Contemporary magazines state boldly that happiness is the goal of life. They go as far as to prescribe methods for achieving this. Mostly this would seem to involve losing weight and buying things. Regardless the modern state of happiness is related, mainly through the media, as the fulfilment of commercial desires and the accumulation of material things. Most of us have enough good sense to appreciate this is nothing less than a marketing ploy. If we believe being happy requires some sort of input into the commercial world then someone’s’ pockets will be lined the fruits of our labour.
Two questions come to mind. Firstly is happiness the true goal of life? Secondly how is it genuinely to be achieved?
A trip through the history books will reveal ‘happiness’ was not always thought to be our number one goal. It was Aristotle who made a deep exploration of the subject and his definition of happiness was not a subjective state of one’s mind but more a totality of how one had lived, not a pleasurable moment but a contribution towards our common human ends. Happiness is achieved through virtue and living a good life. Many philosophers share this view.
Given this interpretation is it even possible to target happiness as a goal? It would seem not. It is often the case that even asking oneself if they are happy negates the possibility that they are. Happiness becomes an elusive concept, only caught in the corner of your eye. Commercial successes and achievements, whilst not denying it, are not necessary to achieve it and quite often it only seems in reflection that happiness is found.
Living a good life is not momentary, so is it possible that happiness is? If not then it would seem pursuing happiness is at best misconceived and at worst a symptom of a world in deep malaise.