The Philosophy of Happiness

11705 Words May 29th, 2011 47 Pages
Chapter 1

The Philosophy of Happiness
Aristotle on Happiness Since the earliest days of Western thought philosophers have concerned themselves with the nature of happiness. One of the earliest to ask the question ‘what is happiness?’ was Aristotle, who, in a manner typical of philosophers, before providing an answer insisted on making a distinction between two different questions. His first question was what was meant by the word ‘happiness’—or rather, its ancient Greek equivalent eudaimonia. His second question was where happiness was to be found, that is to say, what is it that makes us truly happy. Reasonably enough he thought that it was futile to try to answer the second question without having given thought to the first. The
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In adult life there are things that we do only as means to an end; we go to war, for instance, in order to bring peace. Clearly these cannot, in themselves, be what makes life worth living (Aristotle, 1992). If life is to be worth living it must surely be for something that is an end in itself. One such end is pleasure. The pleasures of food and drink and sex Aristotle regards as, on their own, too brutish to be a fitting end for human life. If we combine them with aesthetic and intellectual pleasures then we find a goal that has been seriously pursued by people of significance. Others prefer a life of virtuous public action—the life of a real politician, not like the false politicians, who are only after money or power. Thirdly, there is the life of scientific contemplation, as exemplified by the Athenian philosopher Anaxagoras, who when asked why one should choose to be born rather than not replied ‘In order to admire the heavens and the order of the universe’. Having weeded out a number of other candidate lives, Aristotle settled for a short list of three: a life of pleasure, a life of politics, and a life of study. The pursuit of wealth was ruled out briskly at the start of the inquiry. Money is only as good as what it can buy. It is how someone spends his money that shows us where he really thinks happiness lies: does he spend it on luxury, for instance, or does he use it to gain political power, or give it to those
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