Two Parts of Happiness I

Two Parts of Happiness

I call them “two parts” although it is not clear to me if they are really two different accounts.

1) Happiness can mean a feeling of well being, contentment, satisfaction, etc.

2) Happiness can mean something that is self-evidently desirable- this meaning seems to be at work insofar as no one ever asks someone “why they want to be happy”.

If happiness only means contentment, satisfaction, etc. then it is possible that one could question whether happiness is even worth having- who cares if Pol Pot was content with his life? He may very well have been, he may very well have scored a perfect 10 on any statistical analysis of happiness. But it is a dark or perverse mind that is content with itself in spite of its wickedness. It may well be the case that all those who we despise might lead lives they are mostly satisfied with- and at least in this sense they are happy.

If we are open to the possibility that at least some kinds of happiness is not worth having, then we can see #1 above as one complete account of happiness. If we cannot do this, then we cannot separate happiness from human morality- regardless of what account we give of it. Along with Socrates, we must say that Tyrants, Felons, and immoral people can never be happy, regardless of how content they are with their lives.


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