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Philosophy and Principles

Dr Durkin sees himself as a ‘Neo-Arisotelian’, a term that refers to the thinking style of the Greek philosopher Aristotle and that is applied in today’s world.

“The good life, Aristotle argued, is the life that develops our nature to its fullest potential, so that it achieves flourishing or eudaimonia.”[1]

Central to eudaimonia is the ‘daimon’ or authentic self, sometimes written as eudemonia. Eudemonic people are motivated to strive and apply themselves to do the best job possible based on their own insight, ability and vision to live ‘the good life’ with an expectation that society will benefit from their efforts. Pain and pleasure are a necessary and inevitable part of engaging with difficulties and ultimately contribute to achievement and satisfaction with whatever the efforts bring. The alternative way of thinking, Aristotle noted, was hedonia, or living ‘the good life’ according to the pleasure principle by manipulating emotions.

Dr Durkin has published on the relationship between eudemonia and hedonia regarding posttraumatic growth[2]. As eudemonia was found to be more strongly linked (than hedonia) to posttraumatic growth it is supposed that effortful, engaged people will more likely grow following a traumatic experience, moreso than those seeking to reduce their pain or seek pleasure.

One related matter includes the question of how posttraumatic stress should best be addressed. Prof. Stephen Joseph is to be credited with this idea but if growth is one possible outcome from trauma and PTSD is another, what treatment should be recommended? The eudemonic choice would likely urge engagement and effortful rumination to overcome the trauma’s unwanted consequences. The hedonic choice could be a therapy designed to make us feel better, or pills to sedate us, to deal with them. If so then the therapies and medications promoted by NICE and other experts in PTSD are not likely to see us grow. An approach that encourages confronting what has happened and persisting with the task even if it gets painful, seems more likely to help us grow psychologically.


[2] Durkin & Joseph (2009) Growth following adversity and its relation with subjective well-being and psychological well-being. Journal of Loss and Trauma. 14: (3) 228-234.

Dr John Durkin