The Quest for the Good Life: Ancient Philosophers on Happiness

ISBN : 9780198746980

Oyvind Rabbas; Eyjolfur Kjalar Emilsson; Hallvard Fossheim; Miira Tuominen
320 ページ
164 x 242 mm

How should I live? How can I be happy? What is happiness, really? These are perennial questions, which in recent times have become the object of diverse kinds of academic research. Ancient philosophers placed happiness at the centre of their thought, and we can trace the topic through nearly a millennium. While the centrality of the notion of happiness in ancient ethics is well known, this book is unique in that it focuses directly on this notion, as it appears in the ancient texts. Fourteen papers by an international team of scholars map the various approaches and conceptions found from the Pre-Socratics through Plato, Aristotle, Hellenistic Philosophy, to the Neo-Platonists and Augustine in late antiquity. While not promising a formula that can guarantee a greater share in happiness to the reader, the book addresses questions raised by ancient thinkers that are still of deep concern to many people today: Do I have to be a morally good person in order to be happy? Are there purely external criteria for happiness such as success according to received social norms or is happiness merely a matter of an internal state of the person? How is happiness related to the stages of life and generally to time? In this book the reader will find an informed discussion of these and many other questions relating to happiness.


1. On Happiness and Godlikeness before Socrates
2. Plato's Defence of Justice: the Wrong Kind of Reason?
3. Wanting to do what is just in the Gorgias
4. Eudaimonia, human nature, and normativity: Reflections on Aristotle's project in Nicomachean Ethics Book I
5. Aristotle on happiness and old age
6. Aristotle on Happiness and Long Life
7. Why is Aristotle's vicious person miserable?
8. Epicurus on Pleasure, Desire and Friendship
9. How feasible is the Stoic conception of eudaimonia?
10. The Pyrrhonian Idea of a Good Life
11. Plotinus' way of defining 'eudaimonia' in Ennead I 4 [46] 1-3
12. On happiness and time
13. Why Do We Need Other People to Be Happy? Happiness and Concern for Others in Aspasius and Porphyry
13. Happiness in this Life? Augustine on the principle that virtue is self-sufficient for happiness


Oyvind Rabbas teaches philosophy at the University of Oslo. His area of specialization is ancient philosophy, particularly Plato and Aristotle, but he has a general interest in the history of philosophy, especially ethics, as well as in contemporary ethics. His publications include papers on Plato and Aristotle, as well as translations into Norwegian of Plato's Theaetetus and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. He is one of the main editors of the ongoing project of translating Aristotle's complete works into Norwegian.; Eyjolfur K. Emilsson is professor of philosophy at the University of Oslo. His area of specialization is ancient philosophy, particularly Plotinus and the Platonic-Aristotelian tradition, but he has a general interest in the history of philosophy. His publications include Plotinus on Sense-Perception (CUP, 1988) and Plotinus on Intellect (OUP, 2007), and Plotinus, Ennead VI. 4 & 5 (with Steven Strange, Parmenides Publishing 2014) as well as various articles on ancient philosophy. He has translated several Platonic dialogues: the Gorgias, the Meno and the Symposium and the Republic into Icelandic and the Sophist into Norwegian.; Hallvard Fossheim is Associate Professor in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Bergen tand Professor II in ethics and political philosophy at the University of Tromso. Fossheim's research is focused on Plato and Aristotle, with a main interest in their moral psychology. He has also published in the areas of virtue ethics, new media, and research ethics. ; Miira Tuominen is University Lecturer at the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland) specialized in ancient philosophy. Having mainly worked on the theory of knowledge and philosophical psychology in antiquity as well as history of philosophy and intellectual history more generally, she has recently also published on suicide and its cultural implications. Her current research project as the Academy of Finland Research Fellow is concerned with ethics in late antiquity and titled 'Self-Interest and Other-Regard in Late Ancient Ethics' and she is working on a monograph on Porphyry's ethics of On Abstinence.