Will as Commitment and Resolve: An Existential Account of Creativity, Love, Virtue, and Happiness

By John Davenport | Go to book overview

6
Psychological Eudaimonism:
A Reading of Aristotle

Overview. This chapter is an interpretative reconstruction of several
key ideas in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, with some reference to Aqui-
nas’s Treatise on Happiness along the way. It will be intelligible to anyone
who has read Aristotle; undergraduates may find the analysis of Aris-
totle’s theory in section 1 useful quite apart from its role in my larger
argument. section 2 concerns more advanced questions in the inter-
pretation of Aristotle; section 3 presents in propositional form the
model of human motivation to be critiqued in later chapters. Hence
readers interested in following the main argument of the book with-
out revisiting the Nicomachean Ethics in detail could simply read section
3, which provides the basis for discussion in the next two chapters.


Introduction

In this chapter, I prepare the way for an existential critique of a eudaimonist view of human motivation, taking Aristotle as my focus. I begin by framing what I consider to be the most defensible version of eudaimonism consistent with the erosiac conception of human motivation. I show that this is a plausible reading of Aristotle, although I am primarily concerned about the implications of the most defensible form of psychological eudaimonism itself, whether it is properly attributed to Aristotle or not. Since my goal is to describe the best version of eudaimonist moral psychology and then critique it, I sidestep some questions of textual exegesis by making charitable assumptions about Aristotle’s meaning that would require “at least a book” (to use Derek Parfit’s apt phrase) for a full defense. However, the resulting model of “A-eudaimonism” will clearly be Aristotelian in spirit.

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