HAPPINESS BASED ON VIRTUE DOES NOT SEEM ENTHRALLING.
Thomas Jefferson sought virtue based happiness. This may have been what he meant when he wrote the Declaration of Independence and the need for the pursuit of happiness.
Jefferson’s incredibly extensive education, much of it self-taught, appears to have been included the writings of John Lock, the Utilitarian. Jefferson was also capable in Latin and Greek, so we can assume from this that he was influenced by Aristotle. From this we have the entire concept that the pursuit of happiness endorses the Greek approach of Eudemonia. This has been interpreted to mean happiness, but literally means good guardian spirit. Aristotle’s concept of happiness meant a life well led. Just as you can’t say that an acorn is a tree, one has to look at one’s entire life to determine its’ happiness extent. Essentially a virtuous life can be based on the acts of the soul. So back in Jefferson’s time, he likely meant that overall well-being required someone to flourish as a human being and not this transitory bit of happiness we think of now.
Let’s divide the happiness of an individual into different criteria. One criteria would be to find happiness in the satisfaction of the various desires that individuals have. Therefore an individual could be happy either based on the satisfaction of these desires or the elimination of these desires. However philosophical analysis would also indicate that happiness could be far more complicated. The resolution of various desires would be more clearly defined as contentment. Happiness of the individual would then be dependent instead upon the moral values of that individual and leading a highly moral life. This may be a bit too simplistic since leading a highly moral life is insufficient to some. Ok, most people. Having good fortune is also relatively important. Sickness and poverty are severe overlying factors that can prevent or mitigate against leading a moral life and true happiness.
There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. This shorter approach can be very convenient in a consumer based society if purchasing more stuff makes you feel happy.
A path to happiness used to be assessed at the end of one’s life. Now everyone wants a continual happiness jolt similar to using one of those instant, non-recyclable instant coffee pods. And every day more ways appear to provide those single serve happiness pods.
The happiness discussion will continue…