eudaimonia

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Jewish scholars hundreds of years B.C. met to exchange insights and discuss what it was to be a good person, what it meant to live a good life, to live well.  Greek philosophers, names familiar to us all, did likewise centuries later.  While not placing myself even close to in their company, I have also pursued such truth.

Necessary, though not sufficient, to living a good life, one worthy of human capabilities, is understanding what that means.  While I can neither prove nor even be assured that my truth is correct truth, the exercise at least provides for me both a target and guidance.  Purpose.  My method was systematic and orderly rational and logical analysis of what can and cannot makes sense of the observable world in which we live.

Truth #1 is that each human being comes to Planet Earth subject to others, usually parents, who are responsible to guide and develop.  After sufficient period and effort to develop capability, each human being then becomes sovereign, so subject to no other without explicit permission. I am incapable of making sense of a truth that no one is sovereign or that some come sovereign while others come subject to them.

Given Truth #1, then, Truth #2 is that each human being is “equal” – i.e., human as opposed to animal, plant or mineral – while unique (like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike).  From those truths, then, I conclude that Truth #3 is that each human being comes endowed with rights, unalienable and from a Creator or Nature’s God.  These rights are to life (the sovereign one, the equal one, the unique one), to liberty (the right to choose and do whatever the heck one wishes . . . just as long as not infringing on others’ like rights in the process), and to property (first, self, then ideas, talents and skills, later what produced and acquired in trade with others; and from whence comes the pursuit of happiness.  This last is now approaching “eudaimonia”.

After deducing and accepting Truths 1-3, I can then only make sense of Truth #4, that no one – not a sole soul – has any right to what others produce, not groceries, not shelter, not transportation, not a job, not a “living wage”, not so-called (misnomer) “healthcare”.  If there were such right, then there would be no sovereignty, be no liberty, be no right to property, but there would be slavery.

From this point – in pursuit of eudaimonia – there are only truths (lower-case t) from what we can generalize about human nature, laws of economics, etc.  For example, people in the aggregate care more about themselves and their families and closest friends than others whom they know less or not at all.  So they are motivated by enlightened self-interest.  And that seemingly turns out to be a good thing.  And as corollary, the oft-lauded being selfless is a bad and self-destructive thing.

When sovereign and employing one’s property and liberty – while avoiding infringing on others’ like rights – it turns out that the way to increase wealth, to care for self and those closest is to produce what lots and lots of others really need and want and value.  When those lots and lots value what you produce more than a handful of money they own, your wealth grows and grows.  Said another way, if you improve others’ lives through productivity and free-will exchange, you will benefit even more.

Interestingly, it makes sense that those with little wealth are relatively-more-generous charitably than those with more.  Makes sense?  That’s the best the less-wealthy have to give.  The more-productive, thus more-wealthy, serve others better by investing in more production.  I’d rather Ted Turner have used his genius to produce more innovation like cable news than give money to the U.N.  Rather have Bill Gates invent something else new than give his money to “the needy”.  The most-generous, of course, are progressives/liberals who eschew any and all of the above Truths and truths, albeit with other peoples’ money, not their own.

Anything that de-links the relationship between productivity and wealth creation hurts everyone.  Anything that de-motivates producers from inventing, innovating, working smarter, working harder, pursuing enlightened self-interest hurts everyone, currently-rich, currently-poor, and those currently-between.  Wealth- and achievement-envy are both unattractive and self-defeating.  Taxing productivity and regulating productivity are everyone-defeating.

Bemoaning the income and wealth gap between rich and poor is stupid.  In the countries with the most economic freedom, the poorest of the poor have more than ten times the wealth as their counterparts in the countries ranked lowest in economic freedom.  Free markets benefit all.  Statism and its top-down-central control hurts everyone . . . except those in charge, and, unlike with free markets and capitalism, statism violates individual sovereignty, liberty and private property rights.

The Greek word “eudaimonia” has no easy translation to English, but it is to be pursued and cannot be delivered.  It is, I think, what the Jewish scholars and Greek philosophers struggled to understand and, indeed, some of America’s Founders sought as predicate to forming a constitutional republic.  It is something like the happiness which comes from achieving the most and best possible with the snowflake you are and can become.  It is, in my almost-always-humble opinion the essence of human life.

Below is what I find a good example of eudaimonia, but there are of course many.  This one takes 6 minutes and 33 seconds.  Full-screen, volume up.

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Hat tip to the person known hereon as Cream of Wheat for not only introducing the Greek word and concept to me, but spending a couple hours in discussion seeking the translation.

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28 Comments

Filed under business, culture, economics, philosophy, politics

28 responses to “eudaimonia

  1. Cool video, though I don’t get how it relates to your excellent essay.

    I think you’ve hit on an essential element you and I have discussed before: a properly funtioning free society incorporates human nature into its design.

