1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eudaemonism
|←Eucratides||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9
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EUDAEMONISM (from Gr. εὐδαιμονία, literally the state of being under the protection of a benign spirit, a "good genius"), in ethics, the name applied to theories of morality which find the chief good of man in some form of happiness. The term Eudaemonia has been taken in a large number of senses, with consequent variations in the meaning of Eudaemonism. To Plato the "happiness" of all the members of a state, each according to his own capacity, was the final end of political development. Aristotle, as usual, adopted "eudaemonia" as the term which in popular language most nearly represented his idea and made it the keyword of his ethical doctrine. None the less he greatly expanded the content of the word, until the popular idea was practically lost: if a man is to be called εὐδαιμον, he must have all his powers performing their functions freely in accordance with virtue, as well as a reasonable degree of material well-being; the highest conceivable good of man is the life of contemplation. Aristotle further held that the good man in achieving virtue must experience pleasure (ἡδονή), which is, therefore, not the same as, but the sequel to or concomitant of eudaemonia. Subsequent thinkers have to a greater or less degree identified the two ideas, and much confusion has resulted. Among the ancients the Epicureans expressed all eudaemonia in terms of pleasure. On the other hand attempts have been made to separate hedonism, as the search for a continuous series of physical pleasures, from eudaemonism, a condition of enduring mental satisfaction. Such a distinction involves the assumptions that bodily pleasures are generically different from mental ones, and that there is in practice a clearly marked dividing line, - both of which hypotheses are frequently denied. Among modern writers, James Seth (Ethical Princ., 1894) resumes Aristotle's position, and places Eudaemonism as the mean between the Ethics of Sensibility (hedonism) and the Ethics of Rationality, each of which overlooks the complex character of human life. The fundametal difficulty which confronts those who would distinguish between pleasure and eudaemonia is that all pleasure is ultimately a mental phenomenon, whether it be roused by food, music, doing a moral action or committing a theft. There is a marked disposition on the part of critics of hedonism to confuse "pleasure" with animal pleasure or "passion," - in other words, with a pleasure phenomenon in which the predominant feature is entire lack of self-control, whereas the word "pleasure" has strictly no such connotation. Pleasure is strictly nothing more than the state of being pleased, and hedonism the theory that man's chief good consists in acting in such a way as to bring about a continuous succession of such states. That they are in some cases produced by physical or sensory stimuli does not constitute them irrational, and it is purely arbitrary to confine the word pleasure to those cases in which such stimuli are the proximate causes. The value of the term Eudaemonism as an antithesis to Hedonism is thus very questionable.