Living, (working, and playing) not just having. Where the pursuit of opulence is predicated on having more, bigger, cheaper, eudaimonia is a more nuanced, complex conception of a good life: it’s about whether or not the pursuit of mere stuff actually translates into living, working, and playing meaningfully better in human terms.
Better, not just more. The key word is “better” — and where opulence asks, “Did you get the latest car, yacht, gold-plated razor — or are you just a loser?” eudaimonia asks, “Did any of that stuff make you meaningfully better — smarter, fitter, grittier, more empathic, wiser? Or are you just (yawn) a pawn in the tired, predictable game called ‘the pursuit of diminishing returns to hyperconsumption’: the game that’s rigged by hedge-fund bots against you?”
Becoming, not just being. If eudaimonia’s about living, working, and playing better, not just having more, well, Houston, we have a problem. Economic “growth” as you and I know it is probably fundamentally inadequate to tell us much about it, because how we measure growth is just about stuff. But measures of “happiness” don’t cut it either, because eudaimonia is more complicated than that. The multiplication of eudaimonia can be gauged neither by “GDP,” then, nor by tracking self-reported happiness, nor by basic, simple measures of basic human development, like the HDI — but rather, by understanding whether or not people are becoming their better, wholer, grittier, wiser, fundamentally more accomplished selves. Those real-world measures and tools largely haven’t been invented yet.
Creating and building, not just trading and raiding. The pursuit of eudaimonia most definitely can’t amount to much in economies where those who trade accomplishment and raid societies earn thousands, millions, or billions of times as much as the creators and the builders of those societies— because the result must be an enduring undersupply of the stuff of deep significance, beauty, and meaning. Eudaimonia is constructive in the sense that it’s ignited by those creators and builders — and it always has been.
Depth, not just immediacy. The pursuit of eudaimonia demands depth like Trump needs a better haircut: that is to say, seriously. What does it mean to work, play, and live meaningfully better? It’s not an easy question to answer, and I’m not offering you any easy, pat answers. Rather, the pursuit of eudaimonia itself demands time, space, and room to reflect on questions of gravity and depth, preferably together: deliberatively, associatively, consensually.