Volume 79, Issue 3, Summer 2005
On the Eudemian and Nicomachean Conceptions of Eudaimonia
The gathering consensus on the inclusive/exclusive debate regarding happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics seems to be that both sides of the story are partly right. For while the life of happiness (understood as the total life of an individual) is inclusive of ethical and contemplative virtue among other things, the central activity of happiness is exclusively contemplation. The discussions of the Eudemian Ethics, on the other hand, seem to suggest that this text is broadly inclusive. The view I defend here is that the Eudemian text is no more and no less inclusive that the Nicomachean version, although there are significant differences between them in terms of the life of contemplation. That is, I argue that the Eudemian Ethics is concerned with the political life and the actualization of theōria in this context, and suggest that the Nicomachean Ethics is concerned with contemplation in the context of both political and philosophical lives.