Human Nature and 'Eudaimonia' in Aristotle

Dissertation, Marquette University (1987)
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Abstract

According to Aristotle, all human functions contribute to eudaimonia, 'happiness'. Happiness is an exclusively human good; it exists in rational activity of soul conforming to virtue. This rational activity is viewed as the supreme end of action, and so as man's perfect and self-sufficient end. ;Again for Aristotle, the term episteme, 'science', indicates a special quality of knowledge, viz. truth as derived from premises priorly known, and with greater clarity than the conclusion. This thesis argues that scientific knowledge of man can be based on analysis of the exclusively human quality of eudaimonia. ;One's perception of a conjunction of vital operations found only in man is the starting point for such episteme. Philosophy can also analyze the nature of virtue, a specifically human form of habit. Taking all human activities and qualities into its scope, philosophy can develop a scientific concept of the whole of human nature. ;But only the operations of reason and the quality of virtue are immediate principles of eudaimonia. A careful study of them reductively provides knowledge of the whole of man. ;Within a eudaimonistic focus, human reason has two important functions. These occur in the theoretical activity of contemplation and in the practical activity of discerning the good for one's conduct. A mature human being can perform both of these activities entirely on his own. Each activity is perfect and self-sufficient; each is, therefore, evidence of the wholeness and self-sufficiency of human nature. ;Human virtue connotes an ease of action; it facilitates the activity of theoretical and practical reason. Thus virtue makes it easier to live well as a human being and so to be happy. As a well established inner quality, virtue is a permanent occasion of the activity proper to man. ;With reason and virtue as immediate principles, Aristotle's man is capable of self-constitution. In light of these main results a generally compelling scientific knowledge of man is possible. Some tangential results concern the relations between philosophical, medical and sociological/psychological knowledge of man, problems with a function-oriented axiology, and the seminal influence of Aristotle on Western concepts of the person

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Don Thomas Asselin
Marquette University (PhD)

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