What is Eudaimonia?

Aristotle is famous for, among many other matters, the view that human well-being (in Greek, eudaimonia, and unhappily generally rendered in English as “happiness”) is about what we do or how we behave in life rather than what we feel or sense. He is famous also, of course, for his account of the practical and intellectual virtues through which the life of well-being is achieved. I should also mention that understanding Aristotle’s ethical framework is the way in to understanding his account of political life and the role and rule of law within it. Here is a new book that explores the complex structure of eudaimonia in Aristotle’s thought, Aristotle on Happiness, Virtue, and Wisdom (Cambridge University Press), by Bryan C. Reece.

Aristotle thinks that happiness is an activity – it consists in doing something – rather than a feeling. It is the best activity of which humans are capable and is spread out over the course of a life. But what kind of activity is it? Some of his remarks indicate that it is a single best kind of activity, intellectual contemplation. Other evidence suggests that it is an overarching activity that has various virtuous activities, ethical and intellectual, as parts. Numerous interpreters have sharply disagreed about Aristotle’s answers to such questions. In this book, Bryan Reece offers a fundamentally new approach to determining what kind of activity Aristotle thinks happiness is, one that challenges widespread assumptions that have until now prevented a dialectically satisfactory interpretation. His approach displays the boldness and systematicity of Aristotle’s practical philosophy.

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • In Bolden-Hardge v. Office of the California State Controller, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a federal district court’s dismissal of a suit by a Jehovah’s Witness who challenged California’s refusal to allow her to add a paragraph to the state-employee loyalty oath specifying that by signing it she is not giving up the right to exercise her religion, which requires that her primary loyalty be to God. The Circuit Court found that dismissal of plaintiff’s Title VII claims would permit states to legislate away any federal accommodation obligation.
  • In Shields of Strength v. U.S. Department of Defense, a Texas federal district court allowed a company that manufactures military personnel “dog tags” to move ahead with its First Amendment claims against the military for seeking to prevent the company from producing dog tags with Biblical or other religious references near symbols or phrases that the military had registered for trademark protection. 
  • In St. Michael’s Media, Inc. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, a Maryland federal district court allowed a conservative media organization that usually criticizes the modern leadership of the Catholic Church to move ahead with free speech and freedom of assembly claims against the city of Baltimore and the management of a city-owned concert venue. Plaintiff’s claims grew out of the cancellation of a contract for plaintiff to hold a conference and prayer rally to coincide with the Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • In Talukder v. State of New York, a New York federal district court allowed a Sunni Muslim applicant to the New York Department of Corrections Training Academy to move ahead with claims of free exercise, Title VII failure to accommodate, and disparate treatment. Plaintiff was an applicant who sought to wear a 3-inch beard for religious reasons, but the Academy was unwilling to permit any trainee to have a beard longer than one-eighth of an inch even though the DOCCS allowed uniformed staff to grow beards for secular reasons.
  • A woman looking to adopt a child has filed a law suit in an Oregon federal district court challenging the rule of the state’s Department of Human Services which states that a person seeking to adopt a child must agree to accept and support the sexual orientation and gender identity of any child placed with them. The complaint in Bates v. Pakseresht, alleges that the rule violates plaintiff’s free expression, free exercise, and equal protection rights since her Christian religious beliefs do not permit her to comply with this requirement.  
  • The governor of North Dakota signed House Bill No. 1136, which acts as North Dakota’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill states that a state or local government entity may not treat religious conduct more restrictively than any secular conduct of reasonably comparable risk and must use the least restrictive means of furthering compelling government interests.