Tag Archives: philosophers

Other Philosophers – Variations on Theme (Part 4)

In my previous post, I discussed the more modern philosophers, Bentham and Mill. Both are Utilitarians whose ethical philosophy is very similar to that of Epicurus, however with a twist. Rather than emphasize pleasure for the individual as the road to happiness, they emphasize maximizing pleasure for all citizens of a society. That is the twist – pursuing those actions that maximize pleasure for a collective society rather than individuals.

Both of these philosophers are considered consequentialists as well – the ends justify the means. In other words, what is important in not how you go about obtaining pleasure but rather the amount of pleasure that is secured. The goal of these philosophies is to reach happiness at all cost, and happiness is defined as pleasure (or the absence of pain).

In earlier posts, I discussed Scotus, who was a philosopher contemporary with Aquinas.  He held similar positions as Aquinas but went further in promoting justice as being part of the moral good of our actions.  Scotus was concerned that the philosophers before him placed too much emphasis in obtaining one’s own happiness and not enough concern with the flourishing of others.  Essentially, Scotus took the virtue of justice (concern for others) and Aquinas’s love of neighbor and added additional weight to it to ensure that the concern for others was also not ignored in our actions.  That additional emphasis on justice by Duns Scotus was the twist on the teachings of the ancient philosophers mentioned in my book.

The final philosopher that I mentioned in my last few posts was Kant.  Like Scotus, Kant was concerned with moral actions and justice.  But, unlike Scotus, Kant did not think that the goal of life was to achieve happiness.  He believed that the goal of life was to perform one’s duty through moral actions, independent of the outcome of those actions.  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.  That is the twist – Kant resembles the Stoics’ regard for reason, even though he does not claim that the virtues will deliver the proper reason nor will reason lead to happiness but rather a sense of satisfaction for performing one’s duties properly.

So, we have discussed four influential philosophers that resemble the four ancient philosophers mentioned in my book.  The reason that these four are not included in my book is that they don’t add enough to the narrative of the road to happiness and would simply complicate the description.  They are just variations on a theme which has already been discussed by the ancient philosophers.  However, they are worth mentioning in that they help to contrast and better define the road to happiness discussed in my book.

I hope that these last few post have been helpful.  I also hope that after reviewing these alternative philosophies you might have a better appreciation of the road to happiness discussed in my book.

What is Happiness? (Part 3)

Continuing with the thoughts of my previous post, we now witness the much-anticipated convergence of the conclusions arrived at by the intellectual “prose” of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi, and Campbell.  The three academics, independent of one another, have reached identical conclusions regarding those who have reached the highest levels of human development.  Maslow’s theory presents the ultimate level of human development – self-actualization: fulfillment of a mission (or call or destiny), acceptance of one’s own nature, and a drive towards integration with others.  Campbell’s study of world myths presents the hero who successfully crosses the threshold back to the everyday world: one released of all personal ambitions, limitations, and fears.  Finally, Csikszentmihalyi’s research reveals the individual who has reached the final level of development: integration with other people and with universal values.

The ancient thinkers echo in their teachings the conclusions of the above three modern thinkers that, if our moral and intellectual development goes as it should, we will progress from valuing food and warmth, to valuing social relations, to valuing moral virtue.  We will require four virtues to reach the threshold of happiness: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice.  But, as stated brilliantly by St. Aquinas, the final virtue of love of neighbor is necessary to pull us across the threshold into the realm of happiness.  It is at this moment of passage into happiness that the boon of the adventurer is delivered for the benefit of society.

Characterized by each of the three modern thinkers as the ultimate level of human development, and reflected in the teachings of the four ancient thinkers, happiness is: 1) fulfillment of one’s call or destiny and the subsequent acceptance of one’s nature and limitations, 2) freedom from personal ambitions (desires), fears, and limitations, and 3) integration with universal values and the promotion of the greater good of society.

More to come!

Book’s Summary in Images

If you are still thinking about buying my book, I thought it might be helpful to explain the structure of the book using three images.

I think that my book can best be described as one operating in four dimensions.  The first two dimensions, forming a geometric plane, are the ideas presented by the ancient philosophers and modern thinkers.  The ancient philosophers provide the base of the triangle.  Two modern “positive” psychologists provide one side of the triangle and the works of Joseph Campbell regarding the myths of the world provide the other side of the triangle.

First Two Dimensions of Book

However, the above is only two dimensions and doesn’t do the subject of happiness any justice.  If you add the viewpoints of the masters of the fine arts, you get a much more three dimensional perspective.  Now, the attainment of happiness becomes much clearer.

Three Dimensions of Book

However, there is one thing missing – the means of climbing to the top of the pyramid and the achievement of happiness.  For finding the means to reach the top, a fourth dimension is needed – a set of stairs.  The means for climbing the stairs is the entrepreneur within each of us.  The traits of the entrepreneur propel each of us upward along the stairs to the very top of the pyramid; the very top is where happiness resides!

Fourth Dimension of Book