What is Happiness, and is it Realistic?

Christian Mastrogiovanni – Period five


When hearing the word happiness, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The answers are infinite, ranging from food, sex, sleep, exercise, television, music, and so on. While it is undeniable that happiness can be found in specific, temporary acts and desires, does this mean happiness itself is temporary as well? Perhaps the happiness we find in things like food and thought provoking conversations isn’t happiness at all. This leads to one of life’s most debatable, perplexing, and broad questions of all time: what is happiness?

                Aristotle defines happiness as “the act of living in accordance to reason.” This means that we must fulfill our human functions and acknowledge what it means to be human. As humans, we have dreams along with natural and individual desires. From birth, our individuality has propelled us to seek specific lives that allow us to properly fulfil our functions as humans. Aristotle claims that we are not truly happy until we achieve our human function; however, this leads to a counteracting thought. Happiness is often associated with recreation. If we are infinitely repeating the same routine every day that is involved in fulfilling our function, will the happiness attached to that fulfillment eventually fade away due to repetition? For example, on the topic of recreation, the term “has been” is associated with celebrities who were once famous and desired. What makes them has beens in the first place? What causes them to “die out” of the celebrity realm and become basically non-existent? People get tired of them, of their same music, of their image that never seems to change. For example, the well-known Lady Gaga has maintained her fame for years due to the fact that she is constantly recreating herself and her image. She supplies the unexpected, constantly swiping people off their feet and giving them something new to supply them with constant entertainment, such as dressing in a costume entirely made of meat to an awards show, or wearing a thong out in public. Another source claims that happiness contains three different parts: engagement, meaning, and pleasure. While these three ideas inevitable show up in the process of fulfilling one’s life function that Aristotle claims is the key to happiness, is it necessary to live out a function in order to achieve happiness, or is it more important to experience these three ideas in order to achieve it?

Meanwhile, Plato claims that happiness is “the good” that all man is searching for and that pleasure itself cannot be the good, for no addition can make the good more desirable, which leads us into ANOTHER question. How does one know when they have achieved the good?  I mean, isn’t there always something that could be added onto another thing to make it even better? For example, if you finally achieved your dream job and were fulfilling your function like Aristotle believes is the key to happiness, would the happiness you are experiencing be that much better if you were given your favorite meal for free every single day on top of that?  What if at the end of every day, you got to make love with your favorite celebrity crush, too. Wouldn’t that make you even happier? There is always something that could be added onto one’s idea of happiness that would increase it, so therefore, it seems almost impossible to know when you’ve reached that brick wall that symbolizes complete happiness and the “end.”

 Just when you thought things couldn’t get more complicated, they do when you realize how human we really are and how there’s always something beyond our world that could make our limited human opportunities seem thousands of times better. Therefore, is it even possible to achieve true happiness on earth if we are completely aware of the fact that there is something grander and more fulfilling existing outside of our dimension? Another source defines happiness as the “good life,” meaning that a happy life is one without suffering and one that includes freedom, peace, well-being, pleasure, and prosperity. However, what if freedom doesn’t make someone happy? Someone could enjoy being tied down, going through a routine that they can’t get out of. Perhaps it provides a sense of security for them that entitles happiness into their life. Ultimately, it’s difficult to get entirely specific when labeling what happiness is due to the fact that individuals desire different lifestyles from one another. Aristotle would also complete disagree with this modern definition of happiness. He would criticize how specific the definition is and claim that happiness is determined based on the individual, and therefore requires a much broader definition. Plato would also disagree, saying that pleasure and happiness are two complete different ideas. As mentioned above in relation to Plato, pleasure has no relation to happiness because pleasure itself is not an end. Pleasure is temporary, and therefore has no relation to the infinite nature of happiness, which ties us back to how humans desire change and recreation in order to consistently stay happy. It’s easy to see that when brainstorming what happiness really is or if it even exists, it’s easy to get caught up running around in circles.

Many scientists question whether or not happiness is even something that is worth analyzing due to the fact that it is so subjective. Personally, I believe that happiness is due to the individual interpretation of the word. For example, some people claim that one day they are happy while the next day they are complete and utterly depressed. What does that mean? What separates the happy day from the depressing one if the days themselves are so similar, spent by carrying out the same routine? There are also things that trigger happiness for one person while another person would completely ignore it. For example, one person might realize that their favorite band is coming to town while another person could literally not care less. First of all, the individuality of each person allows them to have different opinions of the band coming in the first place, meaning that what they view as happy and exciting or vice versa is complete different.  

In conclusion, happiness is obviously a terribly complex and thought provoking concept. Due to the individuality implanted in each and every human, what comes across as happiness to each of us differs immensely due to the fact that we all desire different things. However, another question arises when looking at different ideas of what happiness is. Perhaps happiness is a non-existent term and an impossible idea. Contrasting what we view life to be outside of this world to life in this world holds that the lives we are living are completely limited and miniscule. For example, from a religious standpoint, many people view the afterlife as complete bliss, living in eternal peacefulness while receiving anything anyone could ever want at the drop of a hat. Therefore, do we as humans even know what happiness is if we believe that true happiness lies within another realm? Are we just settling for an unrealistic version of the word? In conclusion, happiness itself is entirely too broad to even begin to define it, and the individuality that each human contains makes the idea of the world completely different for each and every human living on this earth.


Works Cited

Aristotle. “Book 1.” Nicomachean Ethics. Indianapolis [Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962. N. pag. Print.

Nicks, Robert. “What Is Happiness?” This Emotional Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

“What Is Happiness? | Words of Wisdom by Daisaku Ikeda.” What Is Happiness? | Words of Wisdom by Daisaku Ikeda. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.


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