Social Planning Without Bentham or Aristotle: Towards Dignified and Socially Engaged Well-being

  • Neil ThinEmail author
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)


Social planners worldwide are trying to articulate more clearly how they promote wellbeing. Many use the term ‘eudaimonia,’ usually in contrast to ‘hedonia’, as a general rubric for promoting specific kinds of socially approved wellbeing. While this pair is often associated with enriched debates about various aspects of wellbeing, eudaimonism is too incoherent to provide uniquely helpful analytical insights. Moreover, its opposition to both hedonism and subjectivism is implausible and a source of important confusions. Its main potential lies in alerting us to the risks of social planners relying too heavily on reductionist quantification of wellbeing. Eudaimonists usefully remind us of the need for intelligent and complex deliberation about various kinds of goodness that are hard to quantify. Four salient eudaimonist thematic clusters are identified here: truth; active virtue; excellence; and intrinsic goodness. Both simplification (including quantification) and sophistication (including complex interpretive and narrative approaches) are needed in national and organizational learning strategies. All planners and learners need to reject the problematic belief, shared by utilitarians and eudaimonists alike, in a single ultimate criterion of value that is worth ‘maximising’.


Happiness Wellbeing Eudaimonia Aristotle Philosophy 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghScotland

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