Aristotle’s 11 Excellences for Living a Flourishing Life

Aristotle’s 11 Excellences for Living a Flourishing Life

There’s been so much exciting and important research in recent years, especially in the field of Positive Psychology, that can help us live happier and better lives.

Knowing what contributes to happiness is now a science; so, is it worth looking back? To pre-evidence-based days and to non-scientists?

Well, the simple answer is … yes.

I think we can learn about happiness and life from all manner of sources and the ancient Greek philosophers certainly made some good arguments …

via the Art of Manliness by Brett & Kate McKay

For the ancient Greeks, eudaimonia was considered the highest human good. While the word doesn’t easily translate into English, it roughly corresponds to a happy, flourishing life — to a life well-lived.

Eudaimonia wasn’t a destination — a nirvana that, once reached, initiated a state of bliss. Happiness wasn’t something you felt, but that you did; it was a dynamic, ongoing activity.

What that activity centered on was the pursuit of arete, or virtue.

We tend to think of “virtue” in an exclusively moral sense, as having to do with qualities like courage, compassion, and continence. But for the Greeks, virtue meant doing anything well. Courage was a virtue, but so was speaking articulately. Playing an instrument masterfully was a virtue. Strength was a virtue. Beauty was a virtue. 

Virtue equaled excellence.

Which excellences made up the eudaimonic life was a much-debated subject amongst Hellenistic philosophers. Socrates thought that moral virtue alone was required to achieve eudaimonia. Aristotle, however, believed that while excellence of character was necessary for eudaimonia, other kinds of excellences also played a role in achieving a life well-lived.

For Aristotle, developing all-around arete and becoming a superior, well-rounded man meant maximizing your potential on every possible front. In particular, he believed that living a fully flourishing life — achieving true happiness — required cultivating all 11 of the following excellences: 

Excellence in Morals

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

Even though Aristotle thought that virtue alone wasn’t sufficient for achieving eudaimonia, he still believed that character was foundational in becoming a man of arete.

Aristotle thought we should anxiously develop the moral virtues of courage, temperance, justice, and generosity, and that we do so by actually doing courageous, temperate, just, and generous deeds. That’s how you become excellent or virtuous for Aristotle: action. You act to become.

Excellence in Judgment

He who [has practical wisdom] is skilled in aiming, in accord with calculation, at what is best for a human being.

The Greeks had a word for good judgment: phronesis. 

In Reclaiming Virtue, John Bradshaw defines phronesis as “the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.” Phronesis is practical wisdom.

For Aristotle, this kind of good sense was the master virtue, for it’s the virtue that makes possible all the rest. He believed every virtue can be carried to two extremes: you can practice it too much or too little. Frugality is a virtue; miserliness is a vice. Courage is a virtue; recklessness is a vice. Phronesis is what allows you to strike the golden mean between these errors — to know what to say or do in any situation.

Practical wisdom can be cultivated by observing and reading about other excellent individuals. But it’s primarily developed through action. You make decisions, see how they turn out, and hone your behaviors so you make even wiser and more discerning choices the next time around…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE