Happiness: Can It
Be Pursued as an End?
'What is happiness?' In these words one sometimes seeks a resolution of certain philosophical difficulties: Is happiness the satisfaction one obtains when one's desires are satisfied? Or is it the capacity to be pleased with what one has and enjoy what one does? Is the happy person one who enjoys life or one who has attained inner peace? How far does a person's happiness depend on his state of soul, his values and attitudes to things, and how far on his external circumstances? What can one do to be happy? Can the desire for happiness be anything other than a form of self-seeking?
These and other questions come crowding in. Yet they do not come from ignorance. One who asks them knows well enough what the word means and what he or she is talking about. They are an expression of perplexity and seek for an order in one's apprehension of what is familiar territory, for a clearer view of the application of the concept of happiness and its relation to a host of other concepts: enjoyment, pleasure, satisfaction, gladness, joy, doing what one wants, contentment, serenity, virtue, and many others.
It is worth noting that the words 'What is happiness?' may also express a request for something different: for one's conception of happiness to be made explicit—what personally would constitute happiness for one. This involves articulating what one considers to be of supreme importance in life. Here too one is called on to reflect on what one already knows, on 'what lies open to view'. But what is in question here is not the application of and the connections between concepts with which speakers of one's language are