Monday, April 27, 2015
Socrates on Happiness (Post 2/3)
Socrates has a unique place in the history of happiness, as he is the first known figure in the West to argue that happiness is actually obtainable through human effort. He was born in Athens, Greece in 460 BC; like most ancient peoples, the Greeks had a rather pessimistic view of human existence. Happiness was deemed a rare occurrence and reserved only for those whom the gods favored. The idea that one could obtain happiness for oneself was considered hubris, a kind of overreaching pride, and was to be met with harsh punishment Against this bleak backdrop the optimistic Socrates enters the picture. The key to happiness, he argues, is to turn attention away from the body and towards the soul. By harmonizing our desires we can learn to pacify the mind and achieve a divine-like state of tranquility. A moral life is to be preferred to an immoral one, primarily because it leads to a happier life. We see right here at the beginning of western philosophy that happiness is at the forefront, linked to other concepts such as virtue, justice, and the ultimate meaning of human existence.
Socrates believed that only people with self-knowledge could find true happiness. According to Socrates: Happiness flows not from physical or external conditions, such as bodily pleasures or wealth and power, but from living a life that’s right for your soul, your deepest good. If you don’t know what’s good for your soul, then you’ll be misled into pursuing happiness based on what’s conventional or easy. This is a dead-end. If you do know what’s good for your soul, then you’ll do it naturally, since it’s the nature of good to be desired. This is the path to happiness. In other words, Socrates believed that to be happy you need to know what’s good for you.http://www.happinessstrategies.com/2007/09/08/on-happiness-socrates/