Tag Archives: happiness

Everyone Found in One of Seven Galleries

In my book and in my blog I mention that everyone can be found in one of the seven galleries discussed in my book.  However, in two of those galleries, individuals soon move onward to the next gallery or fall back to previous ones.

Gallery One  – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Two.

Gallery Two – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Three – rarely falling back to Gallery One.

Gallery Three – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Four – rarely falling back to Gallery Two.

Gallery Four – Individuals soon fall back to Gallery Three or move forward to Gallery Five.

Gallery Five – Individuals soon fall back to Gallery Three or move forward to Gallery Six.

Gallery Six – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Seven.

Gallery Seven – Individuals stay in this gallery.

So, it might be easier to consider that most people eventually find themselves in Galleries One, Two, Three, Six, or Seven.  Galleries Four and Five are testing grounds to determine which Gallery is most appropriate – Gallery Three or Gallery Six.  The aim of those who remain in Gallery Three is the “good life,” not a bad place to be.  The aim of those in Gallery Six is either to strive for Gallery Seven or to remain in the Adventure forever.  Remaining in the Adventure is not bad, but achieving happiness is far better!

Other Philosophers – Variations on a Theme (Part 3)

In my last post I discussed the philosophy of Kant.  Kant wrote that the best moral structure is not to seek after our own happiness (as taught by the ancient philosophers mentioned in my book) or to consider justice in addition to happiness (Duns Scotus), but to discard happiness altogether and focus on one’s duty according to a moral code based on good will.  This moral approach focuses on one’s duty without regard to the consequences of the action taken in performing one’s duty – “the means justify the ends.”  I mentioned that the synthesis of the road to happiness in my book addresses the concerns of both Duns Scotus as well Kant.

After the philosophy of Kant began to take hold within certain parts of society, a new moral approach was introduced and one that returned to the importance of the pursuit of happiness.  This new philosophical approach began with Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and was refined by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Both Bentham and Mill are considered utilitarians.  Utilitarians believe that we all seek after our own happiness (agreeing with Aristotle/Aquinas) but that happiness is not reached through the virtues but on maximizing pleasure or minimizing pain.

Bentham taught that the outcome of any action should be to contribute to pleasure. He defined the value of this pleasure to be equal to its intensity multiplied by its duration. So you must consider not only the number of pleasures, but the intensity of each and the duration of each.

Mill took a slightly different approach arguing that there are different levels of pleasure and that the higher levels (such as art, literature, philosophy) should be pursued more than than the lower or simpler pleasures.

Both of these philosophers proposed a Utilitarian belief that the moral value of any action is based on its outcome (i.e., pleasure). This is a form of consequentialism – “the ends justify the means.”

The philosophy of Epicurus, discussed in my book, is essentially the same as that of the two Utilitarians discussed above.  All three schools equate the idea of “good” not with virtue but with those things that bring pleasure (or reduce pain).  Epicurus does differ from the other two Utilitarians in that his maximizing of pleasure occurs on an individual level rather than at a societal level.

I believe that Bentham and Mill are “variations on a theme” of the very original teachings of Epicurus. In addition, the narrative in my book does address enhancing the prosperity of society through the actions of individuals looking to achieve happiness.

More in the next post!

Other Philosophers – Variations on a Theme (Part 2)

In my previous post, I mentioned the first philosopher whose work on happiness is worth considering beyond the four ancient philosophers mentioned in my book.   John Duns Scotus, a contemporary of Aquinas, accepted the works on happiness in this life of the philosophers before him but with one twist.  The twist is that he placed acceptance of the moral law on the same plane as the pursuit of individual happiness as the aims of life.  He believed that we are not just driven to achieve our own happiness but that we should be mindful of the happiness of others – the moral law.  I mentioned that the narrative of the road to happiness in my book addresses the flourishing of others around us by virtue of the Adventure.  Without a successful Adventure, individual happiness is not reached nor do those around us flourish.

Continuing along this concept of goals in life being other than happiness, another more modern influential philosopher worthy of consideration is Kant (1724-1803).  Kant disagreed with most of the philosophers before him (including Scotus) that the meaning of life is to achieve happiness (and a moral law).  He believed that happiness is too vague of a term and too subjective and that it is worthless to try and define an ethical approach to life in which happiness is the aim.  Nonetheless, he did believe that happiness is important but that something else is more important.

