Tuesday, January 27, 2015


To make Aristotle eudaimon
What’s needed is reason and backbone,
Discharging each duty,
Friends, wealth, kids, and beauty,
And lastly a gleaming new iPhone.

Note: (This limerick is dedicated to my colleague, David Brink, from whom I have learned so much about ancient Greek ethics.)  Eudaimonia is the Greek word for doing well or faring well, usually, but also somewhat misleadingly, translated as “happiness”.  According to Aristotle, eudaimonia requires both (a) rational activity in accordance with virtue (including courage, or "backbone") over a complete life and (b) “external goods”, themselves of two kinds: those that make the expression of virtue possible (as in the possession of wealth and friends, which make beneficence actualizable), and those that don’t (e.g. beauty, having good children).  There is a Yiddish saying: Without luck, nothing will succeed.  Ergo: Aristotle spoke Yiddish.

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