Thursday, October 22, 2009

Individual Happiness

It is essential that individuals are clear about their definition of happiness. In the absence of a clear definition there is all probability of a person being swayed by each propounded concept targeted towards him.

Though there are various concepts of happiness, I find the concepts of hedonia and eudaimonia to include a lot of aspects and easier to comprehend.

Hedonism: The doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life. A hedonist strives to maximize the net pleasure (pleasure minus pain).

Hedonism has been expressed in many forms and expressions have ranged from a narrow focus on bodily pleasures to a broad focus on appetites and self-interests. Hedonism is broadly said to include pleasures of both the mind and body.

Eudaimonia: Eudaimonia has been defined as the subjective experiences associated with doing what is worth doing and having what is worth having.

The adjective eudaimon is a compound word comprised of ‘eu’ meaning “well” and ‘daimon’ (daemon), which refers to a sort of guardian spirit. Eudaimonia could literally translate to “the state of having a good indwelling spirit, a good genius”.

As per the Aristotelian definition, people achieve eudaimonia by developing their ultimate potential and bringing this excellence and virtue to action.

According to positive psychologists, eudaimonia occurs when people’s life activities are most congruent with deeply held values and are holistically or fully engaged.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle mentions three prominent kinds of lifestyles (1) the life of pleasure, (2) the life of practical activity (politics), and (3) the philosophical (contemplative) life.

Within the definitions of a pleasant life, good (engaged) life and meaningful life, I find the concept of the ‘meaningful life’ appealing. A meaningful life consists of using characteristic strengths in the service of something you believe is larger than yourself. I would add to it the perspective of developing the strengths to the level of excellence. This would be an acceptable definition. Well, just to be a bit greedy I would maybe sprinkle in some hedonistic moments.


Nick said...


by asking "what is happiness" you ask a very good question. Recently I had my own shot at defining happiness, which aims to be more “scientific” and “objective” (as much as this is possible for a subjective feeling such as happiness):

“A person can be considered to have experienced a “happy” moment if the person chooses to re-live it as an end in itself if offered at no cost.”

For the detailed derivation of this conclusion please have a look at; I’d love to hear what you think!

Thank you,


VS said...

Nick thanks for your views.

VSB said...

Hmmmm... a meaningful life, perhaps that ia a partial defination of happiness for me. What was it that Gautama the Buddha experienced which had him moving beyond the defination, identification and contemplation of happiness to experiencing it unconditionally?

VS said...

VSB: I think the definitions can be individual, but then probably its developing characteristic strengths to the level of excellence another aspect which has to be considered.

elisa freschi said...

Dear VS,
sorry for posting here a more general question. Since some months I started re-considering what I initially accepted to be obviously true, that is, that children make on happy. Dan Gilbert ("Stumbling on happiness") and Amod Lele (you probably read his blog) maintain that it is not so. What's your opinion about it? I am asking a general question although I know that the answer is strictly individual, because Gilbert and Lele (and many others) seem to be quite definitive about the fact that by and large children do not make one happier –still to raise children is often a way to make one's life very significant and (in your words) "meaningful".

VS said...

Elisa: Dan Gilbert is an expert. I do not read Amod Lele's blog. Their reasons for saying so could be that children bring responsibilities. My view is that the answer is how we view children and our relationships in general. If we consider that children are commodities (like the latest car or gadget) supposed to make us happy, then we can expect to be disappointed. If we consider that relationships do not require effort and if we do not purposefully work to make them evolve then we cannot expect to gain much in term of meaning from those relationships, including those with children.

Our mindset determines a lot our response to a reactions. Modern day living has made people equate children with responsibility and decreased personal time, thus the attitude. Sunlight cannot enter a room with closed doors and windows.

elisa freschi said...

Thanks for your insightful and refreshing answer, VS.
Now, what would you say to a friend who is uncertain about having children or not and asks for your advice? Suppose that he/she is the kind of person you will not expect to invest much time in his/her relationship with children. Still, children often do CAUSE a change in their parents' attitude.

elisa freschi said...

(Mine is a general question. I do not have a friend knocking on my door and asking this question).

VS said...

Elisa: I understand that you want to say that you are thinking that your friend may have a change in attitude and become more caring later.

Honestly, if a friend would ask me the same question, I would ask him/her why he/she wants to have children? The answer to this question, would perhaps be the basis of the advice.