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How can we be happy?

The Basic Questions of Life and Philosophy

1. What is happiness?

I offer this definition for your slings and arrows...

Definition of Happiness:  An ever-changing condition consisting of an elevated, buoyant mood. Or, deeply rooted pleasure based upon longer-term satisfaction. 

2. Is happiness a legitimate subject for philosophical inquiry?

As far as  can tell, it has been given short shrift by traditional academics.  Certainly in my college and post-graduate studies, we never spent time on it.... though the Ancients did.

Aristotle believed by eudaemonia, a word commonly understood by the Greeks of his age as a form of happiness.  However, it was not construed as pleasure per se. 

3. How can we be happy?

Happiness would appear to have several basic pre-conditions:

basic life conditions - being free of calamities. Tom S. disagrees - people who win lotteries can be miserable. 
natural set-points - our own internal psychological thermostats. perhaps set genetically.  
good health - Tom S. disagrees.  Yoshio: Healthy is good, but unhealthy people can be happy.   Tom S.: Art Buchwald stopped dialysis but decided to die and was happy.
some income or basic standard of living
Beyond those preconditions, these activities may have an impact on happiness. Most have been studied intensively by psychologists and philosophers:
  • Loving relationship with a spouse
  • Loving relationship with family
  • Loving relationship with friends
  • Creativity - use of your own
  • Strong health
  • Appreciation of art
  • Connection to the community or to a political body
  • Meditation and breathing
  • Prayer and religion
  • Modeling on the success at being happy of others
  • Appreciation - of the good things in life; or inversely, of benefits of not experiencing pain; or knowing pain's limitations. 
  • Curiosity
  • Acceptance
  • Order -
  • Physical Activity
  • Honor - being principled and loyal
  • Status- property ownership
  • Power
  • Independence
  • Idealism
  • Vengeance (Steven Rice's idea only!)
  • Romance
  • Eating
  • Saving
  • Tranquility
Steven Rice's Keys to Happiness: He rated his own keys.

RESOURCES: Basic introduction to the topic:

Historical approach:

Aristotle on Eudaemonia.

Read: Introduction, then Ethics, pages 23-41

Scientific - psychological approach:


Popular approach:

The Happy Guy

See definitions - not a rigorous approach, but interesting

The World Database of Happniess

One interesting aspect of this site is the index of hapines sby nation. Sweden at 3.3 is very happy. Norway, which has billions in reserve form its oil profits and a high standard of living, does not fare much better than te USA. (2.18)

Interesting site:

A non-profit site, but they want your info to download their e-book.
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