This is a topic that for some time I have thought about and its still is tough to find an answer. In general I understand the idea of happiness but it is still very strange when you focus on what it is. I have even gone so far as Google searching what philosophers have said about what it means to be happy. Needless to say that their definitions left me dissatisfied.
There are two main points of thought when it comes to philosophical views on happiness hedonia and eudaimonia. Hedonia states that life is basically about maximizing pleasure through any means necessary, and I mean anything. On the flip side eudaimonia focuses on the journey to happiness and focuses on things that make the individual a better person.
For me I am more in agreement with the eudaimonia view of happiness. The other aspect is too rudimentary for my liking. Not that I think happiness needs to be something complicated but I would like to think it is something more than just striving for pleasure. With that being said I think there is a happy medium somewhere in between where a person needs both types in their life. Having one but not the other would not be ideal and I am sure cause problems for any individual.
From what I have read, it basically comes down to making happiness your ultimate goal or if it is the journey toward that happiness that will ultimately determine your happiness. Basically is it something that comes from within or can it only be achieved from external sources.
I was asked not too long ago what makes me happy and I did not have a sufficient answer and everyone thought I was crazy for not knowing. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of the eudaimonia view and looking for a deeper happiness but everyone that I was talking too was more interested in the hedonia view. What makes you happy right now, sort of idea, which I think is the way most people my age and for that matter most Americans view things.
For me I love to read I love everything about it from learning new ideas, to a fascinating and entertaining story. That is what makes me happy, reading a great story and getting something more out of it. I have also not too long ago found a new passion in writing, it is fun to write different characters and put them in odd and challenging situations and only I get to determine how they will get out. Writing is lots of fun and I only wish I had more time to devote to it, but I have to pay the bills somehow. I also enjoy running this website. It is something fun to do and makes me happy. Yes, all the other things such as family and friends make me happy, but I have always felt those are more or less a given. I know not everyone has friends and family but for the most part those things are a understood, at least to me, but I have also always felt it is such a generic answer. I also love cycling, that makes me happy. If either one of those things were taken from me I would be a miserable brute to be around as a lot of joy in my life would be gone.
I would also like to say that I am not a miserable person nor am I unhappy with my life as it stands. Sure I want to have a better life and often find myself wishing for this or that but I would say that I am happy generally speaking. I use to have a factory job in high school where my work was more or less brainless. So I could do my work while thinking about something else. I spent many hours pondering the meaning of life and what not. Eventually I felt I figured it out, yep that’s right folks I am about to tell you the meaning of life. I think at its most basic principle the meaning of life is to be happy! There ya go, but now that you know that there is a whole other boat load of questions that go with that. Most importantly what is happiness?
That is something you will have to figure out for yourself. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about it and I still don’t know what truly would make me happy. That sounds odd but I think it is true. As I mentioned above there are many things that make me happy along my journey of this thing we call life. I wonder if that is all it is a mix of both hedonia and eudaimonia view points. Sometimes getting the immediate satisfaction when you need it while searching for that long term deeper happiness.
The below short article makes some good points about happiness and all its conundrums.
What is happiness?
November 9, 2012 by Paulo Coelho
This is a question that has not bothered me for a long time, precisely because I don’t know how to answer it.
Some people seem to be happy: they just do not think about it. Others make plans: “I’m going to have a husband, a home, two children, and a house in the country”. While this keeps them occupied, they are like bulls looking for the bullfighter: they don’t think, they just keep moving forward. They manage to get their car – sometimes even a Ferrari – and they think that the meaning of life lies there, so they never ask the question. Yet, despite all that, their eyes betray a sadness that they themselves are quite unaware of.
I don’t know if everyone is unhappy. I do know that people are always busy: working overtime, looking after the kids, the husband, the career, the university degree, what to do tomorrow, what they need to buy, whatever it is they need to have in order not to feel inferior, and so on.
Few people have ever told me: “I’m unhappy”. Most say: “I’m fine, I’ve managed to get all I ever wanted”.
So then I ask: “What makes you happy?”
They answer: “I have everything that a person can dream of – a family, a home, work, good health”.
I insist: “So the meaning of life is work, the family, children who grow up and leave you, a wife or husband who will become more like a friend than a true love-mate. And one day the work will come to an end. What will you do when that happens?”
They answer: there is no answer. They change the subject.