Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Are You Happy?

Review essay by Sue M. Halpern, The New York Review of Books, April 3, 2008

(via Arts & Letters Daily)

--Terrence Berres

1 comment:

  1. An interesting article, but it uses the word happiness in its psychological meaning, not in its ethical meaning.

    When most people use the word, they have the former meaning in mind. The word then connotes a mental state of satisfaction or contentment that consists simply in getting whatever one wants. Some times we feel happy because our wants at that moment are satisfied; sometimes we feel unhappy because our wants at that moment are frustrated or unfulfilled. Accordingly, we change from feeling happy to feeling unhappy from day to day, week to week, or year to year. In that meaning of the word “happiness,” as the word “feel” that I have italicized above indicates, happiness and unhappiness are psychological phenomena of which we can be conscious and have experience.

    In its ethical meaning, the word “happiness” stands for a whole human life well lived, a life enriched by all real goods—all the possessions a human being should have, all the perfections that a human being should attain. What makes them real, as opposed to merely apparent goods, is that they fulfill our inherent human needs, not just our individual, acquired wants. We ought to want them, whether in fact we do or not. Here again is where virtue comes into the picture, now in relation to our seeking or failing to seek the things that are really good for us.