Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Is Happiness? A Look From Different Angles

Happiness has different meanings to different people.

To behaviorists, happiness is a combination of emotions that one experiences when he/she does something good or positive.

To neurologists, happiness is the experience that one has when a flood of hormones are released in the brain as a reward for behavior that tends to prolong survival.

According to a number of religions, happiness is an indicator of presence of God.

Although, many specialists have investigated the meaning of happiness, philosophers are the only specialists who have investigated the issue to more detail. After a number of research studies, the philosophers settled down on two basic views of what happiness is. The views are hedonic and eudemonia.

Of the two, hedonic view is the most famous although the two views find their roots in the ancient Greek philosophy.

The hedonistic view defines happiness as the polar opposite of suffering. According to the view, presence of happiness usually indicates absence of pain. As a result of this, hedonists believe that the sole purpose of life is to maximize happiness which in turn minimizes misery.

Over the years, hedonists have come up with ways to prolong happiness. The unfortunate thing is that most of the ways are all wrong. Some of the wrong ways include: sexuality, use of drugs, alcohol and other things that are a target of societal and religious scorn.

Eudemonia which is the less famous view defines happiness as the pursuit of being a better person. Eudaemonists pursue to be better people by challenging themselves intellectually or by engaging in activities that tend to make them spiritually richer.

As you would have seen, the difference between the two views is that one of them (hedonism) says that happiness is derived externally, while the other (eudemonia) says that happiness comes from within.

One would conclude that eudemonia is the superior view. This is because under the view, acts such as kindness towards others, generosity, and cultivating natural talents are usually honored more than other pursuits that tend to bring about happiness that is associated with hedonism. For example, accumulating of health is usually not prized under eudemonia.

Although, eudemonia seems to be a very good view, there is a paradox. For example, for you to be generous to other people, don't you need to accumulate some wealth?

It's almost impossible to tell which the best view of the two is and perhaps the best definition of happiness should be left to an individual.

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