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The philosophy of happiness is the philosophical concern with the existence, nature, and attainment of happiness. Some philosophers believe happiness can be understood as the moral goal of life or as an aspect of chance; indeed, in most European languages the term happiness is synonymous with luck.Thus, philosophers usually explicate on happiness as either a state of mind, or a life that goes well for the person leading it. Given the pragmatic concern for the attainment of happiness, research in psychology has guided many modern day philosophers in developing their theories.
Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) is known as the ‘laughing philosopher’ because of his emphasis on the value of ‘cheerfulness’.
|“||We have proved that justice in itself is the best thing for the soul itself, and that the soul ought to do justice...||”|
|— Plato, The Republic|
Plato (c. 428 – c. 347 BCE), using Socrates (c. 470 – 399 BCE) as the main character in his philosophical dialogues, outlined the requirements for happiness in The Republic.
In The Republic , Plato asserts that those who are moral are the only ones who may be truly happy. Thus, one must understand the cardinal virtues, particularly justice. Through the thought experiment of the Ring of Gyges, Plato comes to the conclusion that one who abuses power enslaves himself to his appetites, while the man who chooses not to remains rationally in control of himself, and therefore is happy.
He also sees a type of happiness stemming from social justice through fulfilling one's social function; since this duty forms happiness, other typically seen sources of happiness – such as leisure, wealth, and pleasure – are deemed lesser, if not completely false, forms of happiness.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) was considered an ancient Greek scholar in the disciplines of ethics, metaphysics, biology and botany, amongst others.Aristotle described eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία) as the goal of human thought and action. Eudaimonia is often translated to mean happiness, but some scholars contend that "human flourishing" may be a more accurate translation. More specifically, eudaimonia ( arete , Greek: ἀρετή) refers to an inherently positive and divine state of being in which humanity can actively strive for and achieve. Given that this state is the most positive state for a human to be in, it is often simplified to mean happiness. However, Aristotle’s use of the term in Nicomachiean Ethics extends beyond the general sense of happiness.
Within the Nicomachean Ethics , Aristotle points to the fact that many aims are really only intermediate aims, and are desired only because they make the achievement of higher aims possible.Therefore, things such as wealth, intelligence, and courage are valued only in relation to other things, while eudaimonia is the only thing valuable in isolation.
Aristotle regarded virtue as necessary for a person to be happy and held that without virtue the most that may be attained is contentment. For Aristotle, achieving virtue involves asking the question “how should I be” rather than “what should I do.” A fully virtuous person is described as achieving eudaimonia, and therefore would be undeniably happy. The acquisition of virtue is the main consideration for Aristotelian Virtue Ethics.Aristotle has been criticized for failing to show that virtue is necessary in the way he claims it to be, and he does not address this moral skepticism.
Antisthenes (c. 445 – c. 365 BCE), often regarded as the founder of Cynicism, advocated an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Xenophon testifies that Antisthenes had praised the joy that sprang "from out of one's soul,"and Diogenes Laërtius relates that Antisthenes was fond of saying: "I would rather go mad than feel pleasure." He maintained that virtue was sufficient in itself to ensure happiness, only needing the strength of a Socrates.
He, along with all following Cynics, rejected any conventional notions of happiness involving money, power, and fame, to lead entirely virtuous, and thus happy, lives.Thus, happiness can be gained through rigorous training (askesis, Greek: ἄσκησις) and by living in a way which was natural for humans, rejecting all conventional desires, preferring a simple life free from all possessions.
Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412 – c. 323 BCE) is most frequently seen as the perfect embodiment of the philosophy. The Stoics themselves saw him as one of the few, if not only, who have had achieved the state of sage.
|“||As a consequence the sage, even if he has his troubles, will nonetheless be happy, even if few pleasures accrue to him.||”|
|— Diogenes Laërtius on Anniceris|
The Cyrenaics were a school of philosophy established by Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435 – c. 356 BCE). The school asserted that the only good is positive pleasure, and pain is the only evil. They posit that all feeling is momentary so all past and future pleasure have no real existence for an individual, and that among present pleasures there is no distinction of kind.Claudius Aelianus, in his Historical Miscellany, writes about Aristippus:
"He recommended that one should concrete on the present day, and indeed on the very part of it in which one is acting and thinking. For only the present, he said, truly belongs to us, and not what has passed by or what we are anticipating: for the one is gone and done with, and it is uncertain whether the other will come to be"
Some immediate pleasures can create more than their equivalent of pain. The wise person should be in control of pleasures rather than be enslaved to them, otherwise pain will result, and this requires judgement to evaluate the different pleasures of life.
