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The Pursuit of Happiness

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain, unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. This is the “pursuit of happiness” that Thomas Jefferson personally included to the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776. Exactly “the pursuit of happiness” is a fundamental human right.

So, what do we mean by happiness? There can be found a lot of definitions of this psychological state. Many philosophers, teachers of ethics and religious reformers of antiquity tried to create some kind of “formula” of happiness, to find the recipes of its manufacture, specify the path to it, the algorithms to achieve it.

Analysis of a large number of works of scientists, philosophers give an opportunity to come to the conclusion that the pursuit of happiness is genetically inherent in every person and is an integral part of his nature. Implementation of this desire personally is given to a man as a gift of his free will.

Italian thinker of the Renaissance, Pietro Pomponazzi (1462–1525) believed that it is naturally for man to seek for happiness and avoid misfortune … Also some dictionaries provide an explanation of happiness as a feeling and a state of complete, high satisfaction.

The famous Greek philosopher Plato believed that “happiness consists of reasonable desires, common sense and safe body, good luck, good fame and wealth.”

The eminent German philosopher Immanuel Kant observed that “happiness is the satisfaction of all our inclinations” (Ricard 2007). And if to look into the past, the Greek philosophers had tried to find the basis of morality in the pursuit of happiness.

French philosopher, theologian, physicist and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), who worked at the very beginning of modern philosophy, expressed his thoughts about that in the following words: All people pursue happiness – this rule has no exceptions; all people have different means, but one goal … Happiness is an inducement of any actions of any person, even one who is going to hang himself.

Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), the great anthropologist, a representative of the “golden age” of German philosophical thought, who devoted himself to studding of human nature, argued that … where there is no pursuit of happiness, there is no desire in general and that pursuit of happiness is the main pursuit of pursuits. According to his opinion, the first duty of a man is to make himself happy. “If you are happy – said Feuerbach – you will make others happy too” (Solondz 1998).

The concept of “happiness” has multifaceted are difficult to organize content. Polish researcher V. Tatarkevich, who wrote the fundamental work “On Happiness”, identified 4 main value of this concept: 1) benevolence of fate, luck; 2) the state of intense joy; 3) possessing of the highest goods, a positive balance of life; 4) a sense of life satisfaction.

Semantic boundaries of the concept of “happiness” are extraordinarily broad and include a comprehensive, systemic solution to a variety of philosophical, religious, moral, ethical, psychological, socio-economic and other aspects of the consideration of this issue.

Happiness is the unity of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Happiness can not be understood as a complete, absolute satisfaction with life. “Our happiness – wrote Gottfried Leibniz – does not and should not consist of full satisfaction; when there is nothing else to wish, that promotes torpor of our minds. The eternal quest for new pleasures and new perfections – that is the happiness.” (Bernard 2007). The British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) also agreed with Leibniz, writing that” to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” For example, lets take the concrete achievement of money or of any material thing. A man works for it very hard, and, then, when he finally gets it, his enthusiasm lasts too little time. And, of course, then he sets a new goal, develops a new desire. And that is the point of human nature: not complacency, but, exactly the opposite: the desire to evolve. So people are never satisfied, which also means that they are never happy, and they are always in pursuit of happiness.

Some people having reached some successes in life believe that they are already quite happy and they do not need to strive for more. These people behave like ants, which, if they were endowed with mind, would think that they were happy if their nest was in order. Man is distinguished from an animal because he does not stop at achieved.

Real human happiness is contradictory by its nature. It harmonically combines the satisfaction and dissatisfaction. As the process, the happiness can be felt only through the constant change of satisfaction by dissatisfaction. If the life were a continuous chain of pleasure, and an absolute lack of displeasure, then satisfaction could not be felt as a pleasure.

So, what is happiness? This question troubled philosophers and thinkers for centuries. In today’s world, it has not lost its relevance. Happiness is individual for each person. Everyone defines the criteria according to which he can consider himself a happy man.

Man, his rights and freedoms are the supreme value. The Declaration of Independence has the eternal words: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” All people want to be happy, therefore, the desire for personal happiness is the meaning of life. It means that to be happy is the main purpose and meaning of human right. But unfortunately, the man is not always satisfied with what he has and what he has achieved; the more he gets, the more he wants. Man often seeks for what he does not have. And perhaps Bertrand Russell had it right when he said, “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

 

References:

Bernard, A. R. Happiness Is . . .: Simple Steps to a Life of Joy. 2007. p. 112. Print.
Ricard, M. Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. 2007. p. 269. Print.
Solondz, T. Happiness.1998. p. 45. Print.