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Philosophical Counseling:
Aristotelian Eudaimonia Itself is Self-Actualization which is the
Ultimate End (Telos) That Humans Must Aspire to Achieve
Thesigan Nadarajan
PhD Student, Graduate Programs of Philosophy and Religion
Graduate School of Human Sciences, Assumption University of Thailand
Email: admin@thesigannadarajan.com
Abstract
In psychological counseling, the motivational theory of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
of self-actualization is promoted as the fulfillment of the highest human potential. And there are
many psychological researches available to support this theory of psychological self-
actualization. But there are scarce researches existing in philosophical counseling on self-
actualization from the philosophical perspective. Thus, this essay endeavors to fill this scarcity
by proposing that the Aristotelian Eudaimonia itself is self-actualization which is the ultimate
end (telos) that human must aspire to achieve. I will argue for my proposal both positively and
negatively. Positively, I will provide philosophical literature and arguments in support of it.
Negatively, I will discuss possible objections to my proposal and respond to them and thereby
consolidate my proposal.
Keywords: Eudaimonia, Self-Actualization, Self-realization
1. Introduction
For the purpose of avoiding redundancies of terms, I will use the Eudaimonia to mean
Aristotelian Eudaimonia. I will use self-actualization and self-realization interchangeably. My
decision to write this essay is based on my working experience as a counseling psychologist
among undergraduate students for the past six years. I realize that counseling psychology though
is an excellent platform for motivating students in self-actualization but it lacks the philosophical
depth for its theoretical foundations. I also want to show that philosophy is still the best
theoretical foundation for sciences like counseling psychology. Philosophy’s as a theoretical
foundation for sciences is proven by researchers such as Ochulor, C. Leo and Egbai, M. Julius
(2011) who argued that philosophy “is presupposed by all systematic human inquiries”. If
2
philosophy is presupposed by all systematic human inquiries, then it is the foundation to all
sciences including counseling psychology. In line with this motive I shall now proceed to specify
the objective of this article.
2. Objective of this Article
Since Abraham Maslow in his theory of hierarchy of needs have already proven
psychologically that self-actualization is seen as the fulfillment of the highest human potential.”1
I therefore want to propose that Eudaimonia itself is self-actualization which is the ultimate
end (telos) that human must aspire to achieve
Before I examine my proposal, I will like to limit the scope of this article. It is not a study of
Virtue Ethics. Virtue Ethics is as old as philosophy and its contributions by historical and
contemporary philosophers are extensive, variant and huge that it would be beyond the scope of
this essay to cover it. Thus, I will only examine literature and arguments that are relevant to my
proposal. Next, I would like to describe the specific terms used in this objective for the purpose
of clarity.
3. Brief Descriptions of Terms
Why do I use the term descriptions and not definitions? The reason is definitions would
require exact meaning of the terms. The specific terms used in this objective have multiple
meanings and interpretations. I will now describe four specific terms that is used in this article.
3.1 Philosophical Counseling
1
Nedra H. Francis and William Allan Kritsonis, (2006). A Brief Analysis of Abraham Maslow’s
Original Writing of Self-Actualizing People: A Study of Psychological Health. Retrieved from:
https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED501708.pdf. On 26.11.2017.
3
I would like to differentiate between philosophical counseling and counseling psychology.
Counseling psychology is considered intervention while philosophical counseling is a Socratic
interaction that involves dialectical questioning and responses that is part of and included in
psychological cognitive processes of attention, concentration, perception, imagination, memory,
reasoning and thinking. So philosophical counseling is a dialectical approach to problem solving
rather than treatment of a client.
3.2 Aristotelian Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia has been generally translated in English as “happiness” in the 1985 translation of
Nicomachean Ethics. MacIntyre (1981) prefers the translation that means “human flourishing.” It
must be noted that the translation of happiness has been questioned in philosophical literature as
whether it defines the actual meaning (Cooper, 1975; Kraut, 1979; Tatarkiewicz, 1976). Besides
the question of translation, Nyabul & Situma (2014) highlights two views on the comprehension
of the term Eudaimonia: 1) the exclusive view and 2) the inclusive view of Eudaimonia. Uyl &
Machan (1983) describes the exclusive view as a single and only end while the inclusive view as
a “comprehensive or composite end.” I take the position of the exclusive view which aligns with
my proposal which I will qualify in the later part of this article.
