The functionalist account of Aristotle’s notion of eudaimonia


By  Irene Caesar


A dissertation submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Philosophy
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy,
The City University of New York

Adviser: Professor Peter Simpson

The purpose of my dissertation is to resolve the ongoing argument in the modern Anglo-American interpretation of Aristotelianism regarding the principle of eudaimonia (εủδαιμονία; happiness).  Exlusivist interpretation argues that the principle of eudaimonia is one dominant or exclusive telos (end) consisting of the aretê (excellence or virtue) of theōria (contemplation of the divine).  Inclusivist interpretation argues that the principle of eudaimonia is an inclusive or compounded telos containing this and all other Aristotelian virtues in a comprehensive or mixed life ruled by phronēsis (practical wisdom).  I offer the functionalist interpretation that goes beyond the dichotomy of inclusivism and exclusivism in arguing that (1) contrary to exclusivism, theōria is functionally linked with all the other activities of the soul throughout the entire Aristotelian corpus and that (2) contrary to inclusivism, theōria is functionally superior to each and all of the other activities of the soul, making a compound model irrelevant in its incapacity to express the hierarchy within the soul.
The soul and polis are both a sustēma (systematic whole) organized by the ruler nous (intuitive reason / active intellect) with its activity (energeia) of theōria (contemplation) via formulating metron (measure).  Metron in relation to us depends on metron within the object, and the latter is assumed a priori as a major premiss (the universal) in the practical and speculative syllogisms, while the practical reason is incapable of defining the universal.  Eudaimonia is a perfect realization of the function of the ruler.  Humans are functionally distinct from other animals precisely by this contemplative ability of a priori assuming the universal within the particular.  Soul, as any sustēma, is identified not with the hierarchy of its parts, but with its ruler, and the final virtue is identified with the virtue of the ruler.  The passive intellect and the active intellect are accordingly the practical reason and the contemplative reason.  The first principle and end (the cause) of action is leisure spent in the disinterested and useless contemplative activity of the ruler -- the active intellect.  The moral action, which does not reach this end, is not ultimately good-in-itself though outright dutiful.


In 2010, the dissertation was published as a book “Why we should not be unhappy about happiness via Aristotle” (The functionalist account of Aristotle’s notion of eudaimonia) by Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany, ISBN 3838344995 (978-3838344997)

Click here to buy it on amazon.com


Extract (pp.88-94):

On the incompatibility between Aristotle's and Kant's imperatives
to treat a man not as a means but as an end-in-himself

Extract (pp.214-236):

On the role of pleasure in making eudaimonia final and self-sufficient.
The final reconsideration of the NE 1, 7 passage on the self-sufficiency

of eudaimonia


© 2009  IRENE CAESAR   All Rights Reserved


Back to Top