He believed that the best moral position was not to pursue happiness through the exercise of the virtues, but to act out of duty without consideration of the outcome that such actions might have.  The duty, acted with good will, is the proper action for obedience to a law.  This action of duty places the final aim of life above individual happiness.  The actions of duty not only lead to individual happiness, or at least contentment in a job well done, but also the the happiness of others, assuming that the duty is done out of a good will.

His moral system could be defined as the means justify the ends.  According to Kant, so long as your decisions are based on your duty, you were acting ethically and you could eventually move towards happiness, whatever that means, and help others along the way.  To put it differently, we are all motivated to act morally out of a sense of moral duty, rather than to achieve individual happiness (which Kant had a hard time describing). For example, a doctor will feel a duty to treat his/her patients.  Kant believes that the doctor’s actions are not born from some desire to achieve happiness, but from a desire to perform one’s duty, even if this will be detrimental to the doctor’s happiness.  The motivation of the doctor is not self-interest but duty to help others.

In summary, Kant went one step further than Scotus by removing happiness from consideration.  According to Kant, happiness is not bad, but it is not the aim of life.  The aim of life is acting according to one’s duty and having a good will to make the right dutiful decisions.  A sense of satisfaction is found in performing one’s duties in a moral way and not only does the individual reach a sense of contentment or satisfaction in performing a job well done, others benefit as well.  He believed that those individuals with a proper sense of reason would make the correct moral decisions by following the laws before us. While Kant was unique in his thinking, he still resembles the ancient Stoics. The Stoics believed that the virtues, and only the virtues, would provide the proper knowledge and reason to understand those actions necessary to achieve happiness.

Kant’s very confusing system gets around the problem of how an individual can be moral if their only concern is achieving their own happiness and not helping others to flourish.  The narrative of the Adventure presented in my book answers this dilemma without forgoing the human motivation to seek one’s own happiness.  I find it hard to see how one is motivated to perform one’s duty with a sense of good will towards others unless there is some aim to the whole process.  If the aim is the be a good Christian or viewed positively by God, then the philosophy becomes one of religion and the aim is more than something found in this life.

For all the above reasons, I view Kant, while original, to be a twist on the themes presented by the ancient philosophers presented in my book.

More in my next post!


Other Philosophers – Variations on a Theme (Part 1)

In my book I mention that there is very little that modern philosophers can add to the discussion regarding how best to reach happiness in this life that the ancient philosophers haven’t already explored.  I would like to discuss this conclusion of mine in greater detail in a few upcoming posts.  These next posts might help put in perspective the more modern philosophers and how similar they are to the ancient philosophers.

The first philosopher (who is the last of the ancient philosophers that I will mention) to break from the Aristotelian/Aquinas approach to happiness was John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), a contemporary of Aquinas.  Scotus disagreed with the other ancient philosophers that happiness is the sole goal of our actions.  Instead, Scotus stated that in addition to seeking happiness, individuals also seek justice.  Justice is a natural tendency to obey moral laws and that these moral laws may not necessarily lead to individual happiness.  As such, individuals must weigh the demands for individual happiness with a call for justice towards others.  Scotus was as concerned with the flourishing of others as with the flourishing of oneself.

This concern for the welfare of others is captured in the narrative of my book.  As discussed in the book, the goal of the Adventure undertaken by some individuals is to capture a boon or gift for society.  However, this gift can only be delivered if the individual possesses the virtue of justice (concern for others), among other virtues, and if there is a love of the adventurer by society (Aquinas requirement).  Moreover, to even begin the Adventure to capture to boon requires a transcendental call or summons to the Adventure.  As such, Scotus’ concern for justice, or the flourishing of others, which is an important consideration, is captured in my book’s narrative.  It is the Adventure, if successful, that not only delivers happiness to the individual but also adds to the flourishing of the adventurer’s family, community, or society.

More in the next post!

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 5)

Let me finish the series of the last four posts with a discussion of the final book and some final words about the Consolation of Philosophy.

Book 5

In this final section of the book, Philosophy states that everyone has free will to choose what actions to take now and in the future.  This is a very heavy burden for all of us if we are to remain on the road to happiness.  Life is not a series of random events that none of us can control.  Philosophy teaches that our decisions impact our future and that we must be diligent in making the right decisions if happiness is to be realized.

