This is the second of two parts.
Read part one here
In this discussion we will attempt to perfect the definition of eudaemonia by replacing the word "flourishment" with the word "promotive."
Previously, we used the following list of words in an attempt to describe and define the second aspect of “eudaemonia,” beyond “happiness.” Success, fulfilment, flourishing, promotion, evolution, action and contentment have been suggested, over the years, to fill the tangent that seems to represent “doing” more than “being,” or the process more than the result. To this end, let us formally split our definition into two halves, the first being “happiness” which we define as “our pleasure to experience.” (Let us, for the sake of clarity, further define “pleasure” as “the mental or biological response of positive feedback,” and “experience” as “cognisance.”) This “happiness” is subjective and relates directly to the experience itself. It is the “being” part of our definition. The second half of defining “eudaemonia,” having to do with action and effort, carries an objective implication. It is this tangent that keeps eudaemonia from meaning “happiness” only. It is the “doing” part we must consider now.
Success, fulfilment and contentment are three forms of satisfaction. “Success”, in modern parlance, is achievement. (It used to mean, “completion,” be it good or bad.) Fulfil means “gain happiness or satisfaction,” so we've found neither here. Contentment seems even weaker a definition. Let's throw all these weak words out. In fact, action and evolution are so non-directional that we don't even need to entertain them as candidates. What we need is something that speaks to our supposed purpose and lives up to our determined essence, namely our ability to choose and act rightly. The choice is not in question. We already know if we're satisfied! Our definition of eudaemonia needs to address what is happening that does the satisfying.
Flourishing is probably the most commonly attached appendage to “happiness” when defining what Aristotle meant by eudaemonia in the Nicomachean Ethics. I should point out, I'm not here attempting to interpret Ari's Ethics, nor what he means by any particular word he uses. I am attempting to end any and all question of interpretation. I define these terms for my purposes, which by now must be our purposes. (Best possible thinking.) Flourishing is a very good word, but it is less than perfect as the eudaemonic counterpart to happiness. To flourish is to grow or develop. This would seem to be “an ideal” that we could define as eudaemonic. It is certainly natural, even we ourselves have much experience with both growth and development. It seems admirable to pursue these things, in terms of gaining knowledge, which is something that Aristotle would agree. However, I think the scholars who have attached “flourishment” to eudaemonia have done so in error based on their understanding of Aristotle as someone who held contemplation in the highest regard. (Attaching -ment to a word indicates “the result of an action.”) Flourishment, in the domain of our mental faculties, is obviously to be commended and, dare I say it, easily understood. We all can agree that having minds that grow and develop is desirable.
Still, I must ask, so what? What about “flourishment” points to our objective onus to live up to the potential we have, as these creatures of reasonable essence? This is too specific an interpretation. It, once again, addresses the choice, not the choosing. Perhaps it was developed from the natural inclination for people to shy away from death. After all, it is disability, reduction, decay and finality awaiting us all, even just in terms of our mental faculties. By focusing on the results we are avoiding the action causing the results. I submit the suffix -ment is actually more important to this determination than any considerations of flourishing. Flourishing is as subjective a definition for eudaemonia as any of the previous words. We seem to be skirting the issue. Our essence is not to flourish, it is merely to reason. Even if we do it well we may or may not flourish.
Making up new words, such as “flourishment” is fair and sometimes necessary. “Flourishing as the result of an action,” is tidy. Imperfect, but tidy. “Promotion” is a slightly better word because it simply means “activity that encourages.” This again, seems to be pointing in the right direction without narrowing out “growth,” or any other intention, as that which is being encouraged. Except here again, we must notice this “encouraging” also has an intention that may or may not prove eudaemonic. As usual, we must answer the basest possible question. What activity are we promoting? The simplest answer, the one that points to our essence, is the activity of rationalization. I submit we should be looking at the action itself. Being happy is something you can feel. Deciding that some particular action is going to make you happy takes contemplation. Eudaemonia can only be the product of being happy with your decision, even if the decision itself makes you unhappy. This can only be because you believe the decision you made was the right one. (The decision could still turn out to be a foolish one, what makes it “right” is contemplation. Doing your best. Trying.) If this is true, we could choose rightly and not flourish, or choose wrongly and flourish. Either case would still be eudaemonic because all we have to do is think about it in order to do our best choosing. A fool may come to flourish if fortunate but the pauper who has made the choices he has due to following his heart, (that which makes him happy) and his reason, (that which serves his purpose,) will be the one able to call his life, or any particular aspect of it, eudaemonic.
I would like to suggest that eudaemonia is promotive. Promotive is a word of my invention that means “acting on account of the reasons for doing so.” The prefix “pro” comes from the Latin as a word that can mean “to replace.” Such as, “in front of, in place of, on behalf of, on account of.” “Motive” means “reason(s) for doing something.” Thus, I have taken away the result orientated reason and replaced it with the act of the reasoning itself, achieving a much higher degree of objectivity. It's not about the choice, it's about the choosing, as this is our forte. Contemplation is the only thing that can establish whatever choice you make. Reactions are not choices. Reactions may or may not make you happy, but they will never be eudaemonic. For something to be eudaemonic it will have to have been chosen. Thus, happiness can happen merely as a product of being human and eudaemonia must be achieved by finding virtue on the Golden Mean. Eudaemonia does not make you happy. Eudaemonia provides the happiness you feel because it's promotive. In a sense, one feels eudaemonic because one can recognize “the rightness of exercising one's essence.” The effort is its own reward. Remember, it's promotive, “acting on account of the reasons for doing so...” It's not a result, it's what leads to a result.
Now, you may have caught the apparent paradox present in my definition of promotive as a necessary constituent of eudaemonia. It is summed up well by the question, “Aren't all actions taken, done “on account of the reasons for doing so?” Yes, is the short answer, (although we could debate this question forever in the form of “free will vs determinism.) All actions are taken due to “whatever caused them” and there are certainly things “out there” in the world that we must deal with. Some of those things, as we well know, come in the form of an idea. When we deal with these ideas we, as humans, have the ability to know we are dealing with them. This is what solves the paradox: We may or may not know we are solving a certain problem, or making a certain choice, but the option is there and it is this option that provides us our essence. Eudaemonia is reserved for thought. It can only come to those who steer their intentions. Eudaemonia is yours to take, but you must take it. We do not ask the flute if it feels happy or purposeful being used as a hammer, because it is not a conscious being that can think. Eudaemonia is reliant upon the ability to recognize it. We mustn't confuse the promotive nature of eudaemonia with the idea of “essence.” A rock, a stick and fire all have essence, but they have no choice. We do, or rather, we should.
This conversation continues in my book Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self