what is Happiness? what is happiness? Since human beings appeared on earth, everyone in the world regardless of social class or rank has given a lot of effort to get happiness. The three kinds of rights, which are the rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness are clearly declared in United States Declaration of Independence. If people lost the right of pursuing happiness, human being’s lives, quality and value will be also lost. Hence, many people are striving to be happy.
The author of the book, “Stumbling on Happiness,” argues that the definition of happiness is related to the definition of desire by citing the psychologist Freud’s theory, in which people’s endeavor to strive after happiness has two aspects of negative and positive meaning. The first one is to strive after an absence of “pain and displeasure” and the latter one is, “endeavor to experience strong feelings of pleasure. ” How many people are realizing the true meaning of happiness despite their effort to be happy?
There are two different definitions of happiness defined by secular scholars and Christian scholars. After going over the definition of happiness by Aristotle and Plato as secular scholars, this article will discuss the definition of happiness by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas as Christian scholars. In the book “Plato Gorgias,” the author defines happiness as a product of virtue with saying that, “Happiness is impossible without virtuous activity. ” According to Plato, virtue represents the recovery of the broken inner harmony of man.
The virtue enables reason to control over desire and physical stimulation. He compared virtue with taking care of the soul. He insisted on being moral to be happy because he considered virtue as happiness. In the book “The Republic,” Plato also mentioned the individual’s happiness and the whole city’s happiness. He thought that the composition of the individual soul is similar to the structure of the country. His point was that when each class of society does its best, the whole society will be balanced as a result of social harmony, which will be the key to reach social justice.
The ultimate purpose that Plato suggested was to promote personal happiness. He emphasized the individual’s happiness to reach the whole nation’s happiness. The author of the book, “Goodness and Justice”, introduces platonic happiness as “psychic harmony, the integration of the personality under the control of the intellect” and also introduces “Platonic individual happiness” as “the psychic well functioning which immediately results from psychic justice and temperance and other psychic virtues. ” Aristotle thought that every action that humans take is aimed at specific purposes.
After studying the natural science, Aristotle had a conclusion that all parts of creatures such as eyes, ears, heart, and the liver have their own function and purpose. This purpose is so various that one purpose can belong to another purpose and another purpose can belong to other purposes, which leads to the final purpose that Aristotle also called happiness. When it comes to ask what the human’s final goal is, there should be a process of classification in which happiness can be defined. Aristotle believed that happiness is different from pleasure and joy.
Aristotle clearly mentioned what the happy life is in the book “Nicomachean” by saying that a happy life is related to the life of the virtue. Aristotle distinguished happiness from pleasure and joy by explaining that animals can also experience joy and pleasure by using there own sensations. Aristotle defined happiness as a human attribute which is experienced by the thinking ability that other creatures do not share. Aristotle used adjectives such as ‘divine’ and ‘noble’ in order to describe the feature of happiness.
Aristotle thought that happiness results from the divine and noble activities of wisdom in the soul. The person who is full of wisdom and knows what to do in a given situation is fully self-contented. Aristotle had an idea that happiness lasts forever, unlike pleasure which disappears, because the rational part of the human soul constantly produces virtue by which the human can keep one’s self satisfied. St. Augustine considered the Greek philosopher’s theories as a useful and rational tool for recognizing this world in a right way.
However, he criticizes those who did not know God as the origin of their talent, and who did not devote their lives to God because he confessed that happiness does not come from knowing the knowledge of natural science, but comes from knowing that God has given everything to His children, giving thanks to God, and not having a vain thought in mind. In the book, Happiness and Christian Moral Life, the author explains how human being’s ambition for happiness without God can result in the destruction of life by giving a story of Augustine who sought happiness through “sexual pleasure, through a series of love affairs, through fame and eputation as a teacher, though the wisdom of philosophy, though social status, and even by consulting astrologers about his horoscope. ” After having been through all the pleasures and experiencing his own happiness apart from God, he confessed that he did not still find real happiness. Eventually, Augustine argues that God is happiness itself because God is truth that is full of joy. St. Thomas Aquinas thought that the ultimate purpose of human beings’ doing is to pursue happiness, which can be measured by whether or not humans meet the creator, God.
After proving that wealth, power, fame or glory, and any created good do not consist in happiness, he makes a conclusion regarding the definition of happiness by saying that “Therefore God alone constitutes man’s happiness. ” He argues that happiness does not consist of pleasure which results from happiness and also that pleasure is merely a proper accident from happiness. Ellen T. Charry properly describes what Thomas Aquinas thought happiness is in her article as, “We become happy not by pursuing fleeting moments of pleasure, but by being the self that God created us to be. ” In a sense, happiness often follows after virtue.
It matches well to biblical truth that happiness comes when we help a poor neighborhood. Acts 20:35 says, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. ’” Psalm 144:15 says, “Blessed are those whose God is the Lord”. As a Christian, we have to take into consideration happiness that only God can give us. The standard of measuring happiness should not be the surrounding circumstances such as money, health, and fame which can be only a small part of happiness but not the ultimate condition.
If a person asks this question, “what makes you happy”, to another person, the answer to the question should be that it is the Bible that should be used as a tool to measure happiness. Therefore, the real happiness relies on the relationship with God by acknowledging the spiritual need which can be fed only by God. BIBLIOGRAPHY Augustine. The Confession of St. Augustine. Charry Ellen T. “Happy pursuits. ” Christian Century, no. 15 (July 2007): 31-33. Gilbert Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. Berryville: Berryville Graphic, 1966. Plato. Plato Gorgias. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 1994.
Plato Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 1992. Santas Gerasimos. Goodness and justice: Plato, Aristotle, and the moderns. Malden: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2001. Thomas Aquinas. A Shorter Summa. Wadell Paul. Happiness and Christian moral life. Lanham: Rowman ; Littlefield Publishing group, Inc, 2008. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness (Berryville: Berryville Graphic, 1966), 34. [ 2 ]. Plato, Plato Gorgias (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 1994), XXii, XXiv. [ 3 ].
Plato, Plato Republic (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 1992), 95. [ 4 ]. Gerasimos Santas, Goodness and justice: Plato, Aristotle, and the Moderns (Malden: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2001), 163. [ 5 ]. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 5. 1177a. 2 [ 6 ]. Paul Wadell, Happiness and Christian Moral Life (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing group, Inc, 2008), 6. [ 7 ]. St. Augustine, The Confession of St. Augustine 10. 35. [ 8 ]. St. Thomas Aquinas, A Shorter Summa I-II,2,8. [ 9 ]. Ibid. [ 10 ]. Ellen T. Charry, “Happy Pursuits,” Christian Century, no. 15 (July 2007): 31.