Hippie Happiness: Is Aristotle Psychedelic?

Catherine Cook- Period 5

Have Aristotle’s teachings and views on happiness been influential in any counter-cultures of the past?

The hippie movement started in the 1960s, representing a major counter-culture of that decade.  The hippie lifestyle initially formed because of the major issues happening in the United States during that time period, such as the Vietnam War, gender inequality, and the disapproval of same-sex marriage. The hippies’ primary principle was that life was about being happy, not about what others thought you should be [1].  In 350 B.C., a philosopher named Aristotle believed and taught that happiness is the greatest good, and happiness is the most pleasurable thing in the world. Although it may seem like a reach, the hippie society is actually compatible with Aristotelian views of happiness because of its cultural beliefs and views of happiness.

Hippies of the 1960s were seen by many as dirty, disrespectful, and a disgrace to society. But on the other hand, they were also a reminder of a more peaceful and carefree part of American history. The Vietnam War was the main cause of the creation of the hippie movement because this group of people was strongly against violence and supported liberal policies. The Vietnam War caused the hippie movement to come about because it angered many Americans that innocent men were sent off to fight in a very dangerous and deadly war [2]. Because of this, this counter-culture arose, starting a new society that goes against conformity. A hippie’s main goals were peace, freedom, and harmony for all, no matter what race, gender, or sexuality an individual is. A typical hippie of the 1960s was a teenager from the baby boom generation, Caucasian middle class, and tired of the restrictions set by society.  The main characteristic of the hippie culture is that they did not want to conform to society’s standards, and they always had a desire to be different. Although money has always been very important to individuals desiring success and happiness, hippies did not worry about the amount of wealth they had, and they truly supported the idea of sharing amongst one another. Hippies also strongly believed that happiness does not result from success in war, violence, or fighting. Although the 1960s were a time of material success, hippies did not support the idea that materialism is everything; they actually believed that materialism adds negative energy to one’s life, for it draws him or her away from him or herself, causing individuals to forget what is truly important in everyday life [3].  The hippie culture truly believed that living together harmoniously was not only possible, but it was necessary [4].  Although this culture existed hundreds of years after Aristotle’s time, the hippie society actually aligns with Aristotelian views of happiness in multiple ways.

Hippies believe that happiness rests within an individual himself and away from the influence of society, especially the government. The hippie society is made of strong believers in pleasure in relation to happiness, even if it was through hallucinogenic drugs [5].  Aristotle preaches on how happiness is an activity of the soul, and happiness remains as “one the best and noblest and pleasantest thing in the world. Aristotle’s point closely aligns with the beliefs of hippies because they both value happiness over all things. In order to achieve happiness, hippies believe that peace must coexist in their community and the rest of society [6]. Since hippies are very into individualism and not conforming to society, they believe that good for the society can be found within a single person [7]. The hippies would agree with Aristotle’s point of, “goods of the soul are commonly said to be goods in the fullest sense, and more good than any other,” because they strongly support the goodness and purity of the soul. Aristotle believes that happiness is a complete and sufficient good. A typical hippie’s idea of happiness would be a life without war, violence, or threat, and achieving this happiness would be the ultimate good.  Although hippies sometimes protest against society and go against conformity, they are petitioning for a non-violent society in which individuals can live peacefully.  They believe that there is only one way to fix society, which includes no war and all love [8]. That being said, Aristotle believes that there are many ways to be wrong, and one way to be right.

One of the main aspects of hippie culture is living a healthy lifestyle: healthy eating and a positive environment [9]. Hippies are full vegetarians, sometimes vegan, and they use all organic items. That aspect of hippie culture would be compatible with Aristotle’s view on happiness that he stated in Nichomachean Ethics because “happiness, according to us, is a living well and doing well,” stating that in order for us to live happily, we must be doing well in all aspects of life. Hippies truly believed that American prosperity could be achieved if people supported the all-love-and-no-hate theme.  The hippie society strongly stresses the idea of pleasure, but in a different way than you might think. They receive pleasure through hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, but pleasure is pleasure for any individual [10]. Aristotle states that, “Pleasure seems, more than anything else, to have an intimate connection with our nature,” discussing how pleasure is in everyone’s nature and the desire for pleasure is inevitable. Therefore; hippies seek pleasure through illegal drugs.  Aristotle believes that pleasure is one of the keys to achieving happiness, and the hippies of the 1960s would definitely agree with this statement because in order for individuals of that time to seek happiness, they used drugs to receive pleasure.  The hippie society believes that materialism is unnecessary in relation to achieving happiness, and it remains nothing but a distraction for most members of this society. This hippie belief would be compatible with Aristotle’s teachings when he states that “We must not…suppose that because it is impossible to be happy without external good things, there for a man who is to be happy will want many things or much,” explaining how men do not need countless items in order for he or she to be happy in today’s society.

Hippies use music to express themselves personally and politically, and they use music to portray their happiness [11]. The hippies search for happiness is one in which unity between all is necessary. John Lennon, a member of the iconic band, the Beatles, sings in his song, Imagine, “I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one,” exemplifying that all this society is looking for is happiness and peace [12]. Aristotle states that, “the divine life, which surpasses all others in blessedness, consists in contemplation,” discussing that contemplation leads to happiness for an individual. This can strongly relate to the hippie movement because hippies are so focused on themselves and their soul, and they have a lot of time to contemplate their lives and the good of society. They express their contemplation through music and art [13]. Another psychedelic artist, Cat Stevens, also expresses his desire for a peaceful society in his song, Peace Train. He sings, “Now I’ve been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is. Why must we go on hating, why can’t we live in bliss,” portraying his hippie beliefs about society living together peacefully without war [14]. Aristotle teaches that “perfect happiness is some kind of speculative activity,”  describing that one cannot achieve happiness without expressing oneself in a certain way; whether it is through music, art, or even protesting.

Although the hippie movement has been on the decline since the 1970s, the hippie culture still serves as a more peaceful and carefree part of American history that some Americans still look up to in today’s society. Some hippies still exist today, especially in small towns in Colorado or in Austin, Texas; no matter where they live, they always stay true to the original hippie beliefs about happiness and love that were introduced in the 1960s. One probably would not expect that the hippie culture was compatible with Aristotelian culture, but in reality, the two share many of the same viewpoints about happiness. The hippie society relates to the perspectives of happiness from Aristotle’s teachings in multiple ways that demonstrate that Aristotle’s viewpoints and beliefs are timeless.

[1] Clark, Molly. “Hippie Culture.” Accessed December 11, 2014. http://blastfrompast.wikispaces.com/Hippie Culture.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] “Hippie (subculture).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/266600/hippie.

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] Clark, Molly. “Hippie Culture.” Accessed December 11, 2014. http://blastfrompast.wikispaces.com/Hippie Culture.

[10] “Hippie (subculture).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/266600/hippie.

[11] ibid.

[12] “Imagine” Lyrics.” JOHN LENNON LYRICS. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html.

[13] Clark, Molly. “Hippie Culture.” Accessed December 11, 2014. http://blastfrompast.wikispaces.com/Hippie Culture.

[14] “”Peace Train” Lyrics.” CAT STEVENS LYRICS. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/catstevens/peacetrain.html.

Works Cited

Clark, Molly. “Hippie Culture.” Accessed December 11, 2014. http://blastfrompast.wikispaces.com/Hippie Culture.

“Hippie (subculture).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/266600/hippie.

“Imagine” Lyrics.” JOHN LENNON LYRICS. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html.

“Peace Train” Lyrics.” CAT STEVENS LYRICS. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/catstevens/peacetrain.html.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s