History of Happiness in Western Societies

Topics: Happiness, Age of Enlightenment, United States Declaration of Independence Pages: 5 (1508 words) Published: November 28, 2014

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Shyam Sunar
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ASSIGNMENT 1: Outline four different ways that happiness has been defined and pursued over history in Western societies. Due date
 15th July 2014
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I certify that the attached assignment is my own work. Material drawn from other sources 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: Shyam Sunar Date: 14th July, 201

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Outline four different ways that happiness has been defined and pursued over history in western societies.

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 Aydin (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, Kesebir and Diener (2008) remark that happiness as an idea and its development over a period of more than two Melina 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 defined 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 Kesebir and Diener (2008) Democritus (460BC – 370BC) was the first western philosopher to suggest that happy life is not exclusively product of a favorable fate or 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 ‘Euthydemus’ his first piece of philosophy indicated Socrates, his teacher, to have said that happiness is everybody’s 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,...
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