Essay on What Constitute Happiness to Man

6471 Words Apr 26th, 2011 26 Pages
The great questions about happiness are concerned with its definition and its attainability. In what does happiness consist? Is it the same for all men, or do different men seek different things in the name of happiness? Can happiness be achieved on earth, or only hereafter? And if the pursuit of happiness is not a futile quest, by what means or steps should it be undertaken?
On all these questions, the great books set forth the fundamental inquiries and speculations, as well as the controversies to which they have given rise, in the tradition of western thought. There seems to be no question that men want happiness. "Man wishes to be happy," Pascal writes, "and only wishes to be happy, and cannot wish not to be so." To the
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Happiness should be a consequence, but it cannot be a condition, of moral action.
In other words, happiness fails for Kant to impose any moral obligation or to provide a standard of right and wrong in human conduct. No more than pleasure can happiness be used as a first principle in ethics, if morality must avoid all calculations of utility or expediency whereby things are done or left undone for the sake of happiness, or any other end to be enjoyed.

This issue between an ethics of duty and an ethics of happiness, as well as the conflict it involves between law and desire as sources of morality, are considered, from other points of view, and again in good and evil where the problem of the summum bonum is raised. We may see no reason to reject moral principles which work through desire rather than duty. They may find nothing repugnant in appealing to happiness as the ultimate end which justifies the means and determines the order of all other goods. But they cannot make happiness the first principle of ethics without having to face many questions concerning the nature of happiness and its relation to virtue.
The Discussion begins rather than ends with the fact that happiness is what all men desire. Once they have asserted that fact, once they have made happiness the most fundamental of all ethical terms, writers like Aristotle or Locke,

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