The Term 'Eudaimonia': 'Flourishing' or 'Happiness'? I have a number of very roughly-formulated things to say about eudaimonia in this essay. I hope that focusing later on other specific aspects of NE will help me to pull all this together better. I think the problems my sources discuss are the products of contrived readings; all of those sources recognized this fact, and cleared up the confusions accordingly. At the level at which I have so far studied, the Nicomachea n Ethics seems unproblematic, though demanding in the sense that Aristotle seems to find so many of his connections too obvious to explain.

I mention this by way of partial explanation of the naive way that I fill out the connections that Aristotle leaves for us to make on our own. A good place to start is with Ackrill's brief characterization of eudaimonia: eudaimonia 'is doing well, not the result of doing well' (Ackrill, p. 13). Even though Irwin translates 'eudaimonia' as 'happiness', I will use Cooper's translation 'flourishing' instead. The reason for my choice comes mainly from Book X, where Aristotle tells us that eudaimonia is a process and not a state (1176 b 5).

It is easier to keep this in mind if the word 'flourishing' is used, since 'happiness' names a state, rather than a process, in English. Furthermore, there is popular prejudice, especially among philosophers, against the idea that being happy is consistent with being virtuous. Hence, the use of the word 'happiness' psychologically weights the case against the credibility of Aristotle's doctrine, since he does think that eudaimonia is virtuous action (1176 b 5). His doctrine is at least rendered more worthy of consideration by such critics if they are first appeased by the more neutral term.

Ackrill has different reasons for thinking that 'happiness' is not the proper translation. eudaimonia is the final end. While many things may be final ends, only eudaimonia is the most final end -- the 'one final good that all men seek' is happiness. (Ackrill, p. 12). This is where he sees the difference; what is true of happiness is not true of eudaimonia.

Happiness may be renounced in favor of some other goal, but eudaimonia may not. In suffering in order to do the right thing, one sees one's life fall short of eudaimonia. But it is comfort that is renounced (Ackrill, p. 12). If this is true, then the idea of equating happiness with eudaimonia makes nonsense of Aristotle's discussions of the virtues. More specifically, a virtuous person who must do unpleasant things in order to be brave has a life full of pain, and so cannot be said to be happy any more than can a slave.

But in being brave he is still demonstrating his desire for eudaimonia, since virtue is part of the way to assuring eudaimonia. The possibility of a person renouncing happiness and striving for some other good would not have made sense to Aristotle. This is just to fill out the concept of the most final end -- everything else is done for its sake, and all those things are done for their own sake as well; and the best possible life is also an end in itself. I am not sure that I understand Ackrill's reasons for rejecting 'happiness' as the translation of 'eudaimonia' Comfort is not happiness. Graduate school is uncomfortable a great deal of the time. Nonetheless, I am happy to be here, and can think of no better life than the one I have planned -- not because all of the particular parts of it are comfortable or fun, but because it is the right thing for me to do.

I am happy because I am making the right decisions. Ackrill's argument needs a concept of happiness that is much more narrow than the one that translators seem to intend when they use the word 'happiness.'.