So, the Charles Koch Foundation has funded a $3.7 million Eudaimonia Institute at Wake Forest. For those Billionaire Clients in Wealth Bondage who do not read Greek, eudaimonia is Aristotle's word for a life well lived, for human flourishing, a good life in a just community. Aristotle was the Tutor (I hasten to point out) to Alexander, a prince in Macedonia, who went on to become Alexander The Great. Alexander is said to have carried Aristotle's work, including the Ethics, The Politics, and Poetics (on tragedy) as Alexander conquered the world. In Plutarch's Life of Alexander, Tutors don't come into it much, but Trusted Advisors do and so do Physicians. When Aristotle got good advice he did not like, from doctors and subordinates, he, in one case, speared the counselor, and in a second had him crucified. His doctors wondered if they would survive their treating him. Of course this is a parable about human flourishing under conditions of great power disparity, isn't it? Is it the kind of input Charles Koch wants from Jim Otteson, a professor of political economy at Wake Forest U who heads up the Eudaimonia Institute? I doubt it. I can only add that there is an unsubstantiated 2,000 year old rumor that Aristotle, Alexander's original Morals Tutor, got so fed up with his protégé's lust for power, conquest, glory and luxury, that he sent a packet of poison in a donkey's hoof, that was sprinkled by a Macedonian Patriot into the great man's cup, which may have been why Alexander died young.
You could draw similar morals from Aristotle on Tragedy. To achieve happiness... Do you know that story? How the city was sick and the cure was the conviction of the King himself for high crimes and misdemeanors, so that the King became the sacrifice, scapegoat, or pariah, the pharmakos, whose disgrace and suffering saved the town? At the end of the cycle, Oedipus blinds himself, and wanders out of the city. "When I had eyes I could not see, now I am blind and can see. Call me happy." Happy meaning it is a happy ending, a just and fair ending, since with the sacrifice of the king, the city is healed of the plague the king's crimes caused. And happy too because the king finally sees what kind of person he really is. He is redeemed because in his self-abasement he affirms the moral order by which he has finally and appropriately been crushed.
When Wake Forest convenes the conference, as I hope they will, on Philanthropy and the Polis, I will go naked, carrying a pottery lamp, in search of the honest man, not that I will have been invited, and not that I am particularly honest. But that lamp in broad daylight is just another old joke, drawn from Diogenes, whose conversation about eudaimonia with Alexander the Great is legendary. This Dumpster at the intersection of Wealth and Bondage is my homage to that great man's (Diogenes's) barrel. I even have a copy of The Ethics in here, if you want to thumb through it while I take a leak.