Theories on Happiness: Which one do you believe?

How do you achieve happiness? Why is that someone who has seemingly nothing at all may be grinning and bursting with joy, whereas a rich and beautiful person can be miserable, and vice versa? Happiness is a subject of wild debate by every human being with breath in their lungs. What is our state of happiness, and how is it felt, achieved and shared? These three theories on happiness are all believed by different people, whether they know it or not, and all peak into the mystery of happiness. Which one do you believe?

1. The Pleasant Life: Hedonism Theory

Hedonism theory holds that a happy person is one whose life has more pleasure than pain, and thus, they are also pleasant and “smiley”. It’s a theory that happiness is a matter of feeling, a happy person, by the theory of Hedonism, would be a wide-grinned, vibrant personality, with a pleasant personality and blissful countenance, resembling that of a playful puppy or a Hollywood movie star. Naturally, Hedonism holds that pleasure is judged by not only the one whose life is in question, but all those who are watching. Put best by Nobel Prize winning Psychologist Danny Kahneman, Hedonism begs the question: “who’s life is it anyway? The experiencer or the retrospective judge of pleasure?”.

2. The Good Life: Desire Theory

Desire theory holds that a happy person is one who gets what they want. Simply put, if your desires are satisfied, you will be happy and so is your life. The desire theory places the judgment of happiness on the one doing the wanting, because while your neighbor may want a nicer car or new boyfriend/girlfriend and view those things as a road to happiness, you may be wanting anything from a day off and a chocolate shake to a better job and a new boyfriend/girlfriend. To desire theory, it doesn’t matter what it is that is desired; as long as it is achieved by the one doing the wanting, happiness may then be achieved.

3. The Meaningful Life: Objective List Theory

Objective list theory holds that a happy person does not view happiness based on pleasure versus pain, or wanting versus attaining. Instead, objective list theory gives emphasis on things that hold more value on things that have more meaning. Things like health and wellness, good relationships, strong faith, charity and altruism, career accomplishments, personal dreams coming true. Objective list theory says that a happy person is not one who simply acts happy or doesn’t experience pain (Hedonism). Nor is a happy person simply someone who gets what they want all the time (desire theory). Instead, a happy person can be one who is poor, ill, and even lonely, but if they have a purpose of a greater good, then they can, in fact, be happy and have a happy life.

Whatever you believe about happiness, these three traditions all hold truth within them. Pleasure over pain, desires achieved over unsatisfied wanting and having a meaningful life over a vain and insignificant one are all necessary in their place to create happiness. Whatever you believe, be happy and share it with others.


Source: University of Pennsylvania  

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