Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What is Happiness?

What is happiness? It’s a big question.

That syphilitic madman Nietzsche said “Happiness is a woman.” In certain circumstances, maybe he’s right!

That dour 19th century thinker Thomas Carlyle said, “Happy the people whose annals are blank.” Or put another way, the happiest people are those that have no history. Hmmm…

That grand old man of American letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had a more modest view of happiness. “To fill the hour – that is happiness,” he said.

Or maybe this is all wrong… happiness is not something you go after or define.

One of our favorites, Henry Miller said: “Happiness is desirable, but it is a by-product, the result of a way of life, not a goal which is forever beyond one’s grasp. Happiness is achieved en route… To make happiness the goal is to kill it in advance.”

We like it…

That difficult Dane and sometimes absurd man, Soren Kierkegaard, saw happiness as within us: “A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.”

We like that, too…

And our oft-quoted absurd hero, Albert Camus, asked “But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?”

Ah, the absurd man and the absurd life he leads in this, the absurd universe…

But perhaps the best comes from Theophile Gautier, who wrote in 1845: “Happiness is white and pink.” So that’s what colors it is!


  1. "Happiness is satisficing" --paraphrasing Barry Schwartz, described in link below

    Happiness is dolphins blowing bubble rings?

    By the way, Nietzsche said truth is a woman, not happiness. But maybe the same argument could apply here:

    "Supposing [happiness] is a woman - what then? Are there not grounds for the suspicion that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have been very inexpert about women? That the gruesome seriousness, the clumsy obstrusiveness with which they have usually approached [happiness] so far have been awkward and very improper methods for winning a woman's heart?"

    Have we been clumsy in our approach to happiness so far?

  2. Strange Loops,

    I have it right here... "Happiness is a woman," in Thus Spake Zarathustra.

    He may have also said "Truth is a woman." He said all kinds of things.

    Anyway... thanks for the comment and links!


  3. My mistake! Sorry. Beyond Good and Evil famously starts "Supposing truth is a woman" so I thought that was what you were referring to. I guess it's been too long since I've read Zarathustra.