Socrates’ Dissatisfaction, a Happiness Arms Race, and the Trouble with Eudaimonic Well-Being

Sarah J. Ward, Laura A. King

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Although originally eudaimonia was intended to be viewed as a philosophy or life or code of conduct, it is now widely treated as a type of well-being that is distinct and superior to happiness or life satisfaction. In this chapter, we argue that the conceptual and theoretical distinction between eudaimonic and hedonic well-being is both misguided and lacking in empirical support. We then describe research on flourishing that demonstrates that people who exemplify the eudaimonic ideal—unhappy people who nonetheless pursue eudaimonic aims—are actually quite rare. We conclude by making recommendations for the study of eudaimonia. In contrast to the emphasis on eudaimonia as a form of well-being, we propose that it may be useful to investigate the antecedents and consequences of eudaimonia as a type of motivation distinct from its relation to subjective well-being. Understanding the benefits of eudaimonia as a motivational construct or value system can illuminate the broader importance of this construct.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Eudaimonic Well-Being
EditorsJoar Vittersø
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-42445-3
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-42443-9
StatePublished - Oct 19 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameInternational Handbooks of Quality-of-Life
ISSN (Print)2468-7227
ISSN (Electronic)2468-7235


  • happiness
  • well-being
  • Eudaimonia
  • meaning


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