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…and though eudaimonia is usually translated as “happiness,” this translation is very misleading because what we mean by happiness now is nearly diametrically opposed to Aristotle’s notion of eudaimonia. First, when we ask “Are you happy?” we usually mean, “Are you feeling happy?” That is, we equate happiness with the emotion of the moment, a mere feeling, a psychological state. For Aristotle, however, happiness points to a whole, one’s overall being, the totality of one’s life, eventually an entire life. Though we may be happy at this moment, that is, feeling good, etc., given the outlook of our whole life–what it has been, where we are, where we are going–it may be the case that we are absolutely miserable, alienated, cynical, already dead. Likewise, though at the moment, I may feel depressed, angry, tired, etc., if the question is posed about the life independent of the individual moments that make it up, then one may in fact be happy (in fact, the conditions for the possibility of that happiness are precisely these moments of diremption, of enduring the pain, growing in and through it).

Secondly, the common usage of happiness is determined by things, stuff, the material world. Happiness is equated to a pay check, the things one has or will have.

momentary feeling vs. a whole life
things (material) v. habits of virtue
static vs. developing
individual v. social

Indeed, Aristotle wants us to move beyond the mere nutritive or apetitive fulfilment of the plant or animal soul, but, Aristotle, eternal biologist, forever wedded to the soil, retains the nutritive, botanical metaphors even when talking about a human soul. that is, to know if a human is happy, one must interrogate that soul like one would interrogate an acorn, asking the very same questions: are you growing? are your leaves green? do you draw nourishment from good soil? are your producing seeds and blooms? is your trunk strong? did you withstand the storm? will you live for another season?

By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.

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