Sunday, December 09, 2012

Kreeft on Happiness

Our idea of what happiness is has changed since Aristotle. Here is a quote from philosopher Peter Kreeft:

But the meaning of the word happiness has changed since Aristotle's time. We usually mean by it today something wholly subjective, a feeling. If you feel happy, you are happy. But Aristotle, and nearly all premodern writers, meant that happiness was an objective state first of all, not merely a subjective feeling. The Greek word for happiness, eudaimonia, literally means good spirit, or good soul. By this definition, Job on his dung heap is happy. Socrates unjustly condemned to die is happy. Hitler exulting over the conquest of France is not happy. Happiness is not a warm puppy. Happiness is goodness.

Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1986

So, I think the idea of happiness has to be clarified when we use it. The philosophical term is not the term we normally think of today when we use the word "happiness."

No comments: