Sundry thoughts on Eudaimonia

Either the Greeks are funnily specific (after all, the ancients had four words for “love”) or we English speakers are sillily imprecise. The word Eudaimonia is a great example of that difference in specificity.


Eudaimonia, often translated as “happiness”, means something more like “happiness through fulfillment.” Happiness is that thing we all strive for, and many people (myself included) find themselves asking, “What is happiness? How do I capture it?” Apparently it’s through fulfillment. According to Aristotle, that ol’ smart cookie, Eudaimonia is the highest human good, and is therefore the highest human goal. So, the point of life is to be happy as a result of feeling fulfilled… What about procreation (that’s a popular one right)? Or what about plain happiness, without the nonsense about fulfillment?

Well, maybe making babies like bunnies is supposed to make us feel fulfilled in some evolutionary sense. And maybe lasting happiness only results of lasting fulfillment. But, now we’ve just pushed back the question. At first we asked what happiness is. Now we have to ask what fulfillment is.


Fulfillment, I would guess, is something decidedly more stable than the momentary highs we characterize as happiness. Fulfillment, like “success”, is surely different for everyone, and probably has concretely to do with your habits, attitudes, long-standing preferences, productivity, usefulness to others, and so on. What I don’t quite understand is how we become fulfilled, or even pursue fulfillment. Do the things you like? But that doesn’t work out in the long run for people who like hardcore drugs. Be ever admirably dutiful? I can only imagine trying that and becoming really resentful toward a life probably devoid of pleasure for the sake of pleasure.

I’ve come to the conclusion, thanks to this thought provoking article, that the key is to have a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose, I’m hoping, will bring fulfillment, will encourage more energy and drive, and will (eventually) result in some blanket of deeper happiness settling over one’s life.

Am I the only one feeling a bit lost and purposeless? Do you feel this way? Does it bother you too?



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