EDWARD L. DECI and RICHARD M. RYAN
HEDONIA, EUDAIMONIA, AND WELL-BEING: AN
(Received 10 May 2006; Accepted 18 May 2006)
ABSTRACT. Research on well-being can be thought of as falling into two traditions. In onethe hedonistic traditionthe focus is on happiness, gen- erally defined as the presence of positive affect and the absence of negative affect. In the otherthe eudaimonic traditionthe focus is on living life in a full and deeply satisfying way. Recognizing that much recent research on well- being has been more closely aligned with the hedonistic tradition, this special issue presents discussions and research reviews from the eudaimonic tradition, making clear how the concept of eudaimonia adds an important perspective to our understanding of well-being.
KEY WORDS: eudaimonia, fully functioning, hedonism, subjective well- being.
HEDONIA AND SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING
Well-being, which refers to optimal psychological experience and functioning, has been vigorously studied in psychology over the past quarter century. To a significant degree, this is due to the work of psychologists such as Diener (1984) who have focused on an exploration of subjective well-being (SWB). From that perspec- tive, well-being is considered subjective because the idea is for peo- ple to evaluatefor themselves, in a general way, the degree to which they experience a sense of wellness. As an operational definition, SWB is most often interpreted to mean experiencing a high level of positive affect, a low level of negative affect, and a high degree of satisfaction with ones life. To the extent that one strongly endorses these three constructs, one is said to be high in SWB. The concept of SWB, assessed in this way, has frequently been used inter- changeably with happiness. Thus, maximizing ones well-being has been viewed as maximizing ones feelings of happiness.
Journal of Happiness Studies (2008) 9:111 Springer 2006 DOI 10.1007/s10902-006-9018-
In research on SWB, the primary focus has been on factors that lead to SWBincluding person factors, social-environmen- tal factors, and cultural factors. Assumptions have not been made about what should yield SWB nor about universality in the conditions that are likely to make people happy. Readers of theJournal of Happiness Studiesare well familiar with the idea of SWB, with its operational definition, and with studies about the types of factors that yield it. Since the publication of Well-Being: The Foundation of He- donic Psychology(Kahneman et al., 1999), SWB has been asso- ciated with the hedonistic approach to well-being. A more precise interpretation of hedonic well-being would, however, use just positive affect and negative affect to index happiness, be- cause life satisfaction is not strictly a hedonic concept. Rather, it involves a cognitive evaluation of the conditions of ones life. Still, SWB has been widely associated with the idea of happi- ness and these two concepts have often been interpreted as being hedonic, although there may be room for greater integra- tion of SWB into a more eudaimonic perspective.
EUDAIMONIA AND FULL FUNCTIONING
In spite of the proliferation of SWB studies, SWB is not the only way to think about well-being. A second view considers well-being to consist of more than just happiness, suggesting that peoples reports of being happy (or of being positively affective and satisfied) does not necessarily mean that they are psychologically well. This second perspective is referred to as eudaimonia(Waterman, 1993) and is concerned with living well or actualizing ones human potentials. This conceptualization maintains that well-being is not so much an outcome or end state as it is a process of fulfilling or realizing ones daimon or true naturethat is, of fulfilling ones virtuous potentials and living as one was inherently intended to live. As pointed out in several of the papers in this special issue, the eudaimonic view can be traced to Aristotle (translated by Irwin, 1985) and is aligned with various 20th century intellectual traditions, includ- ing humanistic psychology.
2 EDWARD L.DECI AND RICHARD M.RYAN
The two approaches to well-beingnamely, hedonism and eudaimonismare founded on different views of human nature. The hedonic approach uses what Tooby and Cosmides (1992) referred to as the standard social science model, which considers the human organism initially to be relatively empty and thus malleable, such that it gains its meaning in accord with social and cultural teachings. In contrast, the eudaimonic approach ascribes content to human nature and works to uncover that content and to understand the conditions that facilitate versus diminish it. Still, there is believed to be substantial overlap between the experience of hedonia and eudaimonia, and research reviewed by Waterman, Schwartz, and Conti (this issue) and by Bauer, McAdams, and Pals (this issue) indicates a high level of statisti- cal covariance. The position taken by Waterman and colleagues is that, if a person experiences eudaimonic living he or she will necessarily also experience hedonic enjoyment; however, not all hedonic enjoyment is derived from eudaimonic living. Still the two are highly correlated, and most researchers agree that there will be considerable overlap (e.g., Ryan and Deci, 2001). In spite of the statistical convergence between hedonia and eudai- monia, there are very important points of divergence. Because readers of the Journal of Happiness Studies are likely to be much less familiar with the eudaimonic approach to well-being and its research tradition, we have drawn together the work of several noted researchers who use the eudaimonic idea that well-being refers to being fully functioning.
PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING AND EUDAIMONIA
The first paper in this issue is by Ryff and Singer. The research they discuss began with Ryffs (1989) model and mea- sure of psychological well-being, which falls within the eudai- monic tradition and was originally formulated to challenge the prevailing hedonistic view of well-being within psychology. In the current paper, Ryff and Singer review work of theorists dat- ing back to Aristotle that informed the development of Ryffs formulation. The reader will see that it derives not only from
HEDONIA,EUDAIMONIA AND WELL-BEING 3
Aristotles view of the highest human good involving virtue and the realization of ones potential, but also from the work of psychodynamically and humanistically oriented psychologists such as Jung (1933), Maslow (1968), Allport (1961), and Rogers (1962). Ryffs approach names six characteristics of psychologi- cal well-beingself-acceptance, personal growth, relatedness, autonomy, relationships, environmental mastery, and purpose in life. Thus, her scale of psychological well-being involves assessing these six subscales. Research by Ryff, Singer, and their colleagues has shown that higher levels of psychological well- being is associated with better neuroendocrine regulation, lower cardiovascular risk, and better immune functioning. The second paper by Waterman, Schwartz, and Conti begins with an additional discussion of the philosophical foundation of eudaimonia as a conception of well-being. They then present re- search in which they use the Personally Expressive Activities Questionnaire (PEAQ) to assess both eudaimonic and hedonic aspects of well-being, particularly as they relate to the concept of intrinsic motivation. Participants list several activities that are personally salient to them, and then they respond to six items that are intended to assess eudaimonia and six that are in- tended to assess hedonic well-being. The items related to eudai- monia are labeled Personally Expressive and include, This activity gives me my strongest feeling that this is who I really am. An example of an hedonic-enjoyment item is This activ- ity gives me my greatest pleasure.
THE CONTENT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING AND EUDAIMONIA?
There are interesting issues that come up in comparing the first two papers. Both assess well-being within the Eudaimonic tradition, yet they take very different approaches. Ryff and Singers approach is to examine the six specific contents mentioned above that are theorized to constitute psychological well-being, using each as a subscale. In contrast, Waterman and colleagues use a single scale in which they assess the extent to which a particular activity leaves one feeling fulfilled and is
4 EDWARD L.DECI AND RICHARD M.RYAN
expressive of who one truly is. There are two important differ- ences between these approaches. First, Ryff and colleagues as- sess psychological well-being as a global or individual difference variable, whereas Waterman and colleagues assess eudaimonia more narrowly in relation to particular activities. Second, the Ryff measure specifies the content that represents eudaimon- ic living (e.g., environmental mastery, positive relations, self- acceptance, etc.), whereas the Waterman measure leaves the concept content free, assessing simply whether an activity leaves one feeling alive, fulfilled, and expressive of ones true self. It seems important at this point for researchers to examine empiri- cally the relations between these two operational definitions and the correlates of each.
HAPPINESS, WELL-BEING, AND MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
There are two other points worth noting about the paper by Waterman and colleagues as it relates to the literature on well- beings two traditions. First, these authors refer to two types of happinesshedonic and eudaimonic. In other words, whereas the concept of happiness within psychology has typically been aligned with just the hedonic view, Waterman and colleagues use the concept to encompass both views, making a clear dis- tinction between the two kinds of happiness. This is primarily an issue of semantics, of how one chooses to use specific words, because Waterman et al. are making the general hedonic-eudai- monic distinction in much the same way that the other contrib- utors to this special issue are doing. Nonetheless, in order to minimize confusion, it is important to keep in mind the differ- ent ways the term happiness is used by authors in this issue and elsewhere. A second noteworthy point concerns the conceptual defini- tion of hedonic well-being used by Waterman and colleagues. In line with the work of Kraut (1979), Waterman and colleagues define hedonic well-being as the positive feelings that accom- pany getting the material objects one wants or having the action opportunities one wishes. More specifically, there is an emphasis in this definition on material objects, which is related
HEDONIA,EUDAIMONIA AND WELL-BEING 5
to Aristotles view of hedonia but is not necessarily implicit in current research on hedonia that emphasizes subjective well- being (Kahneman et al., 1999). The essence of this conceptual definition of Waterman and colleagues does not appear in their operational definition (i.e., in their measure of hedonic enjoy- ment), but it is an issue worth noting in terms of a broader understanding of the complex field of well-being.
