Friday, April 29, 2016
2nd report " Happiness"
29 April, 2016
I recently heard an AM radio host who talked about how important it is for people to try and be happy. He said that human beings have a moral obligation to be happy. Happy people make life better for everybody else. Unhappy people make life worse for everybody else. Therefore, people should always try be happy (or at least act happy). This is for the same reason that people should always be kind to other people and not hurt them.
This idea of happiness—a choice we make—sounds a lot like Aristotle’s idea of happiness. Aristotle said happiness comes partly from our circumstances (like being wealthy or having a good spouse) and partly from the choice we make to be happy. He says that if we lead a virtuous life, this will bring us happiness. Living a virtuous life is a matter of choice. If we practice living in a virtuous way (moderation, courage), we will become virtuous and therefore happy. Therefore, happiness is a choice we make.
Plato had similar ideas about happiness. In the Republic, he said that living a moral life is done by following the cardinal virtues—moderation, courage, wisdom, justice. Live a moral life is necessary to bring us happiness. If we don’t live by the virtues, we cannot be happy. Therefore, happiness comes from living a good and moral life.
I think it is interesting that, in all these ideas of happiness, happiness doesn’t come from having pleasure. Pleasure might make us feel good for a moment, but it is not deep and lasting. It goes away and then has to be recreated over and over. This addictive cycle is not the same as happiness, but actually the opposite—misery. A person has to work hard and live a life of virtue in order to be happy. It is strange, but it seems like forgoing short-term pleasure and sacrificing to lead a virtuous life actually makes you happier. I think Plato and Aristotle understood this truth.