4. Aristotelian Eudaimonia as Self-Actualization
Now I would like to discuss two literature reviews to positively support my proposal.
4.1 Eudaimonism: A theory of self-realization
Waterman (1993) talks about an ethical theory called “Eudaimonism” that he traced back to
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics which invited people to live according to the daimon” (true self).
He stated that:
“The daimon refers to those potentialities of each person, the realization of which
represents the greatest fulfillment in living of which each is capable. These include both
4
the potentialities that are shared by all humans by virtue of our common specieshood and
those unique potentials that distinguish each individual from all others. The daimon is an
ideal in the sense of being an excellence, a perfection toward which one strives and,
hence, it can give meaning and direction to one's life. Efforts to live in accordance with
the daimon, to realize those potentials (self-realization), give rise to a condition termed
Eudaimonia.” (Waterman, 1993, p 678)
So according to him, Eudaimonia is not mere happiness or a process to self-actualization. It is
self-actualization.
4.2 The Exclusive View
The second positive support for my proposal is posited by Nyabul & Situma (2014). In their
abstract to their essay entitled “The Meaning of Eudemonia in Aristotle’s Ethics” they wrote
that:
“We argue (like W. F. R. Hardie) that Aristotle conceived of eudemonia as consisting in
the single dominant end of contemplation and disagree with those authors (like J. L.
Ackrill) who attribute to him an inclusive understanding of eudemonia. We support the
dominant interpretation of eudemonia but reject the inclusive thesis.” (Nyabul & Situma,
2014, p 65).
What were the reasons why they accepted that Eudamonia as self-actualization, the single and
only end (telos) in life? Why didn’t they accept the inclusive way as a comprehensive or
composite end? As far as they were concerned, the whole controversy of whether to accept the
exclusive way or the inclusive way laid in the matter of whether Aristotle himself considered
whether there was
“…only one ultimate end or a compound of ultimate ends that we should aspire to
achieve.” They wrote that Aristotle (1985, p. 19) stated that “goods are divided ... into
three types, some called external, some goods of the soul, others goods of the body; and
the goods of the soul are said to be goods to the fullest extent and most of all, and the
soul’s actions and activities are ascribed to the soul.” They further noted that these
“…ends have been described as either ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete.’ In Aristotle’s view,
“an end pursued in itself ... is more complete than an end pursued because of something
else; and an end that is never choiceworthy because of something else is more complete
than ends that are choiceworthy both in themselves and because of this end; and hence an
end that is always {choiceworthy, and also} choiceworthy in itself, never because of
something else, is unconditionally complete” (1985, p.14). Some critics have taken issue
5
with this criterion of completeness. This suggests that there is a hierarchy of ends and
degrees of completeness, with different ends successively becoming more complete than
the lower ones, thus culminating in the most complete end, eudemonia.” (Nyabul &
Situma, 2014, p 67)
In summarizing the above, they argued that Arsitotle himself considered Eudaimonia is self-
actualization and the ultimate end (telos) that humans must aspire to achieve.
5. Objections and Responses
There can be two possible objections to my proposal. I shall format these objections and
responses as follows:
5.1 Objection: That my proposal is arbitrary. Response: My proposal is not arbitrary for the
following reason. The fact that humans universally have aspired for developing human potential
as seen by their drive to learn and develop themselves in every field of human development
shows that self-actualization is an innate desire of human beings. Aristotle was just highlighting
what was already a natural drive for self-actualization among men when he proposed
Eudaimonia.
5.2 Objection: That my proposal will become irrelevant over time as human needs become
more complex. Response: Yes! human needs will change and become more complex with each
passing century. If we were to look back from before the seventeenth century before the advent
of sciences like psychology to now, what has changed is the type of expectations of human
potentials. Before men wanted to fly here on earth but now they want to visit the other planets.
Just as the needs have changed and become more complex, likewise the type of expectations
have changed and become more complex. But the innate desire to develop human potential
remains and is the drive behind the complex expectations.
