115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Role of External Goods in Aristotle's Eudaimonia

Daniel Majors, Biola University

There is a classic concern among ancients to account for goods such as money, relationships, and good fortune in their theories of eudaimonia, or human flourishing. It has been argued, however, that in the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle makes the claim that a flourishing life can be accounted for solely by virtuous activity. I will show that Aristotle does accept that external goods play a vital and necessary role in the eudaimonia of the individual, and therefore, must be considered in context to the flourishing life. 


The aim of this paper shall be to investigate what role external goods, things such as wealth, fortune, friendships, health and the like, play in Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia, a flourishing and complete life. To show the full weight of importance that these goods carry, the basic points of Richard Kraut’s concept of eudaimonia will be laid out, since he emphasizes eudaimonia as virtuous activity alone. It will be shown that, even if external goods have no part as one of the final ends of a flourishing life, eudaimonia is dependent on these goods as necessary resources for the possibility of virtuous activity to occur and to be maintained, as well as how the completeness of eudaimonia and its self-sufficiency are interlinked with these goods.

First, a brief summary of Eudaimonia from the position of Richard Kraut will be laid out, and then Julia Annas’ concept of comprehensiveness and self-sufficiency shall be overlaid to provide a general idea of how external goods play a role in Aristotle’s ethics. Finally, a specific external good shall be investigated for a more thorough understanding of the weight that these goods have for the sake of the virtuous agent, and the completeness and self-sufficiency that these goods allow for in eudaimonia. The specific external good that will be investigated will be friendship and fortune.

The basic conception of Eudaimonia will be understood as living well, or doing well, and will be constrained to Aristotle’s requirements as mentioned in 1097a31-36 as being complete, and in 1097b1-6 as being self-sufficient. By complete, Aristotle claims it to be something which is wanted for its own sake, not for the sake of something else, and in being self-sufficient, it would be choice-worthy unto itself, and not requiring anything, as nothing added to it would make it more choice-worthy. It is the end aim of all human action and decision.

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