login about faq

Eudaemonism is understood as the pursuit of human flourishing/happiness. The Objectivist ethical position of egoism holds that an action is right if it maximizes good for the self, and good for the self is that which leads to or facilitates flourishing and happiness.

So how is the Objectivist position different from simply being Eudaemonism in disguise?

asked Jul 05 '14 at 12:19

KineticPhilosophy's gravatar image


The question states:

The Objectivist ethical position of egoism holds that an action is right if it maximizes good for the self, and good for the self is that which leads to or facilitates flourishing and happiness.

This is not an accurate summarization of Objectivist ethics. It seems to confuse the standard of value for man with the moral purpose of each individual man. In "The Objectivist Ethics" (TOE) in VOS Chap. 1, Ayn Rand explains (italics in original):

The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the standard of value -- and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.

The difference between "standard" and "purpose" in this context is as follows: a "standard is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man's choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose. "That which is required for the survival of man qua man" [the Objectivist standard of value for man] is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. The task of applying this principle to a concrete, specific purpose -- the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being -- belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own.

Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man [i.e., consistent with man's nature] -- in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

For further explanation, refer to the following topics in The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Standard of Value, Happiness, and Hedonism. Regarding happiness, the Lexicon defines it as "that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values." It is a consequence, result and reward of successful living (choosing and pursuing rational values by rational means, and achieving the values), not an ultimate goal or end that can serve as a standard for choosing one's values and acting to gain and/or keep them. One cannot try various actions and then decide which ones to do again based on which ones somehow make one "happy." That would be hedonism, which Objectivism opposes.

It is true that there is considerable similarity between Objectivist ethics and Greek Eudaimonia, especially Aristotle's version of Eudaimonia. But there are many key differences, as well (as I have noted), which Ayn Rand mentions from time to time in her writings.

The influence of Aristotle, in particular, on Western civilization is far broader than ethics. In a guest article by Leonard Peikoff titled, "America's Philosophic Origin," in The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 3 No. 5, dated December 3, 1973, Dr. Peikoff explains:

The father of this new world was a single philosopher: Aristotle. On countless issues, Aristotle's views differ from those of the Enlightenment. But, in terms of broad fundamentals, the philosophy of Aristotle is the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The primacy of this world; the lawfulness and intelligibility of nature; the reality of particulars and, therefore, of individuals; the sovereignty and power of man's secular reason; the rejection of innate ideas; the non-supernaturalist affirmation of certainty, objectivity, absolutes; the uplifted view of man and of the human potential; the value placed on intellectual self-development as a means to self-fulfillment and personal happiness on earth—the sum of it is Aristotelian, specifically Aristotelian, as against the mysticism of the Platonic tradition and the self-proclaimed bankruptcy of the skeptical tradition. If the key to the Enlightenment is secularism without skepticism, this means: the key is Aristotle.

In the deepest philosophic sense, it is Aristotle who laid the foundation of the United States of America. The nation of the Enlightenment is the nation of Aristotelianism.

This excerpt refers to the foundation of America, not to the full details of implementation, which were unknown to Aristotle. This excerpt and considerable additional mention of Aristotle can be found in Leonard Peikoff's book, The Ominous Parallels (OP). Refer also to OPAR and various writings by Ayn Rand. The above excerpt, in particular (with a minor editorial refinement), appears on page 111 in the 1982 hardcover edition of OP.

Further discussion specifically of Eudaimonia can be found in that topic on Wikipedia.

answered Jul 06 '14 at 21:34

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Share This Page:



Asked: Jul 05 '14 at 12:19

Seen: 986 times

Last updated: Jul 06 '14 at 21:34