6. Summary and Conclusions
6
In this article, I have proposed that Aristotelian Eudaimonia itself is self-actualization which
is the ultimate end (telos) that human must aspire to achieve. By this I have shown that there is a
philosophical counterpart to Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization which can be promoted as a
motivational concept in philosophical counseling. For future studies this essay can be expanded
to a full researches on topics like: 1) How Eudaimonia as self-actualization affects cultural
identity narratives; 2) How Eudaimonia as self-actualization can be utilized for counseling
students for academic performances; 3) Utilizing Eudaimonia as an innate motivational
counseling criteria for competitive sports; 4) Utilizing Eudaimonia in counseling to provide life’s
direction to troubled youths.
References
Aristotle. (1985). Nicomachean ethics. (T. Irwin, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.
Bhala, Kara W.Y. Tan. (2009). Fortifying Virtue Ethics: Recognizing The Essential Roles Of
Eudaimonia and Phronesis. Retrieved from:
https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/5440/TanBhala_ku_0099D_10224_
DATA_1.pdf;sequence=1. On 26.11.2017.
Cooper, J. (1975). Reason and human good in Aristotle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Kraut, R. (1979). Two conceptions of happiness. Philosophical Review, 87, 167-196.
Ochulor, Leo, C. and Egbai, Julius, M. (2011). Philosophy and systematic human
inquiries. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES
2011, 2(3): 283-290.
MacIntyre, A. (1981). After virtue. London: Gerald Duckworth and Co. Ltd.
7
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper
Nneji, Bellarmine U. (2013). Philosophical counselling/therapy: Praxis and pedagogy.
Retrieved from: https://www.uam.es/otros/ptcedh/2013v9_pdf/v9n3eng.pdf. On
26.11.2017.
Nyabul, P. O. and Situma, J. W. (2014). The Meaning of Eudemonia in Aristotle’s
Ethics, International Journal of Philosophy and Theology September 2014, Vol. 2, No. 3,
pp. 65-67.
Tatarkiewicz, W (1976). Analysis of happiness. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Uyl, D. D. And Machan, T. R. (1983) American Philosophical Quaterly, p. 117.
Waterman, A.S. (1993). Two Conceptions of Happiness: Contrasts of
Personal Expressiveness (Eudaimonia) and Hedonic Enjoyment, Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 1993, Vol. 64. No. 4. 678-691

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Essay of aristotelian eudaimonia is the ultimate end

  • 1. 1 Philosophical Counseling: Aristotelian Eudaimonia Itself is Self-Actualization which is the Ultimate End (Telos) That Humans Must Aspire to Achieve Thesigan Nadarajan PhD Student, Graduate Programs of Philosophy and Religion Graduate School of Human Sciences, Assumption University of Thailand Email: admin@thesigannadarajan.com Abstract In psychological counseling, the motivational theory of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of self-actualization is promoted as the fulfillment of the highest human potential. And there are many psychological researches available to support this theory of psychological self- actualization. But there are scarce researches existing in philosophical counseling on self- actualization from the philosophical perspective. Thus, this essay endeavors to fill this scarcity by proposing that the Aristotelian Eudaimonia itself is self-actualization which is the ultimate end (telos) that human must aspire to achieve. I will argue for my proposal both positively and negatively. Positively, I will provide philosophical literature and arguments in support of it. Negatively, I will discuss possible objections to my proposal and respond to them and thereby consolidate my proposal. Keywords: Eudaimonia, Self-Actualization, Self-realization 1. Introduction For the purpose of avoiding redundancies of terms, I will use the Eudaimonia to mean Aristotelian Eudaimonia. I will use self-actualization and self-realization interchangeably. My decision to write this essay is based on my working experience as a counseling psychologist among undergraduate students for the past six years. I realize that counseling psychology though is an excellent platform for motivating students in self-actualization but it lacks the philosophical depth for its theoretical foundations. I also want to show that philosophy is still the best theoretical foundation for sciences like counseling psychology. Philosophy’s as a theoretical foundation for sciences is proven by researchers such as Ochulor, C. Leo and Egbai, M. Julius (2011) who argued that philosophy “is presupposed by all systematic human inquiries”. If
  • 2. 2 philosophy is presupposed by all systematic human inquiries, then it is the foundation to all sciences including counseling psychology. In line with this motive I shall now proceed to specify the objective of this article. 2. Objective of this Article Since Abraham Maslow in his theory of hierarchy of needs have already proven psychologically that self-actualization is seen as the fulfillment of the highest human potential.”1 I therefore want to propose that Eudaimonia itself is self-actualization which is the ultimate end (telos) that human must aspire to achieve Before I examine my proposal, I will like to limit the scope of this article. It is not a study of Virtue Ethics. Virtue Ethics is as old as philosophy and its contributions by historical and contemporary philosophers are extensive, variant and huge that it would be beyond the scope of this essay to cover it. Thus, I will only examine literature and arguments that are relevant to my proposal. Next, I would like to describe the specific terms used in this objective for the purpose of clarity. 3. Brief Descriptions of Terms Why do I use the term descriptions and not definitions? The reason is definitions would require exact meaning of the terms. The specific terms used in this objective have multiple meanings and interpretations. I will now describe four specific terms that is used in this article. 3.1 Philosophical Counseling 1 Nedra H. Francis and William Allan Kritsonis, (2006). A Brief Analysis of Abraham Maslow’s Original Writing of Self-Actualizing People: A Study of Psychological Health. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED501708.pdf. On 26.11.2017.
