The Removal of Eudemonism from Ethics

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Although Arthur Schopenhauer was never able to gain the acclaim during his lifetime of some of the rival post-Kantian philosophers he competed against despite going so far as to schedule lectures at the same time as Hegel, he is now creating more buzz than ever and is widely considered one of the most important German philosophers, as he has earned himself the nickname of “the philosopher of pessimism”.1 Most believe that he was a man before his time, as he wrote during the German classical period where Idealism was the main school of thought. Schopenhauer however went against the grain and believed the world as will to be fundamentally irrational, and held no prisoners when it came to openly criticizing his contemporaries.1…show more content…
We will first look at Aristotle, as we cannot know what eudemonism is not, if one doesn’t know what it is. Essentially it is the belief that virtue and supreme happiness are synonymous. This supreme happiness is what Aristotle called eudemonia, which he considers the highest end; people do not live for things like health for example as that is a subordinate to eudemonia, and is more of a byproduct to living the good life, rather than the good life itself.3 He deems reason as central to living the good life, as it is what he believes sets human beings apart from all other beings. In order to use one’s reason properly he states that one must be virtuous, and if one can do that it will help him reach the goal of eudemonia. This is the basic thought process behind eudemonism.

Schopenhauer’s attitude toward eudemonism is taken from the very beginning of On the Basis of Morality, “Kant has the great merit of having purged ethics of all eudemonism. The ethics of the ancients was a doctrine of eudemonism; that of the moderns in the most cases was one of salvation. The ancients tried to prove that virtue and supreme happiness were identical, but these were like two figures that would never coincide, no matter how one might place them” (49).2

One element of Kant’s ethics that Schopenhauer attacks is his use of the word “ought,” he argues that the word ought can only be used with any weight when there is some sort of punishment

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