Tag Archives: happpiness

What is Happiness? (Part 1)

Let’s begin our understanding of happiness by first looking at two of the three modern thinkers: Csikszentmihalyi and Maslow.

Csikszentmihalyi teaches of those few who have reached his fourth and final stage of development, “The fourth step, which builds on all the previous ones, is a final turning away from the self, back toward an integration with other people and with universal values.  In this final stage the extremely individualized person… willingly merges his interests with those of a larger whole.” Csikszentmihalyi goes on to mention, “… only a precious few emerge (i.e., reach the fourth and final level) once again to forge a unity with universal values.”

Maslow echoes a similar sentiment for those who have satisfied their belongingness and self-esteem needs (third and fourth needs of five), as they are now, “motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization (defined as ongoing actualization of potentials, capacities and talents, as fulfillment of a mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation), as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the person’s own intrinsic nature, as an unceasing trend toward unity, integration or synergy within the person).”

The thoughts of the modern thinkers would not be complete without the teachings of Campbell, to be discussed in the next post.

Understanding Moral Decisions – Part 6

Summarizing my previous five posts: for those that are attempting to lead good moral lives there are three basic moral philosophies: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics.

I believe that consequentialism, while possibly noble, is one that deemphasize individual choice and performance for the sake of the good of society.  As such, it can be used to justify actions that are harmful to individuals for the sake of the social good.  This philosophy robs the individual of his/her pursuit of happiness and the future flourishing of society.  Ii is very difficult to accept the premise that the ends justify the means, and that the individual is subservient to the will of society.

I believe that deontology, the most widely accepted of the three philosophies, also while possibly noble, is one that emphasizes the individual and his/her actions, but without regard for the consequences of those actions.  Just following what one believes to be the duty or obligation for certain actions, without considering the consequences of those actions, leaves the individual and society at risk.

I believe that virtue ethics is the only philosophy that is concerned with the individual making the right decisions for the right reasons.  The virtues found in good people make sure that this happens.  The virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, and love of neighbor, are displayed throughout the fine arts as the models for achieving happiness and the flourishing of society.  A person who possess all or some of the virtues will lead to good actions.  In other words, a good action will only come from a good person, and a good person is one who has earned or is earning the virtues.

Not only do the great masters of the fine arts present the virtues a necessary for good actions, but the great myths, great philosophers, and modern positive psychologists also support the earning of the virtues through hard work and preparation as necessary for a moral life and one that leads to individual happiness.

The virtues are the catalysts for the individual to seek out and capture the boon that is the gift to society.  The virtues (of which at least wisdom and courage are earned from a loving family, and involvement and exposure activities earlier in life before acceptance of the call to adventure) are the instruments by which the individual is awarded happiness and society flourishes.

Let me illustrate with three great artworks:

The Morning Bell by Homer

The Morning Bell by Winslow Homer (1871)

Above is Homer’s interpretation of the acceptance of the call to adventure (Gallery Four in my book).  The girl has the wisdom to see her future course of action and the courage to follow the path, even though it is uncertain where the path will lead her.

Homer - The Veteran in a New Field

The Veteran in a New Field by Winslow Homer (1865)

In this painting, another one by Homer, we have the adventurer who has fought the many trials and has captured the boon for his society (the end of the Civil War, as displayed in Gallery Five of my book).  He is displaying the virtues of temperance and justice (concern for the common good) – wisdom and courage to accept the adventure were earned earlier before battle.  But one thing is missing, happiness – the veteran has not yet been recognized for his efforts by his fellow countrymen.

 

The Night Watch by Rembrandt (1642)

The Night Watch by Rembrandt (1642)

In this masterpiece by Rembrandt, we see the protectors of the community being lauded by the military followers as well as the citizens (depicted by the little girl).  They have fought the many battles to capture the boon (safety and security of the community) and have been able to return back to the everyday world as a result of the love and admiration of their friends and neighbors (as seen in Gallery Six of my book).

This great Rembrandt painting illustrates that it is the responsibility of individuals and not the state to determine the future of the community (consequentialism is not supported in this painting).  Also, the painting illustrates that the mere duty or obligation of the few military men to protect the community is not sufficient as well.  The lighting and the placement of the small girl, representing the common community that it relying on the military men, is prominent in the painting, and for a special reason.  She represents the admiration and love for the heroes that have returned from the adventure: it is she, the personification of love of neighbor, who is welcoming the men across the threshold back to the everyday world (a personification missing in the Homer painting above).  It is this love of neighbor that brings happiness to the men (who have earned the virtues to succeed in the adventure) and the gift of their boon of protection to their society.  A mere sense of duty (deontology) would not have been sufficient.  It is the application of the virtues that makes this painting a masterpiece.

The Natural – The Movie (Part 4)

Continuing with my last post, Roy has earned four cardinal virtues, but one remains: love of neighbor.  Without this last virtue, Roy will not be able to achieve happiness.

Roy has accepted the adventure, has fought many trials to secure the boon, avoided many temptations and, through his concern for the welfare of his community, has approached the threshold of the return back to the everyday world.  But he still needs to be brought over the threshold with the help of others.  As depicted in the movie, Roy is batting in the bottom of the ninth, with two strikes: he is at the threshold looking for the help he needs to bring the boon he has captured to society.  The help he needs is to win the game – the boon would be delivered to society and he would achieve the happiness that has eluded him all his life.

Roy’s high school sweetheart is the one to bring him back across the threshold.  She tells him that the son that she has brought with her to Roy’s last game is also his son.  She has kept this a secret from him but she decides at the last moment that Roy must know the truth.

It is this love for Roy, as well as her son, that pulls Roy across the threshold – he hits the final pitch for a game winning home run.  It is at this moment that the boon of a pennant win is delivered to the Knights.  It is also at this moment that Roy achieves happiness.  He never hits another pitch, her never plays in another game. The pennant is delivered to the team, and the community flourishes.  Roy is reunited with his high school sweetheart and his son, living on a farm where he grew up.  Happiness is finally realized – for the entire Roy Hobbs family.

Great movie!