An Aristotelian framework for the human good

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34 Scopus citations


A robust critical literature argues that psychology is animated by powerful, but unacknowledged commitments to a culturally based vision of the human good in spite of its ideal of value neutrality. Inasmuch as such commitments seem ineliminable, it seems preferable to address questions of the good directly rather than by tacitly absorbing cultural views. This article explores the human good directly and explicitly within an Aristotelian framework to foster a critical conversation on the good life in psychology. The framework takes human flourishing as the overarching good. Flourishing consists in ongoing participation in characteristic human goods such as knowledge and belonging. Aristotle presented two distinctions in types of goods or ends. First, some ends are chosen for themselves and some are means to other ends. Following Aristotle's function argument, goods such as knowledge and belonging are chosen for themselves because they directly express key features of human nature (i.e., rationality and sociality). I term these goods constitutive because the activities constitute the end. Instrumental goods are means to other ends (e.g., money helps to provide the infrastructure for living well). Second, some goods can be pursued and possessed by individuals and some goods can only be pursued and achieved in concert with others. The latter are shared goals such as friendship and democracy. Virtues or excellences are the personal strengths that make it possible to pursue these goods. In this Aristotelian framework, there are many characteristic human goods, each of which can be pursued in many ways, indicating that there is no single correct form of the good life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-23
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012


  • Aristotle
  • Eudaimonia
  • Goods
  • Ideology
  • Virtue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Philosophy


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