Eudaimonic Well-Being —
“Is happiness enough for a good life? This question is becoming increasingly prominent in positive psychology. Is feeling good an adequate measure of someone’s quality of life? Do we really know what it means to be subjectively well when we assess someone’s subjective well-being?
Problems with existing approaches to happiness
Many researchers believe we don’t, saying that the current definition of well-being came about almost accidentally: first of all, researchers wanted to develop well-being questionnaires (because they needed to evaluate various interventions), then they derived the definition of well-being from these questionnaires, without paying much attention to whether they actually captured the richness of human wellness and happiness.
It is probably true to say that contemporary literature on well-being largely ignores the contributions of humanistic and existential thinkers like Maslow, Rogers, Jung and Allport. It also doesn’t pay much attention to the complexity of philosophical conceptions of happiness, even though philosophy has dealt with this subject since long before psychology even existed.
Can someone be truly fulfilled without knowing what he or she is living for, what the point is, the meaning of one’s existence? Is it possible to be truly well without moving a finger to change something in oneself, without growing and developing as a person? This is what is missing from the current mainstream theories of well-being - the notions of growth, self-actualisation and meaning.
The current theories of well-being seem to give a one-sided, rather bare picture of well-being. In fact, what they do seem to cover quite well is the notion of hedonism - striving for maximisation of pleasure (positive affect) and minimisation of pain (negative affect). This hedonic view can be traced to Aristippus, a Greek philosopher who believed that the goal of life is to experience maximum pleasure, and later on to Utilitarian philosophers.
An alternative to hedonic happiness
Recently, another approach to a good life has risen out of the historical and philosophical debris - the idea of eudaimonic well-being. Aristotle was the originator of the concept of eudaimonia (from daimon - true nature). He deemed happiness to be a vulgar idea, stressing that not all desires are worth pursuing as, even though some of them may yield pleasure, they would not produce wellness. Aristotle thought that true happiness is found by leading a virtuous life and doing what is worth doing. He argued that realising human potential is the ultimate human goal. This idea was further developed in history by prominent thinkers, such as Stoics, who stressed the value of self-discipline, and John Locke, who argued that happiness is pursued through prudence….”
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