Who is happier? Justin Bieber or My Dad?

Whitney Ryan- Period 1

What makes you happy? I am not talking about the things that bring you pleasure like ice cream, or a new car, or an A on your final exam, or traveling to your private island I want to know what really brings YOU true happiness.  Is it seeing someone smile and laugh after you did something for them, is it hearing your child laugh, is it seeing your spouse’s face light up when you get home from work? Every person is different; therefore, every person has something unique that makes them happy.  Aristotle said in the Nicomachean Ethics, “Men agree that the good is happiness, but differ as to what it is.” [1]

So now I have another question for you: Is Justin Bieber happy? Or is it all just a lie to cover up the loneliness that he really lives with every day? Justin Bieber is a twenty-one year old singer-songwriter who won over every girl in America when he was discovered at age thirteen via YouTube! America loved the young boy who grew up in a small town in Canada. Raised by his single mother who gave birth to him at age eighteen, she worked very hard to give Justin the best possible life.  He signed a recording contract with Usher and then became the first solo artist to have four singles enter the Top 40 before the release of a debut album.  He later took his life to the big screen in his documentary Never Say Never, which earned more than $73 million at the box office. Justin Bieber’s total net worth is over $200 million. [2]So with this background on the popstar you may be asking yourself why I am even questioning if Justin is really happy, I mean he has everything he could ever want so he has no reason not to be happy.

However for whatever unknown reason sweet Justin took a turn for the worst and became America’s bad-boy.  It all started to go downhill for Justin when a woman filed a lawsuit claiming that Justin was the father of her child. Although she was later proved wrong Justin wrote a song about the scandal called “Maria:” the song showed the world his feelings on the situation, and from then on America had a different view of Justin Bieber, and let me tell you the things being said about the “new Justin” were not good. And then in March of 2013 Justin’s neighbor accused Justin of spitting on him and then threatening him. Then residents living in Justin’s neighborhood then complained about Justin’s driving, they said he was driving way to fast in a residential area. In January of 2014 Justin was then accused of egging his neighbor’s house which resulted in his house being searched. Then only nine days later Justin was arrested for drag racing while being under the influence. He stayed in jail until his bail was posted at $2,500.  [3]

So as you can see in a matter of only about one year Justin went from America’s sweetheart to America’s rebel. But what made Justin do this? Did he get too caught up in the Hollywood way of life? Or was he just simply tired of being innocent little teen pop sensation? Well from all of his little shenanigans I can tell now tell you what makes Justin Bieber “happy.” I BELIEVE (a pun on his number one album) his happiness is derived from pleasure, for example; partying and drinking are two activities that Justin is found to be participating in quite often. Though drinking and partying does not bring you happiness Justin still participates in these risky activities. I would say that on the surface it appears that Justin lives by John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism way of life. Mill says, “Happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain”; so to sum it all up, if it feels good do it. [4] However, although Mill says this, it is a common misconception that people take too far. He does imply that happiness is not true happiness unless there is pleasure; however, Mill’s idea of pleasure does not correspond with Justin’s idea of pleasure.  Mill cares about pleasure, but it depends on what the certain idea of pleasure is. Yet, Mill also states, “Actions are right if they promote happiness yet actions are wrong if they promote the reverse of happiness.” [5] Well by saying this then does the idea of constantly drinking and partying becomes okay to do?  Drinking excessively is wrong, yet what if it makes Justin happy? Then should drinking and partying become morally and ethically acceptable if the purpose is to have a good time?! This answer is no. The answer is no because drinking excessively is obviously wrong but when Mill says that “actions are right if they promote happiness” he was not implying risky behavior like partying. [6] So I will say it again, on the surface it seems that Mill is all for risky behavior, but once you dig into his writing of Utilitarianism then you discover what his idea of pleasure is.

On the other hand we have my dad.  So I know that you don’t necessarily know my dad, but he is pretty much the average U.S. citizen who loves his family, loves his job, loves his church and just has a pretty well rounded life. He seems like a pretty happy guy most of the time, so would you consider him to be happier than THE Justin Bieber?

Most people would argue that Justin would be way happier.  I mean he is surrounded by wealth and girls and popularity. But Aristotle says, “Everyone has a different opinion to what happiness actually is.” [7] Aristotle also disagrees with Mill when he says “The good cannot be pleasure. The good is the final end and happiness is this.”  [8] So who is right Aristotle or John Stuart Mill? Can they both be right in different aspects? Is happiness really derived from pleasure? Or is pleasure just a false happiness that will wear off?

I could argue that both John Stuart Mill and Aristotle are right. When we were only looking at the surface we learned we cannot follow John Stuart Mill’s advice because he does not consider the consequences or long term effect of an action. However, as we discovered earlier we really have to dig into what Mill considers to be pleasure. “Utility would enjoin, first, that laws and social arrangements should place the happiness, or (as speaking practically it may be called) the interest, or every individual, as nearly as possible in harmony with the interest of the whole…” [9] I never thought I would say this, but I agree with Aristotle to some extent. At first when I read through Nicomachean Ethics I thought that Aristotle was so wrong to think that happiness is not pleasure. However, now that I really considered what true happiness is I agree with Aristotle. I do not really get happy while eating hot fudge sundae, it is just a few minutes of pleasure. And Justin Bieber is not happy when drinking because it does not bring him happiness; it is just a night of fun and pleasure. There is a difference between pleasure and happiness; however, the distinction between the two is going to be different for everyone.  Mill provided me with the idea that happiness needs pleasure to be true happiness, however; you just have to be aware that pleasure needs to be in the interest of you and in the interest of society as a whole.

So to sum it all up, I do not think that Justin is truly happy. I think his happiness is false because his idea of pleasure is not for the good of society. Teasing his neighbors and destroying their property is something that might have been fun, but the pleasure that Justin got from doing all of that is not real. My dad is happier than Justin Bieber because his pleasure is real and is derived from his family and friends. He considers his actions and makes sure he is not hurting himself or the people around him. Mill says that true happiness must benefit you and society, well my dad is a pediatric dentist who loves his job and also loves helping people. My dad is not just in dentistry for the money, he genuinely loves helping people and his community. My dad also uses his money for donations and helping the people around him, and Mill would defiantly agree that my dad has found true happiness this because it benefits society at large, yet it also brings joy and happiness to my dad because he loves helping people.  Therefore, my dad is happier than Justin Beiber according to both Mill and Aristotle’s teachings.

Foot Notes:

[1] “Nicomachean Ethics,” Aristotle in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015.

[2] “Kevin Hart is Pretty Sure Justin Bieber Cried,” Lanford Beard in People Magazine, 2015.

[3] Beard

[4] “Utilitarianism,” John Start Mill in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015.

[5] Mill

[6] Mill

[7] Aristotle

[8] Aristotle

[9] Mill

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