    It’s when societies try to impose rules that counter human nature that prolems arise. Forced redistribution of wealth; preferential status for some “rights’ over other rights; things like that. Because those policies run counter to basic human natue, the society must impose ever-harsher sanctions to enforce them, with the natural tendency to devolve into tyrannies.

    • The video was example, BrianR, of eudaimonia, the happiness which comes from achieving the most and best possible with the snowflake you are and can become. This was a group of snowflakes collaborating, achieving, and experiencing the resulting joy.

  2. In order to assert one’s sovereignty, a full understanding of Citizenship is necessary. It is impossible, for instance, that a US citizen could ever achieve the eudaimonic state as their citizenship is built solely upon “privileges” and immunities granted them by the U.S. Federal government and upon whom the first eight amendments to the US constitution have NO effect. See as follows: “The only absolute and unqualified right of a United States citizen is to residence within the territorial boundaries of the United States,” US vs. Valentine 288 F. Supp. 957. AND;

    “Therefore, the U.S. citizens [citizens of the District of Columbia –also including Guam, Puerto Rico, Insular Possessions and government installations– ] residing in one of the states of the union, are classified as property and franchises of the federal government as an “individual entity.”
    Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Fox, 298 U.S. 193, 80 L.Ed. 1143, 56 S.Ct. 773. [definition added].

    Only citizens –individually or in aggregate– of one of the several (50) united States, aka “we the People” have the absolute right to assert individual sovereignty and thereby to claim as their own all rights and property not willingly ceded to government. We, are masters of government. We are King of our castles, our homes our properties, our labor our intellect our destinies: “…at the revolution the Sovereignty [previously held by the King] devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects ……and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.” Chisholm v Georgia, 2 Dall. 440, at pg 471.

    It’s clear that politicians began eroding our sovereignty and with it our Liberty almost from day one after the Revolution. The acknowledgment of dual citizenship (misnomer) of the State and of the United States via the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the constitution demonstrates how we can and have been stripped of liberty without a whimper or a fight over a long period of time and by our own ignorance.

    Perhaps some sort of eudaimonia can be achieved by those content to be slave, not sovereign, but for those that value liberty and the prerogative rights of sovereignty, it’s not possible until we get the government back within its’ constitutional limit. I’m afraid given that task, eudaimonia is a state of existence a bit too far.

    • When, say, Nation A invades and occupies Nation B, B is still a sovereign nation, just one currently occupied and unable to exercise its sovereignty. When someone named Rick and someone named Pete have government impose restrictions on the exercise of their sovereignty, they become sovereign victims of criminality.

      Life isn’t easy, isn’t fair, and Rick and Pete will have to exercise their unalienable right to self-defense. Let’s roll.

      • Well Pete, if eudaimonia can be a temporary state, I think that to get “rolling” might lead to a rush of adrenaline, inducing an initial euphoric sense of self-satisfaction, most especially in having taken charge to right the direction of our ship. As more join the fight to defend their liberty too, and as we all fight for one-another to exercise liberty as is the prerogative of Kings, there may be a point of internal fulfillment. As we press on towards accomplishment of the objective, yes, I think I might experience eudaimonia, briefly but not completely. The complete feeling will not grip me until the work aforementioned is finished. …I should live so long, and perhaps I will! Death to the Death Panels!!!

  3. Hey, I feel better already! Downright eudaimoniaonic. Ooops, it’s the ale again, you know, the proof that God loves us… :)

  4. Okay in my continuing effort to comment on myself, it occurs to me that the feeling of eudaimonia, a kind of indescribable good internal feeling derived from ones good actions, may be close cousin to altruism. So, then, an act which conforms to the greek –mythical state– of eudaimonia, may also be same said as altruism, the narcissistic drug of every do-gooder. Just thinkin’ and sayin’.

    • There is in economics the concept of an outlier who acts, not out of enlightened self-interest, but rather altruism, named “the benevolent butcher”. In the case of the usual do-gooder suspects, the progressives/liberals however, that’s not altruism, that because the giving is of others’ money not their own.

      • I agree, it is rather easy to put on the facade of altruist by spending other people’s money on this cause or that. We give and in return we get. Like karma. Progressive/liberals give other people’s money and get other peoples money in return by an immoral taking (taxation) — ten fold. The benevolent butcher as the baker etc are motivated by their own need to survive same as are we. That’s the magic of barter and free enterprise.

  5. But then again, or should I say, but, then again, if I’m accomplished at something like playin the guitar, and do so for my own satisfaction and entertainment just to please me, then perhaps if it pleases me, that may also be eudaimonia. So there are gray areas to the notion of eudaimonia based on interpretive variation.

    • If guitar playing is, you believe, your highest calling, the very-best that the snowflake that is AfterShock can be, I agree.

      • Guitar may be just one of several higher callings or perhaps part of another; to date the highest calling that has compelled me appears to be spreading the word of liberty, the sine qua non. Hard to judge that I’ve accomplished much in that arena.

