Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Arete Leading to Eudamonia

Those are concepts from the ancient Greeks. Arete means excellence and eudamonia means flourishing or well-being. Excellence leads to well-being. This has been noticed for thousands of years.

Or, as Charles Murray wrote in Human Accomplishment, "Exercising our realized capacities is, in the truest sense of the word, enjoyable.

I should also point out that the word "education" means "to draw out." That is, draw out what talents are already there. Our inborn capacities, which we then should develop to obtain our greatest flourishing and well-being.

To quote Murray again: "The things we enjoy most deeply are the things at which we are most expert."

Sometimes people show that talent at five years old. One of my old girlfriends told me when she was five years old she shinnied up a lamppost and straddled the top, waving to cars. When she grew up she innately had almost professional athletic talent. She used to beat the hell out of me at anything we did. I never won at miniature golf, for an example.

Let's try Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics: "Life is an activity, and each man exercises his favorite facilities upon the objects he loves most."

That leads us to the question of how the West became so rich. One of the main answers: Christianity. And a lot of that had to do with St. Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas wrote that human intelligence is a gift from God, and to apply human intelligence to understanding the world is pleasing to God. In other words, using all of your talents is a great thing - especially if you have a good time doing it.

This spirit of free inquiry is how the West developed science and technology and why we have such wealth that we are the envy of the world (and because of their envy is why so much of the Third World wants to bring us down).

Religions that have gone nowhere are the ones that prohibit inquiry and think the purpose of life is to avoid damnation, which generally involves sending money to frauds.

To quote Aristotle again: "Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim."

In other words - excellence. What used to be called "the good, the true and the beautiful."

I'll end again with a quote from Murray: "Human beings have been most magnificently productive and reached their highest cultural peaks in the times and places where humans have thought most deeply about their place in the universe and are convinced they have one."

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Latin "educare" means "to bring up". "Educere" means "to draw out". A common misunderstanding.

Twarog said...

"Aquinas wrote that human intelligence is a gift from God, and to apply human intelligence to understanding the world is pleasing to God. In other words, using all of your talents is a great thing - especially if you have a good time doing it."

This was closely related to another point of St. Thomas which is either totally forgotten or horribly misunderstood by most modern writers- that truth is not divided against itself, because God is One, and God is the source of all truth. By this, he meant that the truths apprehended by natural reason cannot possibly be contradictory of divine revelation. If there is an apparent conflict between what we learn in the laboratory and what we read in the Bible, St. Thomas would say, then either our scientific theory is premature and incomplete, or we have misunderstood the true meaning of Scripture. Ergo, you can freely engage in all the scientific inquiry you want without running the risk of destroying the True Faith, because it's certain that you will never discover anything that could seriously undermine it. Most non-Christian theologians have never been confident enough in the truth of their own doctrines to allow such freedom, and those who have usually end up resorting to something like Siger of Brabant's "double truth" sophistry. Islamic theologians essentially killed their culture's short-lived period of scientific breakthroughs on purpose, because they were (rightly) afraid that all this newly-gained knowledge derived from free inquiry would make core Islamic doctrines look stupid and absurd.

Modern man likes to gripe about the perpetual "war between science and religion" but this conflict is based on faulty understandings of both reason and revelation. As Chesterton wrote, "Simple secularists still talk as if the Church had introduced a sort of schism between reason and religion. The truth is that the Church was actually the first thing that ever tried to combine reason and religion." Richard Dawkins and Young Earth Creationists are actually making the exact same mistake about the Bible.

Bob Wallace said...

Murray made the same point in "Human Accomplishment" and also wrote about Islam's short-lived "Golden Age."

Anonymous said...


Germans have a similar concept: Bildung (refers to the German tradition of self-cultivation):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bildung

See also: The German Genius by Peter Watson:

https://www.amazon.com/German-Genius-Renaissance-Scientific-Revolution-ebook/dp/B003M69A64?ie=UTF8&btkr=1&redirect=true&ref_=dp-kindle-redirect

sth_txs said...

It seems like with more technology we get dummer by the year.


https://alfinnextlevel.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/how-large-a-population-is-required-to-build-an-advanced-civilisation/

Anonymous said...



It took white European males to create and maintain modern western civilization.

Just look at what happened to Africa, and even India, when the white colonial powers left - the natives could not, or can barely maintain, the infrastructure left by the white men. Even most of Asia is still wallowing in backwardness and a practically pre-, or just slightly above, industrial state with only a few places like Hong Kong, and primarily metropolitan areas in China, Japan and South Korea having any semblance to a modern society. Modern Asia is built upon the inventions of white European men (Asians though they can be smart, apparently are not very creative or innovative). And South America is barely there - not as productive as modern Asia, but just apparently coasting on what white European men created and built. Not intending to be racist, but just look at the facts.

Dusty Meckelford said...

"It took white European males to create and maintain modern western civilization."

Actually, it took innovations by several civilizations prior to Europeans to enable Europeans to gain a foothold in the world.

"Just look at what happened to Africa, and even India, when the white colonial powers left - the natives could not, or can barely maintain, the infrastructure left by the white men."

Probably because the white men pillaged and plundered their country for resources and politically destabilized the region.

"Even most of Asia is still wallowing in backwardness and a practically pre-, or just slightly above, industrial state with only a few places like Hong Kong, and primarily metropolitan areas in China, Japan and South Korea having any semblance to a modern society."

Modern society is not all that it is cracked up to be. Moreover, you have a narrow view of "modern society".

"Modern Asia is built upon the inventions of white European men (Asians though they can be smart, apparently are not very creative or innovative)."

First, Asia had several cradles of civilization long before Europeans. Second, what metrics are you employing regarding creativity or innovation?

"Not intending to be racist, but just look at the facts."

You haven't provided any facts, just hyperbole. Did you eat paint chips as a child?

Dusty Meckelford said...


Please ignore my previous ignorant post above at 1:54. I forgot to take my medication and it made me delusional.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Dusty, I posted that comment at 7:39 AM. I am a notorious drunk. If there are any negative statements or references whatsoever, about you, or similar comments like the one I wrote, it's me.

Anonymous said...


I'm the poster at 9:21 above. Please ignore my previous post. I'm actually a notorious drunk, and I often accuse unknown posters as being notorious drunks when I'm drunk even when I don't know them.

Anonymous said...

I'm the poster at 7:39, 9:21, and 9:27. Anything I say should not be taken seriously, especially if I pose as Dusty or another anonymous.

Anonymous said...


I'm the poster at 1:38 above. Please ignore my post - I'm an idiot, and I turn into a bigger idiot when I'm drunk and then post nonsensical ramblings.

Anonymous said...

I'm the poster at 2:53 above. Please ignore my post - I'm an idiot, and I turn into a bigger idiot when I'm drunk and then post nonsensical ramblings.