An idea found in virtually every society is that of happiness. Despite the concept’s ubiquity, defining the term is incredibly difficult. It is hard to know whether others experience happiness the same way we do. Similarly, because what brings happiness varies by individual, it is tricky to make sure everyone has enough of what they need to be happy. And because one’s happiness often depends upon the work of others, finding an appropriate balance between work and pleasure for everyone is necessary.
The awesome nature of the task of bringing happiness no doubt contributes to the prevalence of the idea in many cultures. It is also why many fields of study have been brought to bear on the topic. Psychology, sociology, literary studies, chemistry, and of course philosophy, all examine the nature of and necessary conditions for happiness in their own way. Perhaps a good first step, as many have noted, is to recognize happiness as the complex and developing thing that it is. Instead of seeing it in just one way, we should realize that bringing it about requires shifting our views as we grow older and as society changes. Here are some papers that explore how the concept has been used in the past, for both good and ill effect.
- Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi, “The question of happiness in African philosophy,” South African Journal of Philosophy, 2014.
- Lisa Hill, “‘The Poor Man’s Son’ and the Corruption of Our Moral Sentiments: Commerce, Virtue and Happiness in Adam Smith,” Journal of Scottish Philosophy, March 2017.
- Ruth Cigman, “Happiness Rich and Poor: Lessons From Philosophy and Literature,” Journal of Philosophy of Education, May 2014.
- Mark Jonas, “Rousseau on Sex-Roles, Education and Happiness,” Studies in Philosophy & Education, March 2016.
- Kirill Thompson, “Philosophical Reflections on the “Fish Happiness” Anecdote,” Philosophy East & West, 2016.
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