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Putting Eudaimonia in Its Place

On the Predictor, Not the Outcome, Side of the Equation
  • Kennon M. SheldonEmail author
Chapter
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)

Abstract

This chapter critiques the concept of “eudaemonic well-being,” arguing that the term has confused and misled the field by collapsing two different conceptual categories into one. Eudaemonia is a way of acting within the world, involving the selection and enactment of behavior and values. Well-being is an evaluation-based feeling, involving biologically based emotions and abstract satisfaction judgments. Aristotelian philosophy also emphasizes this distinction, by separating virtuous (aka eudaimonic) activity from the happiness that typically results from such activity, but which is not the primary reason for the activity. On the other hand, combining eudaimonia and well-being into a single concept, as in the title of this book, is dangerous because it conflates causes with outcomes, motivations with emotions, and intentions with feelings. It also threatens to infinitely multiply the number of types of well-being researchers need to consider, to deprive the field of one of the best potential ways of identifying truly eudaimonic values and activities (namely, by whether they bring well-being as an outcome, or not), and to lead to undesirable situation in which the term “eudaimonic well-being” merely means “random positive psychology construct.”

Keywords

Happiness Well-being Eudaimonia Aristotle Philosophy 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and MotivationNational Research University Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussia

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