Plato and Augustine’s Conceptions of Happiness Essay

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Both Plato and Augustine offer unusual conceptions of what one must acquire to live a truly happy life. While the conventional view of happiness normally pertains to wealth, financial stability, and material possessions, Plato and Augustine suggest that true happiness is rooted in something independent of objects or people. Though dissimilar in their notions of that actual root, each respective philosophy views the attaining of that happiness as a path, a direction. Plato’s philosophy revolves around the attainment of eternal knowledge and achieving a metaphysical balance. Augustine also emphasizes one’s knowing the eternal, though his focus is upon living in humility before God. Both assert that human beings possess a natural desire…show more content…
This can be compared to present-day events in which people think themselves happy at having watched a wrestling match or basketball game. It satiates the senses alone, the visible realm, whereas knowledge is something eternal that is independent of other people. Happiness resides, therein, in something interminable. Augustine also emphasizes knowing happiness in eternal things rather than in what is grounded in phsycial senses, or the corporeal. This is illustrated through his encounter with a drunken beggar in Confessions: “For what he had gained with a few coins...that is the cheerfulness of temporal felicity (Augustine 97).” The wine will run out; that euphoric drunkenness will eventually die and he will again be unhappy. The importance of humility is also a factor in his encounter: “True joy he had not, but my quest to fulfill my ambitions was much falser...He had acquired wine by wishing good luck to passers-by, whereas I sought an arrogant success by telling lies (98).” He realizes the beggar is not truly happy, however views the beggar’s state as even superior to his own in that the beggar is not living in perpetual anxiety. This idea of humility becomes most important to Augustine’s philosophy of happiness. Happiness, he asserts, is knowing God the creator, something independent of the corporeal. Both Augustine and the
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