Happiness is one of the most difficult terms to define. Mystical happiness has nothing to do with the happiness of a powerful person, nor with the happiness of everyday people.
In our daily life we come across different definitions of this word. Within philosophy there are also a variety of ways to approach this concept. In this article, we explain some of these philosophical approaches.
Aristotle and Metaphysical Happiness
For Aristotle, the most recognized metaphysical philosopher, happiness is man’s greatest desire and greatest ambition. He believed that we can achieve happiness through virtue. In other words, if one develops within himself the greatest virtues, he will eventually attain happiness.
For Aristotle, this is not just a tangible state of being, but rather a lifestyle. The main feature of this way of life is to constantly bring out the best in everyone.
It is also necessary to be careful and to have a good ‘daimon’, i.e. good fortune or luck, to lead a life that is full and truly happy. This is why this thesis on happiness is also called ‘eudaimonia’ or ‘eudemonism’.
Aristotle developed the philosophical foundation upon which the Christian church was subsequently built. As a result, many similarities can be found between the ideas of this great thinker and the Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Epicurus and hedonistic happiness
Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who contradicted metaphysical philosophers. Contrary to their beliefs , Epicurus did not assume that happiness originated only in the spiritual world, but that it also had a lot to do with more earthly dimensions.
Epicurus even developed a movement called Epicureanism and also had his own school called ‘The Garden’. Many interesting ideas and conclusions arose from Epicureanism.
Epicurus argued that balance and temperance are the aspects that create space for happiness. This idea is well summed up in one of his most famous sayings: “He who is not satisfied with a little is satisfied with nothing.”
Epicurus believed that love had little to do with happiness and that friendship, on the other hand, was much more important. He also insisted that one should not work so that he can earn money to buy goods, but that he should work for the love of the work.
Nietzsche and the Critique of Happiness
According to Nietzsche, to lead a peaceful existence without worries is the desire of the mediocre person who gives no greater meaning to life.
Nietzsche disagreed with the idea that “happiness” can be an ongoing state of mind. He believed that happiness is ephemeral, a fleeting state that can come to an end at any time.
Nietzsche described happiness as an ‘ideal state of laziness’. In other words: a state in which you have no worries and problems.
Contrary to this thought, Nietzsche believed that contentment can only be found through vital strength and fighting spirit that can overcome all obstacles that limit freedom and assertiveness.
Being happy means being able to prove this vital force by overcoming adversity and inventing original ways to live your life.
José Ortega y Gasset and happiness as convergence
This Spanish philosopher was convinced that a state of contentment can only be found when the ‘projected life’ and the ‘actual life’ correspond. In other words, when the path of what we want to be and the path of what we really are are convergent.
In his works he writes the following:
According to Ortega y Gasset, all people have the potential and desire to be happy. This means that everyone decides for themselves what their reality looks like and what will make them happy. If a person is really able to realize this reality, then he will be happy.
Slavoj Žižek and happiness as a paradox
This philosopher argues that being truly happy is a matter of opinion and not a matter of truth. For him, satisfaction and contentment are the product of capitalist values that indirectly promise eternal satisfaction through consumption.
In humans, however, the feeling of dissatisfaction dominates, because in reality they do not know what they want.
Everyone believes that when he achieves something (buy something, improve his social status, achieve something, etc.), he will be happy, when in reality we unconsciously just want to achieve something new again, leaving us unsatisfied forever .
What does happiness mean to you?