Seminar VII : 30th March 1960 : p193 : Comments on εὐδαιμονία : Reading group of 1st February 2014

by Nicholas Stylianou on February 1, 2014

Quote: … – the only commandment is henceforth “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

The whole thing is articulated as such in the Gospel, and it is there that we will continue on our way. The two notions, the death of God and the love of one’s neighbour, are historically linked; and one cannot overlook that fact unless one attributes to everything that occurred in history in the Judeo-Christian tradition as constitutionally just a matter of chance.

I am aware of the fact that the message of the believers is that there is a resurrection in the afterlife, but that’s simply a promise. That’s the space through which we have to make our way. It is thus appropriate if we stop in this pass, in this narrow passage where Freud himself stops and retreats in understandable horror. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” is a commandment that seems inhuman to him (See [i] for references).

Everything he finds objectional is summed up in this phrase. As the examples he cites confirm, it is in the name of the most legitimate εὐδαιμονία on all levels that he stops and rightly acknowledges, when he reflects on the commandment’s meaning, the extent to which the historical spectacle of a humanity that chose it as its ideal is quite unconvincing, when that ideal is measured against actual accomplishments.

Commentary:

Regarding the Greek word εὐδαιμονία (eudaimonia) that we encountered in Lacan’s Seminar VII, Chapter 15 (March 30th 1960), Section 1 (page 193), we have (from http://el.wikiquote.org/wiki/εὐδαιμονία ):

Etymology

From εὐ- (eu-, “good”) + δαίμων (daimōn, “spirit, godling, demon”) + -ία (-ia, “feminine abstract substantive”)

Noun:

εὐδαιμονία • (eudaimonia) – happiness, well-being

The following is from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=demon :

c.1200, from Latin daemon “spirit,” from Greek daimon “deity, divine power; lesser god; guiding spirit, tutelary deity” (sometimes including souls of the dead); “one’s genius, lot, or fortune;” from PIE *dai-mon- “divider, provider” (of fortunes or destinies), from root *da- “to divide” (see tide (n.)).

Used (with daimonion) in Christian Greek translations and Vulgate for “god of the heathen” and “unclean spirit.” Jewish authors earlier had employed the Greek word in this sense, using it to render shedim “lords, idols” in the Septuagint, and Matt. viii:31 has daimones, translated as deofol in Old English, feend or deuil in Middle English. Another Old English word for this was hellcniht, literally “hell-knight.”

The original mythological sense is sometimes written daemon for purposes of distinction. The Demon of Socrates was a daimonion, a “divine principle or inward oracle.” His accusers, and later the Church Fathers, however, represented this otherwise. The Demon Star (1895) is Algol

There is also a connection specifically to Aristotelian ethics that associates the term with “human flourishing” and “the highest human good”, which perhaps makes sense with Lacan’s use “the most legitimate εὐδαιμονία” in the context of the commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”… the following is from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudaimonia :

Eudaimonia (Greek: ευδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯monía]), sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia /juːdɨˈmoʊniə/, is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation.[1] Etymologically, it consists of the words “eu” (“good”) and “daimōn” (“spirit”). It is a central concept in Aristotelian ethics and political philosophy, along with the terms “aretē“, most often translated as “virtue” or “excellence”, and “phronesis“, often translated as “practical or ethical wisdom”.[2] In Aristotle’s works, eudaimonia was (based on older Greek tradition) used as the term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider (and also experience) what it really is, and how it can be achieved.


[i] Section V & VIII of Civilisation and its Discontents : 1930 : Sigmund Freud [p3465, 3466 & 3489] & Letter from Sigmund Freud to Albert Einstein of September, 1932 [p3678]

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