WELL-BEING THEMES IN LIFE STORIES
The paper by Bauer, McAdams, and Pals in this issue re- views work on peoples narratives or life stories. Arguing that people create narratives to organize their experiences and relate to their social surrounds, the researchers have examined peo- ples narratives and identified themes that tend to be associated with eudaimonia. They understand eudaimonia, or the good life, to comprise pleasure, a sense of meaningfulness, and a rich psychosocial integration in a persons understanding of himself or herself. The authors report, for example, that people whose narratives are rich in intrinsic goals for personal growth, mean- ingful relationships, and community contribution (Ryan et al.,
- tend also to display psychological well-being as an indica- tor of eudaimonia. Further, they indicate that when peoples narratives concern integrative growththat is, growth involving deeper understanding and integration of new and old perspec- tivesthe people tend to display a high level of ego-develop- ment (Loevinger, 1976) and psychological well-being, especially on the dimensions of purpose in life and personal growth.
AUTONOMY AND EUDAIMONIA
A concept that seems to be closely related to eudaimonia is autonomy. As defined by Ryan and Deci (2000), autonomy refers to volition, to having the experience of choice, to endors- ing ones actions at the highest level of reflection. Ryan and Deci proposed that autonomy is one of the three fundamental and universal psychological needs that are central to self-determination theory (SDT), the other two being
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relatedness and competence. In discussions of eudaimonia in this special issue, the concept of autonomy comes up in several ways and appears in each article. It begins with Aristotles emphasizing choice and suggesting that virtue, which is central to eudaimonia, involves making the right choices. In other words, it results from choosing to act virtuouslythat is, being volitionally virtuousrather than being drawn into excesses such as accumulating material possessions. Ryff and colleagues have used the concept of autonomy as one of the six aspects of psychological wellness, defining auton- omy as self-determination, independence, and the regulation of behavior from within. Although the term autonomy as defined in self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci, 2000) involves self-determination and self-regulation, assuming those terms are interpreted as meaning a sense of volitional and con- sent, autonomy is quite different from the concept of indepen- dence. Independence means not relying on others, whereas autonomy as used in self-determination theory means acting with the experience of choice. Thus, it is quite possible to be autonomous (volitional) while relying on others rather than act- ing independently of them. Accordingly, there is only a partial intersection of the ideas of autonomy expressed in the articles by Ryff and Singer and by Ryan, Huta, and Deci. Waterman, Schwartz, and Conti do not use the term auton- omy, but they do talk repeatedly about self-determination, which they define as freely choosing, thus using a concept that is closely related to autonomy as defined by Ryan, Huta, and Deci. Although Bauer, McAdams, and Pals did not address the concept of autonomy or self-determination directly, their work drew links between eudaimonia and intrinsic aspirations. The latter concept, which comes from self-determination theory (SDT), is both conceptually and empirically related to the con- cept of autonomy or autonomous regulation. Furthermore, Bauer and colleagues reviewed research on narrative themes that relate to high levels of ego-development, which has also been shown to relate to greater autonomy (Avery and Ryan, 1988).
HEDONIA,EUDAIMONIA AND WELL-BEING 7
AUTONOMY AS THE BASIC NEED
The article by Devine, Camfield, and Gough has the concept of autonomy at its core, suggesting that autonomy isthebasic human need. They then argue that although it is often said to be a western, individualistic concept, its importance is readily observable in Bangladesh, an eastern collectivist society. In the work of this group, autonomy is considered a very broad con- cept. Whereas SDT specifies three basic needsautonomy, relatedness, and competenceDevine and colleagues essentially incorporate relatedness and competence within autonomy. For example, they suggest that autonomy can only be developed through interdependent relationships, that autonomy entails wanting to participate in a social life, and that when peoples social activities are blocked autonomy will be impaired. They further portray autonomy in a way that encompasses compe- tence, suggesting for example that a lack of sufficient under- standing of ones culture will interfere with acting autonomously within it. This view of autonomy is focused more at a sociological-eco- nomic level, whereas the SDT conception of autonomy is focused at the psychological level, thus accounting in part for the broader view of the concept in the work of Devine and col- leagues. Still, the article by Devine and colleagues concludes that autonomy is indeed a universal psychological need, although its expression can vary greatly as a function of the context within which it is being expressed. Their cross-cultural perspective, which highlighted the need for autonomy in Bangladesh, also makes the point that people in that culture often feel constrained from expressing the need for autonomy because it is not culturally endorsed as a value. This, of course, is important because it means that understand- ing the deep level of peoples universal psychological needs requires being very careful in assessing them, for people in cul- tures that do not value particular needs may not endorse those needs on a questionnaire even though the needs are essential for their own well-being.
