Eudaimonistic Virtue Ethics

Authored by: Liezl van Zyl

The Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics

Print publication date:  February  2015
Online publication date:  February  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415659338
eBook ISBN: 9780203071755
Adobe ISBN: 9781135096694

10.4324/9780203071755.ch14

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Abstract

“Eudaimonism” refers to the tradition that starts ethical enquiry with the question “How should I live?” “What is the best way to live?” or “What is a good life for human beings?” The term is derived from the Greek word eudaimonia, which means happiness, flourishing, or a good human life, and forms a central concept in the work of ancient ethicists, most notably Aristotle, Plato, the Epicureans, and the Stoics. Most eudaimonists claim that human beings need the virtues to live well, hence the term “eudaimonistic virtue ethics,” but they disagree about the exact nature of the link between virtue and happiness. Aristotle thinks that virtue is necessary for happiness, but claims that one also needs external goods like wealth and health, whereas the Stoics claim that virtue is both necessary and sufficient for happiness. My focus in this chapter is on the work of contemporary eudaimonists, in particular Julia Annas, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Daniel Russell. (Other important figures include Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, John McDowell, and Martha Nussbaum.) I will begin by examining the eudaimonistic conception of happiness and virtue in turn, and then consider the link between the two.

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