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Durable Goods

Pleasure, Wealth and Power in the Virtuous Life

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Gerol Petruzella

Ancient Greek philosophers generally accept the claim that εὐδαιμονία is within our power to achieve, regardless of circumstance. Conversely, external goods – physical health, education, social standing – are frequently present or absent due to circumstances beyond our control. Can eudaimonism explain how more than a privileged elite can attain εὐδαιμονία when so few enjoy the requisite external goods?
A satisfactory account of the relation between external goods and well-being must accommodate both the insight that there is an essential connection between prosperity and the flourishing life and that there is a real sense in which εὐδαιμονία is a self-sufficient concept. The «applied intellectualist» interpretation of eudaimonism defended here accommodates important insights of several ancient Greek traditions: Aristotle’s account of human nature, specifically the role of external goods as necessary preconditions for leading a human life; Socratic and Stoic analysis that external goods are necessary constituents of moral action; and Plato’s commitment to a criterion for judging the compatibility of external prosperity with a life of εὐδαιμονία.
This text provides a comprehensive linguistic and ethical analysis of key terms and arguments across several centuries of ancient Greek ethical thought on this fascinating topic, making it an excellent foundation for an upper-division undergraduate seminar in ancient Greek ethics, virtue ethics, or applied ethics.
Gerol Petruzella holds a PhD in philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo, with a specialization in ancient Greek ethics. He is the Coordinator of Academic Technology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His current work focuses on the intersections of flourishing with digital media and pedagogy, particularly in educational gaming.