Happiness  

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This page Happiness is part of the psychology series  Illustration: The Heart Has Its Reasons (c.1887) by Odilon Redon  Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - opening line from Anna Karenina.  "What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferable sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree, and it is from its nature only possible as an episodic phenomenon. When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it only produces a feeling of mild contentment. We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things. Thus our possibilities of happiness are already restricted by our constitution. Unhappiness is much less difficult to experience." --Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, tr. James Strachey
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This page Happiness is part of the psychology series
Illustration: The Heart Has Its Reasons (c.1887) by Odilon Redon
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - opening line from Anna Karenina.
"What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferable sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree, and it is from its nature only possible as an episodic phenomenon. When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it only produces a feeling of mild contentment. We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things. Thus our possibilities of happiness are already restricted by our constitution. Unhappiness is much less difficult to experience." --Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, tr. James Strachey

"Common sense tells us that the things of this earth hardly exist, and that true reality is only in dreams. To digest natural (or artificial) happiness takes first of all the courage to swallow it down. And perhaps those worthy of happiness are precisely those for whom felicity, as mortals conceive it, has ever the effect of an emetic." --Charles Baudelaire in Les Paradis artificiels

This page Happiness is part of the laughter series.Illustration: Mona Lisa Smoking a Pipe by Eugène Bataille
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This page Happiness is part of the laughter series.
Illustration: Mona Lisa Smoking a Pipe by Eugène Bataille

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources. Various research groups, including positive psychology, endeavor to apply the scientific method to answer questions about what "happiness" is, and how it might be attained. It is of such fundamental importance to the human condition that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" were deemed to be unalienable rights by the United States Declaration of Independence.

Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Happiness in this sense was used to translate the Greek Eudaimonia, and is still used in virtue ethics.

Philosophical views

The Chinese Confucian thinker Mencius, who 2300 years ago sought to give advice to the ruthless political leaders of the warring states period, was convinced that the mind played a mediating role between the "lesser self" (the physiological self) and the "greater self" (the moral self) and that getting the priorities right between these two would lead to sagehood. He argued that if we did not feel satisfaction or pleasure in nourishing one's "vital force" with "righteous deeds", that force would shrivel up (Mencius,6A:15 2A:2). More specifically, he mentions the experience of intoxicating joy if one celebrates the practice of the great virtues, especially through music. Al-Ghazali (1058–1111) the Muslim Sufi thinker wrote the Alchemy of Happiness, a manual of spiritual instruction throughout the Muslim world and widely practiced even now.

About one hundred years later, the Hindu thinker Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, wrote quite exhaustively on the psychological and ontological roots of bliss.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, written in 350 B.C.E., Aristotle stated that happiness (also being well and doing well) is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake, unlike riches, honor, health or friendship. He observed that men sought riches, or honor, or health not only for their own sake but also in order to be happy. Note that eudaimonia, the term we translate as "happiness", is for Aristotle an activity rather than an emotion or a state. Happiness is characteristic of a good life, that is, a life in which a person fulfills human nature in an excellent way. People have a set of purposes which are typically human: these belong to our nature. The happy person is virtuous, meaning they have outstanding abilities and emotional tendencies which allow him or her to fulfill our common human ends. For Aristotle, then, happiness is "the virtuous activity of the soul in accordance with reason": happiness is the practice of virtue.

Many ethicists make arguments for how humans should behave, either individually or collectively, based on the resulting happiness of such behavior. Utilitarians, such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, advocated the greatest happiness principle as a guide for ethical behavior.

Namesakes

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Happiness" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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