Pyrrhonism was founded by Pyrrho (c. 360 – c. 270 BCE), and was the first Western school of philosophical skepticism. The goal of Pyrrhonist practice is to attain the state of ataraxia (ataraxia, Greek: ἀταραξία) -- freedom from perturbation. Pyrrho identified that what prevented people from attaining ataraxia was their beliefs in non-evident matters, i.e., holding dogmas. To free people from belief the ancient Pyrrhonists developed a variety of skeptical arguments.
|“||Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.||”|
Epicureanism was founded by Epicurus (c. 341 – c. 270 BCE). The goal of his philosophy was to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia, Greek: ἀταραξία) and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia, Greek: ἀπονία). Toward these ends, Epicurus recommended an ascetic lifestyle, noble friendship, and the avoidance of politics.
One aid to achieving happiness is the tetrapharmakos or the four-fold cure:
"Do not fear god,
Do not worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure."
( Philodemus, Herculaneum Papyrus, 1005, 4.9–14).
|“||If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you were bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, but satisfied to live now according to nature, speaking heroic truth in every word that you utter, you will live happy. And there is no man able to prevent this.||”|
|— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations|
Stoicism was a school of philosophy established by Zeno of Citium (c. 334 – c. 262 BCE). While Zeno was syncretic in thought, his primary influence were the Cynics, with Crates of Thebes (c. 365 – c. 285 BCE) as his mentor. Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics that provides a system of logic and views about the natural world.Modern use of the term stoic refers to an individual who feels indifferent to experiences of the world, or represses feelings in general. Given stoicism’s emphasis on feeling indifferent to negativity, it is seen as a path to achieving happiness.
Stoics believe that "virtue is sufficient for happiness".One who has attained this sense of virtue would become a sage. In the words of Epictetus, this sage would be "sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy."
The Stoics therefore spent their time trying to attain virtue. This would only be achieved if one was to dedicate their life studying Stoic logic, Stoic physics, and Stoic ethics. Stoics describe themselves as “living in agreement with nature.” Certain schools of stoicism refer to Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia as the goal of practicing stoic philosophy.
The School of the Sextii was founded by Quintus Sextius the Elder (fl. 50 BCE). It characterized itself mainly as a philosophical-medical school, blending Pythagorean, Platonic, Cynic, and Stoic elements together.They argued that to achieve happiness, one ought to be vegetarian, have nightly examinations of conscience, and avoid both consumerism and politics, and believe that an elusive incorporeal power pervades the body.
|“||Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.||”|
|— St. Augustine, Confessions .|
|“||The happy life is joy based on the truth. This is joy grounded in you, O God, who are the truth.||”|
|— St. Augustine, Confessions .|
St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD) was an early Christian theologian and philosopherwhose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy.
For St. Augustine, all human actions revolve around love, and the primary problem humans face is the misplacing of love.Only in God can one find happiness, as He is source of happiness. Since humanity was brought forth from God, but has since fallen, one's soul dimly remembers the happiness from when one was with God. Thus, if one orients themselves toward the love of God, all other loves will become properly ordered. In this manner, St. Augustine follows the Neoplatonic tradition in asserting that happiness lays in the contemplation of the purely intelligible realm.
St. Augustine deals with the concept of happiness directly in his treatises De beata vita and Contra Academicos.
|“||Mortal creatures have one overall concern. This they work at by toiling over a whole range of pursuits, advancing on different paths, but striving to attain the one goal of happiness.||”|
|— Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy .|
Boethius (c. 480–524 AD) was a philosopher, most famous for writing The Consolation of Philosophy . The work has been described as having had the single most important influence on the Christianity of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance and as the last great work of the Classical Period.The book describes many themes, but among them he discusses how happiness can be attainable despite changing fortune, while considering the nature of happiness and God.
