Tuesday, November 17, 2009

shiny happy people

We didn't get around to noting, in class, two important observations on Aristotle's concept of flourishing.

Aristotle "calls someone eudaimon only if that person comes fairly close to the ideal life for all human beings, whereas our standard of happiness is more subjective and flexible. We do not have a defensible theory about which lives are ideal, and even if we did, we would not want to judge people happy only if they come close to the best life a human being can lead."

Richard Kraut is here expressing the liberal pluralism of our age, the democratic live-and-let-live mentality that shuns sharp hierarchies of value in the comparative estimation of different lives.

But the next observation, from Richard Taylor, is more judgmental:

There are those among us, possibly the majority, who "do much as their neighbors do and as their parents have done, creating virtually no values of their own, but absorbing the values of those around them. Their lives are lived like clockwork, and thought, which should be the source of projects and ideals, is hardly more than a byproduct of what they are doing... such people are by the ordinary standards that prevail quite happy-- that is, they are of good cheer, greet each sunrise with fresh anticipation, have friends, and spend much of their time exchanging empty remarks and pleasantries with others like them. They are, in a word, contented..."

But they fall far short of eudaimonia, they're "not fulfilled but merely satisfied."

And they expect no trouble from Mr. Deity's gatekeeper.

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