About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Eudaimonism has no room for compassion" - wtf?

Nicholas Wolterstorff claims, "No version of eudaimonism has room for compassion." This seems like madness.



Anonymous said...

Metamagician, define your terms!You have no comments on this post yet and I think I know why.

Only people like me are going to go look the term up so they can know what you're talking about.

Actually, it is probably only people like me who follow your blog. Carry on, sir.

Christian Munthe said...

Hmm, I'm sure it's just a momentary lapse of Prof. W. For, surely, somewhere down the line in his no doubt rich education he must have been presented with the elementary distinction between axiological and normative ethical theories. That is, any view of what is of (ultimate) value - which is what eudaimonism is about - is compatible with any idea about how actions are to be assessed morally from facts about how they relate to that (whatever it is) that is of ultimate value. Thus, as an eudaimonist, I may be an egoist or a utilitarian, as well as entertaining some deontological or virtue ethical idea. And, of course, compassion may or may not be a part och implication of the normative standard I advocate.

Unknown said...

Surely the concept of eudaimonia, properly unpacked, necessitates wanting it for other people as well?

Russell Blackford said...


Russell Blackford said...

He's very likely correct about the Stoics. But it seems like a huge claim, and the argument doesn't convince me when it come to the Peripatetics.

Sorry for all the terminology. This is a bit of a throwaway post - just me thinking "aloud".

NewEnglandBob said...

Well, by the definition of the word, he is correct. It means happiness and personal well being. It does not mean well being in the sense used in recent discussions.

skepticlawyer said...

Russell, you may find this review (and reply by Wolterstorff) may interest you:


Adventure Atheist said...

with out referencing any definite terms or looking at the source of the quote I would like to comment, it seams to me that for any honest pursuit of Eudaimonia, the concept comes inherent with a type of altruism, for there are few circumstances in which a life can be flourishing and consistently encroach upon the flourishing of others(reality holds consequences). I see no reason why compassion is a necessity of Eudaimonia but neither is it necessarily exclusionary. Some people, find compassion with-in our relationships to be at the core of an enjoyable and worthy existence, and thus entirely consistent with Eudaimonism.

Tony Lloyd said...

Eudaimonism seems to me to be an obviously incomplete ethical stance: you can’t decide conflicts of who should get to flourish simply by saying that the aim is for people to flourish.

But an incomplete theory only has “no room” if it is treated like a complete theory: if it denies the other theories need to resolve the conflicts: "there is no good but Eudaimon".

Treat Eudaimonism as a limit (“things that reduce human flourishing tend to be bad”) and there is oodles of room for compassion.

mathematical enlightenment said...

From Wikipedia:
In his Nicomachean Ethics, (1095a15–22) Aristotle says that eudaimonia means ’doing and living well’.

Just sayin.