He posits that happiness is acquired by attaining the perfect good, and that perfect good is God.He then concludes that as God ruled the universe through Love, prayer to God and the application of Love would lead to true happiness.
Avicenna (c. 980–1037), also known as 'Ibn-Sina', was polymath and jurist; he is regarded as one of the most significant thinkers in the Islamic Golden Age.According to him, happiness is the aim of humans, and that real happiness is pure and free from worldly interest. Ultimately, happiness is reached through the conjunction of the human intellect with the separate active intellect.
Al-Ghazali (c. 1058–1111) was a Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic of Persian descent. : كيمياى سعادت). In the work, he emphasizes the importance of observing the ritual requirements of Islam, the actions that would lead to salvation, and the avoidance of sin. Only by exercising the human faculty of reason - a God-given ability - can one transform the soul from worldliness to complete devotion to God, the ultimate happiness.Produced near the end of his life, al-Ghazali wrote The Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya-yi Sa'ādat, (Persian
According to Al-Ghazali, there are four main constituents of happiness: self-knowledge, knowledge of God, knowledge of this world as it really is, and the knowledge of the next world as it really is.
Maimonides (c. 1135-1204) was a Jewish philosopher and astronomer,who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars and physicians. He writes that happiness is ultimately and essentially intellectual.
|“||God is happiness by His Essence: for He is happy not by acquisition or participation of something else, but by His Essence.||”|
|— St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica|
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274 AD) was a philosopher and theologian, who became a Doctor of the Church in 1323.His system syncretized Aristotelianism and Catholic theology within his Summa Theologica . The first part of the second part is divided into 114 articles, the first five deal explicitly with the happiness of humans. He states that happiness is achieved by cultivating several intellectual and moral virtues, which enable us to understand the nature of happiness and motivate us to seek it in a reliable and consistent way. Yet, one will be unable to find the greatest happiness in this life, because final happiness consists in a supernatural union with God. As such, man's happiness does not consist of wealth, status, pleasure, or in any created good at all. Most goods do not have a necessary connection to happiness, since the ultimate object of man's will, can only be found in God, who is the source of all good.
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was a French philosopher. Influenced by Aristotelianism and Christianity, alongside the conviction of the separation of public and private spheres of life, Montaigne writes that happiness is a subjective state of mind and that satisfaction differs from person to person.He continues by acknowledging that one must be allowed a private sphere of life to realize those particular attempts of happiness without the interference of society.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.
His particular brand of utilitarianism indicated that the most moral action is that which causes the highest amount of utility, where defined utility as the aggregate pleasure after deducting suffering of all involved in any action. Happiness, therefore, is the experience of pleasure and the lack of pain.Actions which do not promote the greatest happiness is morally wrong - such as ascetic sacrifice. This manner of thinking permits the possibility of a calculator to measure happiness and moral value.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher. His philosophy express that egotistical acts are those that are guided by self-interest, desire for pleasure or happiness, whereas only compassion can be a moral act.
Schopenhauer explains happiness in terms of a wish that is satisfied, which in turn gives rise to a new wish. And the absence of satisfaction is suffering, which results in an empty longing. He also links happiness with the movement of time, as we feel happy when time moves faster and feel sad when time slows down.
Władysław Tatarkiewicz (1886-1980) was a Polish philosopher, historian of philosophy, historian of art, esthetician, and ethicist.
For Tatarkiewicz, happiness is a fundamental ethical category.
Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) was a German-American philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory.
In his 1937 essay 'The Affirmative Character of Culture,' he suggests culture develops tension within the structure of society, and in that tension can challenge the current social order. If it separates itself from the everyday world, the demand for happiness will cease to be external, and begin to become an object of spiritual contemplation.
In the One-Dimensional Man , his criticism of consumerism suggests that the current system is one that claims to be democratic, but is authoritarian in character, as only a few individuals dictate the perceptions of freedom by only allowing certain choices of happiness to be available for purchase.He further suggests that the conception that 'happiness can be bought' is one that is psychologically damaging.
|“||It is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to 'be happy.' But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy'.||”|
|— Viktor Frankl|
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and founder of logotherapy. His philosophy revolved around the emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self;only if one encounters those questions can one be happy.
