Bene vivere politice: On the (Meta)biopolitics of "Happiness"

In Jussi Backman & Antonio Cimino (eds.), Biopolitics and Ancient Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 126-144 (2022)
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Abstract

This chapter approaches the question of biopolitics in ancient political thought looking not at specific political techniques but at notions of the final aim of the political community. It argues that the “happiness” (eudaimonia, beatitudo) that constitutes the greatest human good in the tradition from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas is not a “biopolitical” ideal, but rather a metabiopolitical one, consisting in a contemplative activity situated above and beyond the biological and the political. It is only with Thomas Hobbes that civic happiness becomes “biopolitically” identified with simple survival; for modernity, as Hannah Arendt puts it, mere being alive becomes the greatest human good, and happiness is understood as a subjective “quality of life.” In both models, the political realm is a means to an end. Arendt draws our attention to a neglected third alternative to both the classical/metabiopolitical and the modern/biopolitical ideals: “public happiness” consisting in political participation itself.

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Jussi M. Backman
University of Jyväskylä

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References found in this work

Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 1651 - New York: Harmondsworth, Penguin.
Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 2006 - In Aloysius Martinich, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Early Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.
Bíos: Biopolitics and Philosophy.Roberto Esposito - 2008 - Univ of Minnesota Press.

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