Internal Motivation, Instrumental Motivation, And Eudaimonia

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Published In

Handbook Of Eudaimonic Well-Being


There is a long history of thought and research in the social sciences that views human beings as engaged in entirely instrumental activities in pursuit of goals that typically give them pleasure, and presumably, happiness. This view can be contrasted with Aristotle’s “eudaimonic” view that real happiness comes from the pursuit and achievement of excellence, with excellence understood as achieving a telos specific to and appropriate to each activity. In this chapter, we argue for Aristotle’s view in distinguishing instrumental from internal motives. The pursuit of consequences that bear an intimate relation to the activities themselves (internal motives), while often not pleasurable, yields lasting effects on well-being that instrumental consequences typically do not. We discuss both laboratory research and field studies, including a longitudinal study of West Point cadets, in support of our arguments. We suggest that the often-made distinction between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivation fails to capture adequately the complexity of the relations between the things people do and their reasons for doing them.


happiness, wellbeing, eudaimonia, Aristotle, internal motivation

Published By

Springer International Publishing


J. Vittersø