The Pursuit for Happyness

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Happiness- comparing two works


Happiness is easy to define for some, and very difficult to define for others. It can be more easily defined after being split into two types of happiness- mental and material. Mental happiness is the state of pleasure one receives from completing a goal, doing something generally good, getting a good grade on an exam, or reaching a state of mental well-being; while material happiness is the state of pleasure one receives from finding a 20 dollar bill or buying a new truck. In Ciardi’s “what is happiness,” he claims that defining happiness is not an easy task and he attempts to do so by setting two extremes of happiness, material and spiritual [mental], and working his way toward the middle. He then proceeds to claim that happiness is in the pursuit of happiness itself, not in the end result. In Hoffman’s “Happiness and Illusion,” Hoffman rebuts Ciardi’s definition and claims that happiness is in fact easy to define and he uses the duration and the intensity of it to evaluate and define happiness as “…any form of mental pleasure that generalizes to the point of becoming an overall good feeling” (Ciardi).

These two essays are both correct in what they define, but they define different things. Ciardi defines a way to achieve happiness, the pursuit of happiness itself; Hoffman defines a type of happiness, the mental type. Ciardi presents an example of an Indian man in a catatonic state and says that the man is probably happy. The he doubts the man’s happiness, assumes that this kind of state would be torture for any Western man, then asks, “How can happiness for one man be torture for another?” (Ciardi)

Ciardi is correct in his assumption that the catatonic state would be torture for any Western man, but he is wrong when he assumes that the catatonic state is happiness itself. The catatonic state is just is just the Indian man’s way to achieve happiness and achieving and maintaining that state simply adds...
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