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SDT AND EUDAIMONIA
In the final article in this special issue, Ryan and colleagues use self-determination theory as the basis for presenting a mod- el of eudaimonia. These authors, like others in this special issue, emphasize that eudaimonia concerns how one lives ones life ra- ther than the well-being outcome, per se. Of course, living well is expected to yield both the feelings of happiness and pleasure and a sense of meaning and fulfillment. But the emphasis in the Ryan et al. paper is on the processes that represent eudaimonic living and that yield well-being. From this perspective, living well involves those motives, goals, and behaviors that are satisfying of the basic psychologi- cal needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. To exam- ine this further, the article considers the pursuit and attainment of intrinsic (relative to extrinsic) life goals or aspirations, the autonomous (relative to controlled) regulation of behavior, and awareness or mindfulness as they relate to basic need satisfac- tion and eudaimonia. As well, the article addresses the condi- tions that promote intrinsic goal pursuits, autonomous regulation, and mindful engagementin short, the conditions that promote eudaimonia.
Together, the set of papers contained within this special issue makes a compelling case that the concept of eudaimonia is an important one for understanding well-being and human flour- ishing. Well-being conceptualized in terms of eudaimonia has considerable overlap with subjective well-being as viewed from a hedonic perspective, but there are very important differences as is made clear by the interesting articles of this special issue.
Allport, G.W.: 1961, Pattern and Growth in Personality Holt (Rinehart and Winston, NewYork).
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Aristotle: 1985, Nichomachean Ethics (T. Irwin, translator) (Hackett, India- napolis, IN). Avery, R.R. and R.M. Ryan: 1988,Object relations and ego development: Comparison and correlates in middle childhood, Journal of Personality 56, pp. 547569. Bauer, J.J., D.P. McAdams, and J.L. Pals: 2006, Narrative identity and eudaimonic well-being, Journal of Happiness Studies (this issue), DOI 10.1007/s10902-006-9021-6. Diener, E.: 1984,Subjective well-being, Psychological Bulletin 95, pp. 542
Jung, C.G.: 1933, Modern Man in Search of a Soul (W.S. Dell and C.F. Baynes, translators) (Harcourt, Brace and World, New York). Kahneman D., Diener E. and Schwarz N. (eds) 1999, Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, NewYork). Kraut, R.: 1979,Two conceptions of happiness, Philosophical Review 87, pp. 167196. Loevinger, J.: 1976, Ego Development (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco). Maslow, A.H.: 1968, Toward a Psychology of Being (2nd ed. Van Nostrand, New York). Rogers, C.R.: 1962,The interpersonal relationship: The core of guidance, Harvard Educational Review 32, pp. 416429. Ryan, R.M. and E.L. Deci: 2000,Self-determination theory and the facilita- tion of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being, American Psychologist 55, pp. 6878. Ryan R.M. and E.L. Deci: 2001 On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, in S. Fiske (ed.), Annual Review of Psychology (Annual Reviews Inc., Palo Alto, CA) Vol. 52, pp. 141166. Ryan, R.M., K.M. Sheldon, T. Kasser and E.L. Deci: 1996, All goals are not created equal: An organismic perspective on the nature of goals and their regulation,in P.M. Gollwitzer and J.A. Bargh (eds.), The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior (Guilford, NewYork), pp. 726. Ryff, C.D: 1989,Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57, pp. 10691081. Tooby, J. and L. Cosmides: 1992, The psychological foundations of culture,in J.H. Barkow, L. Cosmides and Tooby (eds.), The Adapted Mind: Evolu- tionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture (Oxford University Press, NewYork), pp. 19136. Waterman, A.S: 1993,Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaemonia) and hedonic enjoyment, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64, pp. 678691. Waterman, A.S., S.J. Schwartz and R. Conti: 2006, The implications of two conceptions of happiness (hedonic enjoyment and eudaimonia) for the
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understanding of intrinsic motivation, Journal of Happiness Studies (this issue), DOI 10.1007/s10902-006-9020-7.
Address for correspondence: EDWARD L. DECI University of Rochester Rochester, NY 14627 USA