Robert Nozick (1938-2002) was an American philosopherand professor at Harvard University. He is best known for his political philosophy, but he proposed two thought experiments directly tied to issues on Philosophy of Happiness.
In his 1974 book, Anarchy, State, Utopia , he proposed a thought experiment where one is given the option to enter a machine that would give the maximum amount of unending hedonistic pleasure for the entirety of one's life. The machine described in his thought experiment is often described as the "Experience Machine." The machine works by giving the participant connected to it the sensation of any experience they desired and is said to produce sensations that are indistinguishable from real life experiences.
Nozick outlined the “utility monster” thought experiment as an attempted criticism to utilitarianism. Utilitarian ethics provides guidance for acting morally, but also to maximizing happiness. The utility monster is a hypothetical being that generates extreme amount of theoretical pleasure units compared to the average person. Consider a situation such as the utility monster receiving fifty units of pleasure from eating a cake versus forty other people receiving only one unit of pleasure per cake eaten. Although each individual receives the same treatment or good, the utility monster somehow generates more than all the other people combined. Given many utilitarian commitments to maximizing utility related to pleasure, the thought experiment is meant to force utilitarians to commit themselves to feeding the utility monster instead of a mass of other people, despite our general intuitions insisting otherwise. The criticism essentially comes in the form of a reductio ad absurdum criticism by showing that utilitarians adopt a view that is absurd to our moral intuitions, specifically that we should consider the utility monster with much more regard than a number of other people.
Happiness research is the quantitative and theoretical study of happiness, positive and negative affect, well-being, quality of life, life satisfaction and related concepts. It is especially influenced by psychologists, but also sociologists and economists have contributed. The tracking of Gross National Happiness or the satisfaction of life grow increasingly popular as the economics of happiness challenges traditional economic aims.
Richard Layard has been very influential in this area. He has shown that mental illness is the main cause of unhappiness.Other, more influential researchers are Ed Diener, Ruut Veenhoven and Daniel Kahneman.
Sonja Lyubomirsky asserted in her 2007 book, The How of Happiness, that happiness is 50 percent genetically determined (based on twin studies),10 percent circumstantial, and 40 percent subject to self-control. Lyubomirsky suggests a twelve-point program to maximize the final 40 percent.
Not all cultures seek to maximise happiness,and some cultures are averse to happiness. Those not seeking to maximize happiness are in contrast to the moral theory of utilitarianism which states our ethical obligation is to maximize the net amount of happiness/pleasure in the world, considering all moral agents with equal regard.
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism, a highly influential school of philosophy. He was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. Influenced by Democritus, Aristippus, Pyrrho, and possibly the Cynics, he turned against the Platonism of his day and established his own school, known as "the Garden", in Athens. Epicurus and his followers were known for eating simple meals and discussing a wide range of philosophical subjects. He openly allowed women to join the school as a matter of policy. Epicurus is said to have originally written over 300 works on various subjects, but the vast majority of these writings have been lost. Only three letters written by him—the letters to Menoeceus, Pythocles, and Herodotus—and two collections of quotes—the Principle Doctrines and the Vatican Sayings—have survived intact, along with a few fragments of his other writings. Most knowledge of his teachings comes from later authors, particularly the biographer Diogenes Laërtius, the Epicurean Roman poet Lucretius and the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus, and with hostile but largely accurate accounts by the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and the statesman and Academic Skeptic Cicero.
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues seeking pleasure and avoiding suffering are the only components of well-being. Ethical hedonism is the view that combines hedonism with welfarist ethics, which claim that what we should do depends exclusively on what affects the well-being individuals have. Ethical hedonists would defend either increasing pleasure and reducing suffering for all beings capable of experiencing them, or just reducing suffering in the case of negative consequentialism. According to negative utilitarianism, only the minimization of suffering would matter. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by Aristippus of Cyrene, a student of Socrates. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.
Utilitarianism is a family of consequentialist ethical theories that promotes actions that maximize happiness and well-being for the affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit different characterizations, the basic idea behind all of them is to in some sense maximize utility, which is often defined in terms of well-being or related concepts. For instance, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as "that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness...[or] to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered." Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism, which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong. Unlike other forms of consequentialism, such as egoism and altruism, utilitarianism considers the interests of all humans equally.
