Aristotle’s Eudaimonia and Minimalism

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By Josh Rueff on Sep 19, 2013

Aristotle’s Eudaimonia (you-day-mow-neea) is a teaching of lifestyle balance and is by far the best way to apply the philosophy of minimalism.

Lifestyle balance is an ancient practice, the earliest records showing up in Egypt in the Pharaoh’s custom of Ba and Ka, which is nearly identical to the ancient but more recent idea of Yin and Yang. Western science tends to demote these teachings to superstition, but recent studies have begun to systematically prove the validity of traditional Chinese medicines and practice such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and qi gong. But Eudaimonia has little to do with energy and chi.

Aristotle focuses on lifestyle balance.
Aristotle taught that Eudaimonia was the ultimate life goal.
Eudaimonia – if you’re not the Greek major sort – means happiness gained from the flourishing of the human spirit. More specifically it is the state of personal well being and self-worth; a zest for life, contagious energy, the ultimate happiness and self presence.

For us, happiness is an emotion. To Aristotle, happiness was not an internal state of mind, but an action that holds the energeia of fulfillment and success.

In his work called Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle shows how a balanced life is a happy one. His Golden Mean principle represents a balance between the two extremes of excess and deficiency; the place of balance being the action of virtue, which results in ultimate happiness. He believed that this principle should be applied to one’s life with the utmost diligence; not just internally but externally.

Here he shows the emotional application of the Golden Mean:
“It’s easy to be angry, but to be angry at the right time, for the right reason, at the right person and in the right intensity must truly be brilliant.”
Here’s another example of how the Golden Mean can work.
Let’s say you have a close friend (people usually do). Let’s also say that you’ve made a recent career change.
Someone tells you that this friend has been telling people that your career change was a dumb mistake.

Enter Nicomachean Ethics.

You have 3 options:
1. Excess: You sever all ties with the friend, deleting cell phone numbers, de-friending on Facebook, etc. – the whole 9 yards.
2. Deficiency: You pretend like nothing happened, ignoring everything.
or
3. Virtue: There is no universal point at which virtue exists for every situation and every person. But there is a point of balance and virtue for every situation (that point being at differing places depending on the scenario). The point of balance/virtue in this situation may be the action of asking your friend for their side of the story, then making a calculated but healthy decision.

And here’s where it gets really good.

Aristotle defines happiness as a way of life that allows us to achieve a healthy and fulfilling balance of our nature, which improves our character, helps us focus on and improve other lives, and makes hardships easier to overcome. He makes it clear that happiness is not pleasure derived from having money or things, but that pleasure is a byproduct of the lifestyle of happiness; living by the Golden Mean.

When the pleasure of the end goal becomes the main focus, we miss out on happiness.

The Golden Mean should be kept at the front of your mind as you pursue the life of  the minimalist because of this concept:
Our lives are becoming increasingly and overly complex. That’s why minimalism is so important to us; it simplifies the complexity of our fast-paced, tech-dominated, microwave gourmet, instant gratification culture.
But minimalism can be taken too far. “Too far” means something different to everyone, and it’s important to understand where the point of deficiency lies for you, as a person unique from every other person on the globe.
If you’re like most people, you’re already living in excess, but at what point does simplifying bring you to the Golden Mean; the point of balance that Aristotle calls the place of virtue?
It may take you some time to figure out where the extremes of excess and deficiency lie, and more importantly, the place of Golden Mean and Eudaimonia.
The important thing to remember is that once you’ve found that balance, nothing can stop you. This is the place of peace, happiness, and fulfillment – trial and error is inevitable but the pay off will be unlike any other. So start applying the minimalist theory to every area of your life , little by little as you read into Part 5 – it will pay off!

Josh

2 Comments

  1. d.s.g. August 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    The golden mean is such a valuable thing to understand – this is one thing we got right, even ages ago when we didn’t understand the things we do now. Balance is vital to everything – that’s why yin and yang is still taught after hundreds (thousands?) of years, and therapists always try to pinpoint areas of excess and deficiency as you put it, before giving any kind of advice.

    Good post Josh, I like it 🙂

    Reply

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