The Greek word used by Aristotle for happiness is εὐδαιμονία. The translation, “happiness” can be misleading as etymologically, it is made up of εὖ and δαίμων, meaning, “well, good” and “divinity, fortune,” respectively. So, εὐδαιμονία literally means, “having a good fortune,” or “having a good divinity.” The latter points to something like having a divine being guiding our steps and showing us the right way, which essentially seems to be good luck. Then, does εὐδαιμονία depend on our fortune, and thus the divinities?
Not for Aristotle, he associates εὐδαιμονία with “living well” and “doing well” as he states in Book 1 of “Nicomachean Ethics”:
“…What it is that we say political science aims at and what is the highest of all goods achievable by action. Verbally there is very general agreement; for both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that it is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with being happy;”
How does that relate to the literal meaning of εὐδαιμονία, “having a good fortune”? Does living and doing well mean that you have a good fortune? Fortune does play a role in having εὐδαιμονία. This can be seen in Aristotle’s quote:
“…happiness seems to need…prosperity in addition; for which reason some identify happiness with good fortune, thou...
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...ll other virtues like bravery and justice needs to be practiced on other people. Therefore, contemplative life is the most self-sufficient life and εὐδαιμονία is “thought to be self-sufficient.”
Yet, contemplative life is “too high for man,”
Primarily, the Greek concept of εὐδαιμονία is a much more public matter than our concept of happiness. We tend to think of happiness as an emotional state, whereas the Greeks treat εὐδαιμονία as a measure of objective success. It would be unthinkable for a Greek that a slave could have εὐδαιμονία; for, a beggar does not have enough good fortune in his life to be able to practice virtuous activities. While a successful businessman and eminent public figure could suffer from depression and still have εὐδαιμονία, as long as he bears his misfortunes nobly; for, he has enough good fortune to actually practice virtuous activities.
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