Eudaimonia Suite

by Peter Saint-Andre


On thinking further about my lifelong philosophy project, I've come to see it as a six-part suite on the theme of eudaimonia. Just I have likened my set of Yes arrangements for solo electric bass to a Bach Cello Suite, so the six books I'm writing on the philosophy of happiness might comprise a kind of suite:

  1. The Tao of Roark is a prelude in several senses: extravagant, improvisatory, fantastical even, and redolent of my intellectually intemperate youth under the influence of Ayn Rand.

  2. Songs of Zarathustra simply must be an allemande: a serious, German dance - yet also, I hope, tinged with some of the Mediterranean lightness that Nietzsche so treasured.

  3. My book on Aristotle (A Worthy Life) will have the character of a courante: majestic and magisterial despite its brevity, it will likely be a short commentary on key themes from Aristotelian ethics (in the tradition of Averroes, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas, albeit on a smaller, more intimate scale).

  4. From that high plane we will turn to a thinker who is in many ways the opposite of Aristotle: Thoreau. Here we proceed at a leisurely, loping pace in the sarabande, entitled The Upland Farm. (Perhaps four "seasonal" essays sprinkled with short poems, as Thoreau liked to do?)

  5. Next the bourrée: Letters on Happiness: An Epicurean Dialogue. We find a kind of sober simplicity here, providing a counterpoint to Nietzsche's Dionysian pessimism.

  6. Finally a dancing gigue at the end, probably a set of aphorisms, poems, and parables inspired by the Old Master Lao Tzu. A fitting way to finish the suite, especially given our start with Rand.

I like this arrangement quite a bit, since the three pairs of contrasting thinkers (Rand and Lao Tzu, Nietzsche and Epicurus, Aristotle and Thoreau) are arrayed in a mirror image through the first and last, second and fifth, and third and fourth movements.

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