Philosophy warns all of us, “Therefore, stand firm against vice and cultivate virtue.  Lift up your souls to worthy hopes … the necessity of virtuous action imposed upon you is very great …”

Summary of the Book

The teachings of Boethius through his book echo the road to happiness in this life found in my book.  He mentions that the meaning of life is happiness; that financial comfort, honor, prestige, pleasure, and love/friendships are needed to reach happiness; and that virtues are required to make the right decisions to use the goods acquired in life to find happiness.

The main difference is that Boethius does not speak of the Adventure.  In my book, the Adventure is the means by which the acquired virtues are utilized to move the individual from the “good life” to happiness.  As important, the Adventure of the individual is also the means by which society flourishes.  In essence, the flourishing of society is based on the happiness of the individual.

That is what makes the narrative of the my book so compelling: the meaning of life is happiness and finding one’s happiness leads to the betterment of society.  In other words, individual happiness = better society.  So, if we all are searching for happiness, then we are searching to help those around us.  Without happiness, there is no flourishing of society.  Without the flourishing of society, there is no happiness.  This is the Holy Grail: society flourishes by those actions undertaken by individuals searching for their personal happiness.  This twofold gift can not be realized without  a successful Adventure.  The Adventure cannot be successful without the virtues.  The virtues can not be gained without trying to find honor, recognition, financial comfort, pleasure, friends and love.  This is the warning of Boethius, take extreme care to cultivate the virtues and use them properly: without them you will not find happiness and those around you will not prosper.

I hope that these posts might inspire you to read the book.  it is a very rewarding book and very easy to read, especially with the primer of my last few posts!

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 4)

Continuing from my last post, Philosophy states in the third section of the book: 1) we all seek happiness, 2) honor, wealth, prestige, belongingness, and pleasure are necessary for happiness but not sufficient, and 3) additional factor are needed to deliver happiness.

Book 4

Philosophy continues by stating that that the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished.  While it looks like evil prevails in the world, in fact, according to Philosophy, it does not.  “They [the wicked] try to attain the good by unnatural and ineffectual means because they are blinded by ignorance and weakened by intemperance. … The punishment of the wicked is their wickedness, that loss of goodness which is the loss of human nature.”

Philosophy goes on the say that good people seek happiness by means of the virtues.  “… evil men, however, try to achieve the same goal by a variety of concupiscences, and that is surely an unnatural way of seeking the good. … just a virtue is the reward of virtuous men, so wickedness itself is the punishment of the wicked.”

These same conclusions are reached in my book – the virtues are necessary to move from the “good life” to a state of happiness.  It is the “involvement” and “exposure” activities discussed in my book that give rise to the virtues.  It is the Adventure that tests those virtues to ensure that the adventurer really is qualified to reach happiness.  Philosophy mentions similar trials, “… others she tests with hardships in order to strengthen their virtues by the exercise of patience.  Some people fear to undertake burdens they could easily bear, while others treat too lightly those they are unable to handle; both of those are led on by Providence to find themselves by trials.”

More to come in my next post.

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 3)

Continuing with my last post, we move to the third section of the Consolation of Philosophy.  In the second section, Book Two, Philosophy teaches that the transitory goods of wealth, fame, power, honor, and physical beautiful are not sufficient for happiness.  Those of us that focus on these  goods will not find happiness.

Book Three

This is a key section of the book.

First, Philosophy mentions that it is the goal of all individuals to seek happiness in their lives.  “Mortal men laboriously pursue many different interests along many different paths, but all strive to reach the same goal of happiness.  Now the good is defined at that which, once it is attained, relieves man of all further desires.”

Second, the desire for wealth, public honor, power, fame, and pleasure are worthy of desire and it is not bad to seek after these goods; however, they are not sufficient for happiness.  Philosophy mentions that individuals get into trouble by assuming that these goods are sufficient for happiness.

Third, Philosophy states that true happiness can only be found in the perfect good, and the perfect good includes possession of the above-mentioned transitory goods in addition to other things, to be discussed.

The above three points mirror what I have discussed in my book.  To reach the “good life” requires “involvement” and “exposure” activities, in addition to family nurturing and safety provided by society, that lead to financial comfort, prestige, belongingness, honor, and recognition.  These same goods mentioned by Philosophy are required for happiness, as expressed by the modern thinkers as well as the ancient philosophers.  However, to go beyond the “good life” towards happiness requires a set of virtues to accept a call to adventure and complete the adventure and return to the everyday world.

More on this in the next post!