Zeno of Citium was a Hellenistic philosopher of Phoenician origin from Citium, Cyprus. Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BC. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of Virtue in accordance with Nature. It proved very popular, and flourished as one of the major schools of philosophy from the Hellenistic period through to the Roman era.
Chrysippus of Soli was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was a native of Soli, Cilicia, but moved to Athens as a young man, where he became a pupil of Cleanthes in the Stoic school. When Cleanthes died, around 230 BC, Chrysippus became the third head of the school. A prolific writer, Chrysippus expanded the fundamental doctrines of Zeno of Citium, the founder of the school, which earned him the title of Second Founder of Stoicism.
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism. Later its main opponent became Stoicism.
Antisthenes was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers regarded him as the founder of Cynic philosophy.
Eudaimonia, sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing or prosperity" and "blessedness" have been proposed as more accurate translations.
Ataraxia is a Greek term first used in Ancient Greek philosophy by Pyrrho and subsequently Epicurus and the Stoics for a lucid state of robust equanimity characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry. In non-philosophical usage, the term was used to describe the ideal mental state for soldiers entering battle.
Hedone was the personification and goddess of pleasure, enjoyment, and delight. Hedone, also known as Voluptas in Roman mythology, is the daughter born from the union of the Greek gods Eros (Cupid) and Psyche in the realm of the immortals. She was associated more specifically with sensual pleasure. Her opposites were the Algos, personifications of pain.
Virtue ethics are normative ethical theories which emphasize virtues of mind, character and sense of honesty. Virtue ethicists discuss the nature and definition of virtues and other related problems that focus on the consequences of action. These include how virtues are acquired, how they are applied in various real life contexts, and whether they are rooted in a universal human nature or in a plurality of cultures.
Aristo of Chios was a Stoic philosopher and colleague of Zeno of Citium. He outlined a system of Stoic philosophy that was, in many ways, closer to earlier Cynic philosophy. He rejected the logical and physical sides of philosophy endorsed by Zeno and emphasized ethics. Although agreeing with Zeno that Virtue was the supreme good, he rejected the idea that morally indifferent things such as health and wealth could be ranked according to whether they are naturally preferred. An important philosopher in his day, his views were eventually marginalized by Zeno's successors.
Aristotle first used the term ethics to name a field of study developed by his predecessors Socrates and Plato. In philosophy, ethics is the attempt to offer a rational response to the question of how humans should best live. Aristotle regarded ethics and politics as two related but separate fields of study, since ethics examines the good of the individual, while politics examines the good of the City-State.
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy and Middle Eastern philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.
This page is a list of topics in ancient philosophy.
Cynicism is a school of thought of ancient Greek philosophy as practiced by the Cynics. For the Cynics, the purpose of life is to live in virtue, in agreement with nature. As reasoning creatures, people can gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which is natural for themselves, rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, and fame. Instead, they were to lead a simple life free from all possessions.
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy which was founded by Zeno of Citium, in Athens, in the early 3rd century BC. Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.
A sage, in classical philosophy, is someone who has attained wisdom. The term has also been used interchangeably with a 'good person', and a 'virtuous person'. Among the earliest accounts of the sage begin with Empedocles' Sphairos. Horace describes the Sphairos as "Completely within itself, well-rounded and spherical, so that nothing extraneous can adhere to it, because of its smooth and polished surface." Alternatively, the sage is one who lives "according to an ideal which transcends the everyday."
Ethics is the branch of philosophy that examines right and wrong moral behavior, moral concepts and moral language. Various ethical theories pose various answers to the question "What is the greatest good?" and elaborate a complete set of proper behaviors for individuals and groups. Ethical theories are closely related to forms of life in various social orders.
The School of the Sextii was a Roman school of philosophy. It arose around 50 BC, founded by Quintus Sextius the Elder, and later promulgated by his son, Sextius Niger. The school was of small importance and soon became extinct, lasting only until around 19 AD, due to the banishment of foreign cults. It was a philosophy in the Classical sense — a way of life; it emphasized asceticism and moral training. It characterized itself mainly as a philosophical-medical school, blending Pythagorean, Platonic, Cynic, and Stoic elements together. From the school, there are few primary sources, and secondary literature is almost non-existent.