The Feeling of Excellent Functioning: Hedonic and Eudaimonic Emotions

  • Joar VittersøEmail author
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)


People often find complex things interesting and simple things pleasurable. This seemingly trivial observation reflects something fundamental about the good life. It is that humans, in order to do and be well, must balance their need for biopsychosocial stability with an equally important need for changing these structures. Two classes of positive experiences are proposed to help regulate these needs. The first is hedonic, with pleasure as the prototypic feeling state. Hedonic feelings signal what is referred to as “simple goodness” and they function to motivate the experiencer to maintain homeostatic stability. The concept of life satisfaction is also categorized as hedonic, even if it is not a pleasant feeling state. The second class of positive experiences is eudaimonic. It is experienced as a positive striving, such as interest, engagement, and sometimes as awe. The function of eudaimonic experiences is to motivate departures from the comfort zone of pleasant stability, and it operates as a feeling of being absorbed in the task of overcoming a challenge. These feelings reflect a kind of “complex goodness” and are considered eudaimonic because of their ability to facilitate personal growth (interest) and civic virtues (awe), in ways related to the Aristotelian idea of excellent functioning. The chapter ends with a discussion of the asymmetry between hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing. The former is sufficiently explained with reference to pleasure and life satisfaction, whereas eudaimonic wellbeing cannot be defined with reference to eudaimonic feelings alone.


Happiness Eudaimonia Simple goodness Complex goodness Eudaimonic well-being Hedonic well-being Emotions Feelings 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UiT The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway

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