  • 3. 3 I would like to differentiate between philosophical counseling and counseling psychology. Counseling psychology is considered intervention while philosophical counseling is a Socratic interaction that involves dialectical questioning and responses that is part of and included in psychological cognitive processes of attention, concentration, perception, imagination, memory, reasoning and thinking. So philosophical counseling is a dialectical approach to problem solving rather than treatment of a client. 3.2 Aristotelian Eudaimonia Eudaimonia has been generally translated in English as “happiness” in the 1985 translation of Nicomachean Ethics. MacIntyre (1981) prefers the translation that means “human flourishing.” It must be noted that the translation of happiness has been questioned in philosophical literature as whether it defines the actual meaning (Cooper, 1975; Kraut, 1979; Tatarkiewicz, 1976). Besides the question of translation, Nyabul & Situma (2014) highlights two views on the comprehension of the term Eudaimonia: 1) the exclusive view and 2) the inclusive view of Eudaimonia. Uyl & Machan (1983) describes the exclusive view as a single and only end while the inclusive view as a “comprehensive or composite end.” I take the position of the exclusive view which aligns with my proposal which I will qualify in the later part of this article. 4. Aristotelian Eudaimonia as Self-Actualization Now I would like to discuss two literature reviews to positively support my proposal. 4.1 Eudaimonism: A theory of self-realization Waterman (1993) talks about an ethical theory called “Eudaimonism” that he traced back to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics which invited people to live according to the daimon” (true self). He stated that: “The daimon refers to those potentialities of each person, the realization of which represents the greatest fulfillment in living of which each is capable. These include both
  • 4. 4 the potentialities that are shared by all humans by virtue of our common specieshood and those unique potentials that distinguish each individual from all others. The daimon is an ideal in the sense of being an excellence, a perfection toward which one strives and, hence, it can give meaning and direction to one's life. Efforts to live in accordance with the daimon, to realize those potentials (self-realization), give rise to a condition termed Eudaimonia.” (Waterman, 1993, p 678) So according to him, Eudaimonia is not mere happiness or a process to self-actualization. It is self-actualization. 4.2 The Exclusive View The second positive support for my proposal is posited by Nyabul & Situma (2014). In their abstract to their essay entitled “The Meaning of Eudemonia in Aristotle’s Ethics” they wrote that: “We argue (like W. F. R. Hardie) that Aristotle conceived of eudemonia as consisting in the single dominant end of contemplation and disagree with those authors (like J. L. Ackrill) who attribute to him an inclusive understanding of eudemonia. We support the dominant interpretation of eudemonia but reject the inclusive thesis.” (Nyabul & Situma, 2014, p 65). What were the reasons why they accepted that Eudamonia as self-actualization, the single and only end (telos) in life? Why didn’t they accept the inclusive way as a comprehensive or composite end? As far as they were concerned, the whole controversy of whether to accept the exclusive way or the inclusive way laid in the matter of whether Aristotle himself considered whether there was “…only one ultimate end or a compound of ultimate ends that we should aspire to achieve.” They wrote that Aristotle (1985, p. 19) stated that “goods are divided ... into three types, some called external, some goods of the soul, others goods of the body; and the goods of the soul are said to be goods to the fullest extent and most of all, and the soul’s actions and activities are ascribed to the soul.” They further noted that these “…ends have been described as either ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete.’ In Aristotle’s view, “an end pursued in itself ... is more complete than an end pursued because of something else; and an end that is never choiceworthy because of something else is more complete than ends that are choiceworthy both in themselves and because of this end; and hence an end that is always {choiceworthy, and also} choiceworthy in itself, never because of something else, is unconditionally complete” (1985, p.14). Some critics have taken issue
