Happiness, is a condition which humans can have. (As Aristotle pointed out in his works on Ethics, it would be incorrect to call happiness a state, as happy humans are in motion.) The definition of happiness is one of the greatest philosophical topics, at least since the time of Socrates, and is especially central to Ethics, being the starting point of Aristotle's ethical works. Some people might define it as the best condition which a human can have - a condition of mental and physical health. Others may define it as freedom from want and distress; consciousness of the good order of things; assurance of one's place in the universe or society, inner peace, and so forth.

Happiness is associated with pleasures, or even equated to pleasure by some people. Other associated emotions include joy, exultation, delight, bliss, and love. Feelings felt to be opposed to happiness are suffering, sadness, grief, and pain.

But the term pleasure (like its opposite pain) is normally used to specifically indicate specific temporary physical sensations, while happiness is nornally used to refer specifically to a long-term wellness and consciousness of that wellness (even if pleasure is a common aspect of it). Furthermore, many people would insist that happiness is a word concerning something specifically human, because happiness implies consciousness.

In Aristotle's Ethical works, the word normally translated as happiness is eudaimonia or eudaemonia in Greek. The original meaning is perhaps something like "well inspired" or "good spirited" (eu means well/good, and the second component is related to daimon or daemon). He took it for granted that it was in contrast to short term pleasure and cited a popular saying of his time to the effect that whether one has been happy or not can only be stated at the end of your life. He seemed to mean something else than happiness when he used the word makarios, sometimes translated as "blessedness".

Philosophical views:

  • Utilitarianism commonly seeks the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
  • Epicureanism is the belief that the greatest good is to seek happiness for oneself.
  • Hedonism is any ethical theory that gives pleasure a central role.
  • Eudaimonism is any ethical theory that gives happiness a central role.

Psychological views - Positive psychology:

Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness gives the positive psychology definition of happiness as consisting of both positive emotions (like comfort) and positive activities (like absorption). He presents three categories of positive emotions:

  • past: feelings of satisfaction, contentment, pride, and serenity.
  • present (examples): enjoying the taste of food, glee at listening to music, absorption in reading.
  • future: feelings of optimism, hope, trust, faith, and confidence.

There are three categories of present positive emotions:

  • bodily pleasures, e.g. enjoying the taste of food.
  • higher pleasures, e.g. glee at listening to music.
  • gratifications, e.g. absorption in reading.

The bodily and higher pleasures are "pleasures of the moment" and usually involve some external stimulus. An exception is the glee felt at having an original thought.

Gratifications involve full engagement, flow, elimination of self-consciousness, and blocking of felt emotions. But when a gratification comes to an end then positive emotions will be felt.

Gratifications can be obtained or increased by developing signature strengths and virtues. Authenticity is the derivation of gratification and positive emotions from exercising signature strengths. The good life comes from using signature strengths to obtain abundant gratification in, for example, enjoying work and pursuing a meaningful life.

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