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What is Happiness?

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What is happiness? People have agonized over this question for centuries. Let me start this essay by answering a somewhat easier question: what isn’t happiness? Happiness is NOT feeling good all the time. Happiness is a combination of human emotions and states of mind. Exploring this state of being has consumed the philosophical minds of the ages and will continue to do so for ages to come.

In an unofficial poll of students at State University, I found that of the fifty-eight students and one professor, males and females of several ethnic backgrounds and age groups, that I asked the question "What is happiness to you?", all of them had very different physical, intellectual, or emotional motivator for their happiness. Only the professor stated what happiness was to him. The students, ranging in age from 20 years to 45 years, all spoke of material things that would make them happy. They couldn't seem to grasp "happiness" as a concept in itself.

The questions that are asked when exploring the concept of happiness should begin with desire to know if it is a pleasure based in our basic and primitive emotions. Next, is happiness motivated by pure desire? Does a mental state of contentment produce happiness? Does happiness come from a simple, physical feeling? Maybe happiness is a combination of all of these.

According to John Stuart Mill,

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest

Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to

promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By

happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain,

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abstract thought separates them from any other creature on earth, but it also makes

them unique unto themselves. What makes one person happy may or may not make another

person happy. Happiness, in and of itself, in my opinion, in unattainable. To be content with

a minimum of worries is as close to absolute happiness as a person can come.

For myself, I believe that true happiness is an illusion. I believe in the desire-driven

theory of happiness. When I find the need for the illusion of happiness, I attempt to

achieve it by fulfilling my temporary needs through the gratification of my immediate

desires. I find that contentment and the drive to continue to achieve my desires is much

more important than the illusion of happiness.

Works Cited

Pojman, Louis P. Classics of Philosophy: Volume II Modern and Contemporary. New York:

Oxford UP, 1998.
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