  6. Just read post and comments quickly. Will be back to munge on this, DrPete. It is fascinating for sure, but don’t want to just rip off a comment. Too important!! Great read.

  7. Well not speaking for anyone but myself, Mrs. Al, we all know my penchant for ripping a good unmunged comment out the ‘ol arse from time to time. I says let ‘er rip, munged or not!

  8. This essay is superb, DrPete and the discussion fascinating. IMO the video really captures the collaborative snowflake analogy. And look how many people it took to pull it off (many not seen in the video).

    So here is my small contribution … sovereignty carries with it the highest responsibility. And that’s the base problem in our country. The refusal of so many to exert that responsibility while claiming sovereignty. The leftist/progressive types talk about ‘freedom to choose this or that’ but refuse to take responsibility for their assertions and IMPOSE a supposed sovereignty on others. Can’t do that. It’s intellectually devoid of sound reasoning. In other words, we are a country of contradictions and those who utter and act on those contradictions don’t even recognize them. We’re a mess.

    I sure hope that made some kind of sense. I struggle at times to say what I mean. That said, those who have already commented and you, DrPete, are aware of this.

    • Three things, Mrs. AL. First, thank you for the kind and generous kudos.

      Second, I’d invite you, et al, to reflect back to Richie Parker, featured hereon earlier in video. Now that’s a sparkling snowflake.

      Third, I would invite you to think of sovereignty not as a responsibility, but rather as opportunity. After all, the liberty which emanates from said (right to do whatever the heck we want . . . just as long as not infringing on others’ like rights in the process) doesn’t require us to choose or do ANYTHING at all. It’s just that such a sad soul forgoes the opportunity at eudaimonia, ala the mission-control folks and Richie Parkers of our world.

      • Great comment, DrPete.

        Question – which comes first, responsibility or opportunity? Which one best reflects “eudaimonia”? Or are they two sides of the same coin?

      • I think it arguable, Mrs. AL. As I see it, one can have opportunity without having taken personal responsibility. Capitalizing on said opportunity, however, will require taking personal responsibility. Realizing eudaimonia may or may not be experienced, regardless.

        Taking personal responsibility and pursuing an opportunity are necessary, but not sufficient, to eudaimonia.

  9. Interesting to say the least, DrPete. Perhaps I am just not capable of fully internalizing the concept. That’s ok. Will be back to re-read again and attempt to grasp more fully.

    • I had the experience, Mrs. AL, at age 16 when in my mind I became the best potwasher, then best dishwasher, then best waiter of all-time. At 17 I experienced it when in my mind I became the best “car parker” of all-time.

      Later during adult years I experienced it when I became the highest-rated professor at a prestigious school, and when I became invited around the world to present on my research titled “What’s the matter with kids today . . . ?

      Even now, however, my golf game yields no such euphoria and feeling of earned-self-esteem. And that I haven’t presented this well enough to make it understandable to someone who is always learning . . .

      • It isn’t you, DrPete. It’s yours truly. And that’s ok. If there weren’t humanoids out hear to learn, you would have a blog of little consequence. :-)

      • “I had the experience, Mrs. AL, at age 16 when in my mind I became… (fill in the blanks). or: “at 17 I experienced it when in my mind I became the best “car parker” of all-time”. From your described experience of eudaimonia, Barack H. Obama — who in his mind is the greatest leader ever in the free or unfree world; and who remains a god in the minds of the true-believing progressive/liberals that have frequent thrills running up and down their legs — must also be experiencing eudaimonia.

  10. CW

    Interesting and well-written post , Drpete.

    Question:
    Do you believe that the Constitution, as written, is compatible with the notion of personal sovereignty?

    • Thanks for the kudos, CW. Much appreciated.

      The predicate to the U.S. Constitution is the Declaration of Independence. In the Declaration the Founders assert the unalienable right from the Creator or Nature’s God to certain unalienable right. Those rights are unalienable because and only because each human being comes sovereign. And the sole role of the U.S. Government is the collective defense of those rights.

      Therefore, the Constitution isn’t merely “compatible with the notion of personal sovereignty”, but was written because of it. Everything of the Constitution is of subsidiarity, the federal government having just limited enumerated powers, all else left to the states or the people. The power pyramid from top to bottom is individual, community, town/village/city, state, national.

      • CW

        I guess the reason I ask is because I’m a bit confused by the use of the term “sovereign” here. Encarta defines sovereign as: “self-governing and not ruled by any other state,” so I wasn’t sure if there was a blanket denouncement of government intended by this post. Looks like that’s not the case.

      • “Sovereign”, CW, means “subject to no other without explicit permission.” Hence, government may be formed and empowered as We the People allow, and any individual is free to opt out.

        Please note that We the People may not (can, but may not) empower government with powers we don’t individually ourselves possess by nature.

  11. Um, not to interrupt you and CW, but weren’t the articles of confederation the “predicate to the U.S. Constitution”? And didn’t the U.S. Constitution reflect less of the ideals in the DOI than the Articles?

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