  • 5. 5 with this criterion of completeness. This suggests that there is a hierarchy of ends and degrees of completeness, with different ends successively becoming more complete than the lower ones, thus culminating in the most complete end, eudemonia.” (Nyabul & Situma, 2014, p 67) In summarizing the above, they argued that Arsitotle himself considered Eudaimonia is self- actualization and the ultimate end (telos) that humans must aspire to achieve. 5. Objections and Responses There can be two possible objections to my proposal. I shall format these objections and responses as follows: 5.1 Objection: That my proposal is arbitrary. Response: My proposal is not arbitrary for the following reason. The fact that humans universally have aspired for developing human potential as seen by their drive to learn and develop themselves in every field of human development shows that self-actualization is an innate desire of human beings. Aristotle was just highlighting what was already a natural drive for self-actualization among men when he proposed Eudaimonia. 5.2 Objection: That my proposal will become irrelevant over time as human needs become more complex. Response: Yes! human needs will change and become more complex with each passing century. If we were to look back from before the seventeenth century before the advent of sciences like psychology to now, what has changed is the type of expectations of human potentials. Before men wanted to fly here on earth but now they want to visit the other planets. Just as the needs have changed and become more complex, likewise the type of expectations have changed and become more complex. But the innate desire to develop human potential remains and is the drive behind the complex expectations. 6. Summary and Conclusions
  • 6. 6 In this article, I have proposed that Aristotelian Eudaimonia itself is self-actualization which is the ultimate end (telos) that human must aspire to achieve. By this I have shown that there is a philosophical counterpart to Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization which can be promoted as a motivational concept in philosophical counseling. For future studies this essay can be expanded to a full researches on topics like: 1) How Eudaimonia as self-actualization affects cultural identity narratives; 2) How Eudaimonia as self-actualization can be utilized for counseling students for academic performances; 3) Utilizing Eudaimonia as an innate motivational counseling criteria for competitive sports; 4) Utilizing Eudaimonia in counseling to provide life’s direction to troubled youths. References Aristotle. (1985). Nicomachean ethics. (T. Irwin, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. Bhala, Kara W.Y. Tan. (2009). Fortifying Virtue Ethics: Recognizing The Essential Roles Of Eudaimonia and Phronesis. Retrieved from: https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/5440/TanBhala_ku_0099D_10224_ DATA_1.pdf;sequence=1. On 26.11.2017. Cooper, J. (1975). Reason and human good in Aristotle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Kraut, R. (1979). Two conceptions of happiness. Philosophical Review, 87, 167-196. Ochulor, Leo, C. and Egbai, Julius, M. (2011). Philosophy and systematic human inquiries. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES 2011, 2(3): 283-290. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After virtue. London: Gerald Duckworth and Co. Ltd.
  • 7. 7 Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper Nneji, Bellarmine U. (2013). Philosophical counselling/therapy: Praxis and pedagogy. Retrieved from: https://www.uam.es/otros/ptcedh/2013v9_pdf/v9n3eng.pdf. On 26.11.2017. Nyabul, P. O. and Situma, J. W. (2014). The Meaning of Eudemonia in Aristotle’s Ethics, International Journal of Philosophy and Theology September 2014, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 65-67. Tatarkiewicz, W (1976). Analysis of happiness. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Uyl, D. D. And Machan, T. R. (1983) American Philosophical Quaterly, p. 117. Waterman, A.S. (1993). Two Conceptions of Happiness: Contrasts of Personal Expressiveness (Eudaimonia) and Hedonic Enjoyment, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1993, Vol. 64. No. 4. 678-691