Lauren Tauriac- Period 7- Honorbound
Imagine a world where rainbows always lead to pots of gold, where the weather is always perfect, and the people are always smiling without conflict or stress. In this perfect world, everyone is constantly happy, living in a constant state of joy. That would be the world that I would want to live in. Although Earth has not yet come to that state of perfection, the World Happiness Report of 2013 states that Denmark is very close to becoming the “happiest place on Earth” due to its large GDP per capita, high life expectancy rates, and the unlikelihood of a leaders corruption. In addition, Denmark also supports the individual’s sense of happiness due to an individual’s strong sense of social support, increasing amount of personal freedom, and the evident amount of generosity within the Demark community.1 However, is Denmark truly happy based on either the Aristotelian view on what is truly happiness or the Utilitarian view of an individual’s happiness?
In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines happiness as an end. For example, Aristotle states, “Happiness seems more than anything else to answer to this description: for we always choose it for itself and never for the sake of something else.”2 Aristotle is stating that human beings never choose happiness as the means to attaining something else because happiness is the epiphany of all; happiness is the end. Happiness is only gained through living the “good life,” which Aristotle refers to as living the contemplative life. The contemplative is the life where one lives in according to his reason, the gift that places man above animal. Since Aristotle considers happiness to be the “end,” one’s happiness cannot be determined until one has died because one has to have time to reflect upon all of one’s experiences before determining if one has lived a truly happy life.1 Overall, in Aristotle’s view, happiness is objective, something that one is, not subjective, a feeling such as pleasure. By not using objective senses, a human being is subjecting him or herself to the brute life of an animal.
In opposition, John Stuart Mill in Utilitarianism argues against Aristotle’s reasoning that happiness is merely a sensation. Happiness is the sense of pleasure, while anything that does not lead to happiness leads to pain. Mill states, “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.”3 Happiness is merely a sensation of feeling. If something is pleasurable for the majority, it promotes happiness. If something tends to not lead to a pleasurable feeling for the majority, society rejects it because it does not lead society to the ultimate goal, happiness. Something can only lessen in its amount of happiness if it no longer adds to the happiness of the majority within the community by subtracting from it. Overall, Mill believes that pleasure, which is happiness, is the ultimate end to human life. 3
Mill and Aristotle both come to the understanding that happiness is considered the end of all means. They both agree that happiness is the final goal for all of mankind; however, they have different ways of finding that happiness. Essentially, Aristotle believes that an individual can only find happiness by living a life in accordance to reason. On the contrary, Mill understands happiness as a mere feeling, specifically the feeling of pleasure. Mill completely rejects the concept that happiness is a way of life rather sees happiness only in its subjective form as a sensation. Mill and Aristotle both believe that happiness exists; however, Mill suggests that happiness is an immediate sensation of pleasure. While Aristotle argues that happiness is only a final result of living life of reason, the “good life.” The question of which view of happiness is correct cannot be determined, whether purely based on personal opinion.
The Danish sense of happiness stems not from general pleasures but from being people who live their lives in according to reason. Instead of worrying about having a lavish car to bring them to and from work, the Danish people ride bikes almost everywhere they go, even to work every day. Danish people spend their money reasonably and tend to deviate away from a spending lavishly and the temptation be swayed by what they find to be pleasurable. Riding bikes constantly, Danish people are living a lifestyle that will increase their life expectancy because each individual within society would be staying fit and healthy. In addition, Danish people are usually regarded as those of a peaceful nature. Wealth is also equally distributed among the Danish community. In Denmark, there are not many billionaires or places of concentrated wealth.1 In the article, “The Danish Lifestyle,” the writer describes the carefree Danish lifestyle perfectly by stating, “[Danish people] enjoy a balanced work life with a sense of financial security and the freedom and opportunity to pursue personal goals in life.”4 Danes are people of reason who live their lives in according to their sense of reason. They understand that life is not merely reacting on the pleasure impulses that one receives constantly throughout life.
If Aristotle was a judge for the World Happiness Report, Aristotle would agree with the report in stating that Denmark is truly one of the happiest countries in the world. Although Aristotle would argue that one cannot know whether one is truly happy or not until one’s death, he would believe that the Danish people have tried to live a life in according to reason, where they do not let their wants in life and what they might find pleasurable to influence the way that they live. Rather, the Danish people tend to understand that happiness is a source of later gratification and not an immediate sense of gratification; therefore, while living on Earth, one should live a life in according to reason so that after life they can live in a state of happiness. Aristotle would also comment that Danish people are living life reasonably; for example, taking bikes instead of cars is a reasonable lifestyle change to make. To the Danish people, happiness does not depend on the sensational response but rather depends on the objective sense of deciding whether or not certain decisions for Denmark will lead to the country to be living a happy life in the future.
There might never be a place on Earth where one will always find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In addition, Aristotle would comment that finding the pot of gold will not directly lead to happiness anyway. Simply discovering the contemplative life and living a life in according to reason will allow one to be in the state of happiness. One can only discover this state of happiness through reflecting on the life that the individual has lived. Happiness is not something that we can discover in this life because it just simply is not a feeling. Men spend lifetimes trying to find a life that makes them happy. They are merely looking in the wrong places. Human beings try to find happiness by using the definition that happiness is a feeling, where one is bubbly inside and living in a constant state of joy and contentment. But to truly find happiness, one has to live one’s life according to one’s function as a human being, which is to live in according to reason. Happiness cannot even be truly found in “the happiest place on earth;” however, if one lives one’s life the way the Danish people do, a life of reasonable decisions, then one is sure to discover happiness in the mere future.
- Melnick, Meredith. “Denmark Is Considered The Happiest Country. You’ll Never Guess Why.” The Huffington Post. October 22, 2013. Accessed December 10, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/22/denmark-happiest- country_n_4070761.html.
- Crisp, Roger. “Book I.” In Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
- Mill, John Stuart. “Chapter 2.” In Utilitarianism. Luton: Andrews UK, 2011.
- “The Danish Lifestyle.” Study in Denmark. Accessed December 9,2014. studyindenmark.dk/why- denmark/quality-of- life-1/the-happiest-place-on-earth.
Crisp, Roger. “Book I.” In Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Geninet, Hortense. “Utilitarian Philosophy.” Utilitarian Philosophy. Accessed December 10, 2014.
Hetter, Katia. “Get Happy in the World’s Happiest Countries.” CNN. January 1,1970. Accessed December 10,2014. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/02/travel/happiest-countries-to-visit/.
Melnick, Meredith. “Denmark Is Considered The Happiest Country. You’ll Never Guess Why.”The Huffington Post. October 22, 2013. Accessed December 10, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/22/denmark-happiest- country_n_4070761.html.
Mill, John Stuart. “Chapter 2.” In Utilitarianism. Luton: Andrews UK, 2011.
Poulsen, Marina. “Rainbow- outside my house, Denmark.” Photograph. Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/68487677@N06/9777173745 (accessed December 10, 2014).
“The Danish Lifestyle.” Study in Denmark. Accessed December 9,2014. studyindenmark.dk/why-denmark/quality-of-life- 1/the-happiest-place-on-earth.