Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…


… Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that one of the ‘inalienable rights’ was the ‘pursuit of happiness’, except that Jefferson was using happiness not in the utilitarian sense of pleasure but as the common (and unfortunately rather lame) translation of the Greek eudaimonia. “To the Greeks, eudaimonia means something like ‘living a good life for a human being’; or, as a recent writer, John Cooper, has suggested, ‘human flourishing.’ Aristotle tells us that it is equivalent, in ordinary discourse, to ‘living well and doing well.’
Martha C. Nussbaum The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy cited by Don Gifford The Farther Shore

See also Happiness versus Pleasure

3 comments on “Eudaimonia

  1. Pingback: Deep Literacy «

  2. Antonio Dias
    January 21, 2011

    Thanks for bringing this distinction to my attention. This makes my own criticisms of the “Pursuit of Happiness” stop short of the Founding Father.

  3. Keith Bender
    July 1, 2012

    The idea that this use of the words “Pursuit of happiness” is an assertion is incorrect. Jefferson was skimming and paraphrasing George Masons rewrite and application of South Carolina’s Legal Declaration of Grievances contained in their assertion of separate rights and privileges to which to Crown had denied and abused the “second class” Colonials.

    The Judge wrote it one way, Mason the Administrative Pen of George Washington spun and wove it with a few extra’s in The Va. Declaration of Rights and Jefferson, though elegant as a wordsmith, extrapolated these antecedents and simply referred to to an agreed upon basis and foundation which acted as the precursor to the Constitution of Virginia which then readopted this Declaration of Rights as Article1,sec.1 of the new agreement. They agreed to agree with the Declaration of Rights and Jefferson took that and added his flourishes creating a natural extension of the first Declaration with the next….The Declaration of Independence. It is said that Great minds think alike and this sequence of Authorship can be tracked and given to beyond reasonable doubt.

    The Etymology of Eudaimonia is an excellent reference to the simple meaning that Jefferson and Mason wished for this new experiment. The Wellness of Wealth can be guarded and guided by maintaining a conducive environment for simple Wellness as a guiding Spirit . They granted upon us the Right to not only Pursue Happiness but the Right to Obtain it. They used the word Safety in connection with Happiness too. The Va. Declaration of Rights reads like an operating manual that covers the basic purpose and goals and then gets specific and also includes maintenance procedures. The misdirection caused by the half truth of “Pursuit of happiness” without the necessary Right of attainment , to obtain something by Right ought to tell a person that they could and should ask for help and or point out what is in the way that they can’t move but by Legislative decree. Conducive to Happiness should be a obvious principle to adhere to in any Amends.

    The demons come out when its all about “me” and greedy little devils in the 1% do everything in their power to avoid the fundamental truth, the obvious truth that Wealth begins with “WE”.
    So it seems correct to say that Our Constitution is intended to be a EUDAIMONIUS conduit to our Happiness.

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