History of Happiness in Western Societies
Material drawn from other resources has been appropriately and fully acknowledged as to author/creator, source and other bibliographic details. Such referencing may need to meet unit-specific requirements as to format and style. Signature of student: Sham Sauna Assignment feedback Assessment criterion Comments Marks Date: 14th July, 201 General comments Outline four different ways that happiness has been defined and pursued over history in western societies. Introduction History demonstrates that the meaning of happiness has been evolving with time dictating the change in way in which it is pursued as well.
What it meant for the Greeks a long time ago no longer is of much relevance to this modern era. According to Adding (2012) the quest for happiness is actually a universal pursuit and that people have been united in their search for it but in varying ways. Similarly, Speakers and Dinner (2008) remark that happiness as an idea and its development over a period of more than two Melinda has been rather intricate one. However, the yearning for it is still the same, if not even more.
Therefore, an attempt will be made in this essay to categorically outline four different ways in which happiness has been fined and pursued over history specifically in western societies. According to McMahon (2006) happiness has been equated regularly with the highest human calling, the most perfect human state throughout the history. Yet it’s only within the past two hundred years that human beings have begun to think of happiness as not just an earthly possibility but also as an earthly entitlement, even an obligation.
And part of what emerged in more than two centuries is aptly put in following words by the same author: ‘For the ancient Greeks, happiness meant virtue. For the Romans, it implied prosperity and divine favor. For Christians, happiness was synonymous with God. ‘ In addition to this, the era of enlightenment took another perspective, a more secular one, that happiness is achieved by increasing pleasure. And the most recent one has been the contemporary perspective that happiness is not only something nice to have but something that we really ought to have.
Therefore in the following lines, these perspectives will be further elaborated under four broad categories, namely; The Greek and Roman perspective The Jewish and Christian perspective The Age of Enlightenment’s perspective and The contemporary perspective The Greek and Roman Perspective As per Speakers and Dinner (2008) Democratic (BBC – BBC) was the first western external circumstances but one’s own cast of mind. However, as per The Pursuit of Happiness (2004) Socrates is the first known figure in the west to have argued that happiness is actually obtainable through human effort.
His optimistic argument has been that key to happiness is to turn attention away from body towards the soul. Then, Plato in ‘Thymuses’ his first piece of philosophy indicated Socrates, his coacher, to have said that happiness is everybody desire and that it does not depend on external things but rather on how this things are used. In ‘The Republic’ he further indicated that happiness results from Just and virtuous living. Similarly, according to Speakers and Dinner (2008) Aristotle asserted that happiness is in one’s own control and living a life with valued virtues could assure it.
Then there came Cicero who claimed that a happy man can be happy even while being tortured, which is quite extreme though. On the whole, these classical philosophers although seem to reject perspectives quite original of their own, according to McMahon (2010) they tended to agree that very few would ever succeed in achieving happiness because it takes incredible amount of work, discipline and devotion and most people, in the end are simply not up to the task.
Similarly, Speakers and Dinner (2008) argue that in the ancient world, there was a broad consensus, first among the Greeks and then among the Romans that good life devoid of reason and morality was simply not possible. The Jewish and Christian Perspective The Greeks and Romans were followed by middle age Christian and Jewish ideas of peppiness. Philosophers of this age believed that source of happiness was divine and that man did not have much control over it.
For instance, as per McMahon (2010) happiness can occur in one of three circumstances in Christian understanding. It could occur in the past in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were perfectly content, in the future when Christ returns the Kingdom of God or in the blissful heaven. Trickiest (1976) shares similar opinion, that earthly happiness is fallible although not impossible but complete and eternal happiness is possible only in the Kingdom of Heaven.
To sum it up Speakers and Dinner (2008) puts it most succinctly, that for philosophers of this age although virtue is indispensable for good life it was no longer sufficient to achieve true happiness and that it was attainable only through devoted faith and grace of god because it lay in the hands of God. The Age of Enlightenment This period saw the idea of happiness grow more secular and less worldly as per Speakers and Dinner (2008). To substantiate this, Stearns (2012) argues that the idea of happiness changed dramatically with 18th century and the values of enlightenment.
For instance, according to him Alexander Pope declaimed ‘Oh happiness! Our beings end and aim! ‘ while John Byron urged that ‘it was the best thing one could do to be always cheerful and not to suffer any sullenness. ‘ Similarly, as per McMahon (2010) George Mason, in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, spoke of pursuing happiness as natural endowment and right. Such perspectives emerged from the belief that suffering is inherently wrong and that opportunity to pursue happiness is everybody fundamental right.
To this effect, according to Stearns (2012) the 18th utter home heating to the availability of umbrellas to protect from rain. Such instances also conform to 19th century utilitarian belief that happiness equaled utility and that it was consequence of maximum pleasure. In a way, it now became perfectly legitimate to pursue happiness. The Contemporary Perspective ‘The idea that humans are entitled to pursue and attain happiness gained widespread acceptance in the modern era as manifested by the American Declaration of Independence and the crowded self-help aisles of bookstores’ (Speakers, P. And Dinner, E. , 2008: 118).
Quite in consonance with this McMahon (2010) asserts that contemporary men and women in the west have dared to think of happiness as something more than a divine gift, less fortuitous than fortune, less exalted than a millenarian dream which to him is a liberating perspective. It is a deviation from classical and medieval treat of happiness as Virtue’ or ‘divine intervention’ as per speakers and Dinner (2008). McMahon (2010) further argues that in the present time we define happiness more as our right and skill that can be developed and that we must strive to achieve this individually as well as collectively.