather than goodness of character'. This is what the term Flourish aspires to describe - a life, open, natural, active & expansive. The archaic term 'human good' also describes this, but because of the association of good with morality and virtue, it perhaps does that less well, particularly in contemporary idiom where it is perhaps associated with strict or puritanical morality/virtue, or perhaps a morality to which they cannot hope to measure up to - a quote from Orhans Pamuk novel Snow is apposite:

For the traveler we see leaning on his neighbor is an honest and well-meaning man and full of melancholy, like those Chekhov characters so laden with virtues that they never know success in life

That flourishing suggests plant life and organic growth is deliberate as she opens her discourse with a quotation from the Greek lyric poet - Pindar:

But human excellence grows like a vine tree

Fed by the green dew, raised up,

Among wise men and just, to the liquid sky

She then reflects on the growth as a commingling of what is ours & what is the world, the association of human excellence with 'the tenderness of the plant' and in the Greek poetic tradition, as 'something whose very nature is to be in need, a growing thing in the world that could not be made invulnerable and keep its own peculiar fineness'. But she remarks that the 'passive vine tree' is incompatible with the vision of ourselves as 'active agents', that no matter the continuity of life we have with lower orders, or consciousness, our self-consciousness and our reason surpasses them in degree and is thus crucially different.

Here the image of reason is external, from 'wise men and just' - civitas & politeia. It suggests, that though man is a rational animal, the role of culture in so elemental, that in a large sense it comes from without, from the thick sedimentation of language, of gesture and ritual.

She further adds:

A raw sense of the passivity of human beings and their humanity in the world of nature, and a response of both horror and anger at that passivity, lived side by side with and nourished the belief that reasons's activity could make safe, and thereby save, our human lives - indeed, must save them, if they are to be made humanly worth living. This need for a liveable life preoccupied most of the early Greek thinkers, including some of whom tradition called philosophers, and some who usually receive other titles, for example (poet, dramatist & historian).

Her central preoccupation is to examine the tragic vision of poets & dramatists, centrally occupied with powerful emotions, such as arrogance, hubris, pathos and pity (one thinks of trilogy of Oedipus Rex), in contrast to the anti-tragic vision of Plato (the rational, reflective and jocular Socrates), as reflected in the unadorned language of his dialogues - or dramas, but centrally unconcerned with drama - a direct riposte to the dramatists art. She then examines the balancing act of Aristotle who attempts to synthesise a whole from two diametrically opposite visions.

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