Happy Thoughts by talyarden
April 24, 2010, 10:34 am
Filed under: Happiness | Tags: ,

“Love is the seed of happiness.” from the Alchemy of Happiness by Al-Ghazali (1058–1111), a Muslim Sufi thinker.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, written in 350 B.C.E., Aristotle says that happiness is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake. He observes that people want riches, honor, health, etc. not only for their own sake but so that they can be happy. He says that eudaimonia, the greek word for “happiness”, is an activity rather than an emotion or a state of being.

“Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.” William Bennett (former Drug Czar under the first President Bush).  This fits in with something that ethicists call the Pleasure Paradox – see or

“We were not hoping for happiness – And yet we were not prepared for unhappiness.” from Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate.

So it seems like the pursuit of happiness, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as one of our unalienable rights, may be an oxymoron.  It’s there because Jefferson and Franklin thought it better and more noble than the pursuit of property.  The pursuit of happiness wasn’t meant to be a selfish act but rather the pursuit of happiness for the greater community, for society as a whole.  But if happiness can’t be had by pursuing it according to the Pleasure Paradox then how do we achieve it?  Are we suppose to pursue wealth, security, health instead because they may lead us to happiness?It seems like that may not work either.  The paradox suggests that it’s the act of pursuit that is the problem, that we can gain happiness through the most prosaic activities in life.  Perhaps through self-less action.

Posted by Tal Yarden


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