What Is Happiness? Essay

962 words - 4 pages

What is happiness? People have agonized over this question for centuries. Let me start this essay by answering a somewhat easier question: what isn’t happiness? Happiness is NOT feeling good all the time. Happiness is a combination of human emotions and states of mind. Exploring this state of being has consumed the philosophical minds of the ages and will continue to do so for ages to come.

In an unofficial poll of students at State University, I found that of the fifty-eight students and one professor, males and females of several ethnic backgrounds and age groups, that I asked the question "What is happiness to you?", all of them had very different physical, intellectual, or emotional motivator for their happiness. Only the professor stated what happiness was to him. The students, ranging in age from 20 years to 45 years, all spoke of material things that would make them happy. They couldn't seem to grasp "happiness" as a concept in itself.

The questions that are asked when exploring the concept of happiness should begin with desire to know if it is a pleasure based in our basic and primitive emotions. Next, is happiness motivated by pure desire? Does a mental state of contentment produce happiness? Does happiness come from a simple, physical feeling? Maybe happiness is a combination of all of these.

According to John Stuart Mill,

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest
Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to
promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By
happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain,
and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up
by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it in-
cludes in the ideas of pain and pleasure; and to what extent this is left an open
question. But these supplementary explanations do not affect the theory of
life on which this theory of morality is grounded namely, that pleasure,
and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and that
all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other
...

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