The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Friday, May 20, 2011


A long time ago Aristotle emphasized that the end and goal of all human action is something called Eudaimonia, which roughly translates as happiness, but probably more accurately means flourishing or living a good life. It means success in all those areas that are important to us, such as accomplishments, material wealth and good human relationships.

Psychology has only recently begun recently to catch up to this idea. For a long time, the emphasis was on more transient notions of happiness - emotional joy, excitement, pleasure. But this narrow perspective leads into some obvious puzzles:

Why did couples go on having children even though the data clearly showed that parents are less happy than childless couples? Why did billionaires desperately seek more money even when there was nothing they wanted to do with it?

I'd mentioned this problem earlier, in particular with relation to the joys of having kids. The solution, for psychology, is to focus instead on Eudaimonia. Dr. Seligman, for one, has taken this approach, and has broken down flourishing into five main areas:

positive emotion, engagement (the feeling of being lost in a task), relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

I tend to think the latter three are probably the most important, with the former two falling more on the transient side of happiness, but, nonetheless, it's a good list.

There are numerous implications for these ideas. I see a major implication for welfare and charity in the idea that only self-made success brings satisfaction. In other words, welfare and charity need to be pursued as a means to help someone find success on their own, and any welfare that doesn't aim towards or produce those ends is harmful.

No comments:

Post a Comment