Happiness Theory

The book gave the following example: A gambler who has lost all evening makes one last bet with money that has been saved for the down payment on a house and wins back twice the sum. In some of the theories of happiness, namely Hedonism, this is perfectly acceptable. However, it does not have the most to offer the world. The Aristotelian philosophy on happiness would be the most helpful to the world because: its perspective, emphasis on virtue, and stance on reason.

Bon Jovi’s song “It’s My Life” illustrates the perspective much of the world holds today. It’s my life. My decisions are mine and mine alone. What I do affects only me. My cousin was recently incarcerated. His path to prison started with a decision many years back that his actions are his alone. This mindset seems to plague people’s minds today, and is especially prevalent among young people. What if the whole world adopted Aristotle’s perspective: what one does affects the whole. What if everyone was always mindful of how their actions would affect others? What a wonderful world it would be. Another aspect of perspective is it’s take on moments. In some philosophies each moment defines your overall happiness or misery. For Aristotle it’s not about one specific moment, it’s about your life in whole. One sad moment in an otherwise happy life does not mean your life was a failure. It’s about what you do with your life.

That said, it leads perfectly into Aristotle’s emphasis on virtue. It is unreasonable to think that one will not face opposition, and adversity in this life. Even for life on the most basic level, for example, a single-celled organism. That cell cannot live without facing the risks nature provides. It could be infected by bacteria or a virus, its environment could change rapidly causing damage or death, and it might not find food. Adversity is a natural part of life. That adversity should not depress us. Yes, life is difficult. But, if we always make the right decisions, we can be happy. There are moments of pain, there are moments of pleasure, there are moments of sadness, but if we are virtuous the life in whole is a happy one. It’s happy because we know, we did the right thing.

Lastly, Aristotle places emphasis on reason. His philosophy on happiness is the most logical of those we’ve studied. The other philosophies are impulsive (Hedonism), or reclusive (Epicureanism). Both characteristics have a negative impact on humanity as a whole. Those who take too many risks themselves and are concerned with merely themselves endanger society. Those who are afraid of risks, and thus hide will not contribute to society. Perhaps there was a great philosopher who hid himself away and was then unable to share his thoughts with the rest of the world. In an Aristotelian view, one can live his or her life normally, doing what is right, and no matter the circumstances one can find happiness. How much safer and more pleasant would the world be if everyone was concerned with the affects of their actions in the whole world? I once heard a story: A young boy was riding in the car with his father; he finished the banana he was eating, and tossed the peel out of the window. His father asked him, “Son, what would it be like if a million other people did exactly the same thing you just did?” The boy envisioned a mountain of banana peels on the side of the highway, and came to the realization that the actions of one are great. Conversely, what would happen if a million people did a good deed today? Or, what if a million people donated a dollar to charity today? Our actions can be amplified as a collective. We must use reason in our decisions.

It is important to be considerate of others, to do that which is right, and to keep things in perspective. Things I believe are all included in Aristotelian philosophy. Conversely, I believe being impulsive and selfish are bad things thus, I disagree with Hedonism.

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“Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.”

"Wishes may bring problems such that you regret them. Better that, though, than to never get them." As I thought about what this means, I thought first of the characters in the play. All wished for something, obtained it, and were still left wanting. They could not be content with what they had achieved or gained rather their desires just changed shape. It’s not a bad thing to have worthy goals. It’s what makes us as a human species continue progressing. It’s desires for knowledge that have helped us develop new technologies to explore our universe. However, sometimes what we wish for is not the best thing for us.

I would like to speak of my cousin. Cousin met someone she loved, obtained approval from her parents and was married. Both she and her husband were young, but they followed the appropriate steps according to family customs. After being married they saw everyone around them getting all of the things they wanted. A new home, and all the latest toys. It became a game of "keeping up with the Jones’." They became heavily indebted in their quest to obtain their wishes. But, they ended up with a new home, and all the toys. Eventually the stresses of debt, and not being able to pay it off overcame them. They lost their home, and the toys, and their relationship suffered because of the strain put upon it. Yet neither Cousin, nor her husband have learned to go without those things. They continue to indulge in their desires at the expense of themselves and their children.

It is good to have goals. Goals help you grow, they bring a sense of accomplishment when achieved. But sometimes our goals or our wishes are misaligned. It is better to sacrifice in obtaining goals so that when you achieve your desire there is a sense of worth and value. It is better to pass-up the wishes that are not right, and focus on those which are right. If only the Baker’s Wife would’ve passed by her temptation, yet another obstacle, in the woods. She might have returned to her husband, and valued their relationship more fully. Instead of being filled with the regret that comes with wrong decisions.

Into the Woods. . .

In the play Into the Woods, I feel that the woods are the adversities and challenges of life. It relates well to our own trials in this life. The woods are large and daunting. They are dark and scary. The outcome is unsure. You may die in the woods, you may not. Who knows? Cinderella goes to the festival, after which, she goes into the woods where she’s caught in the dilemma of choosing between love and revealing her true identity to the prince. The Baker and his wife wish for a child then must go into the woods or through the trial of gathering the needed things for the old witch. When the Baker first starts out into the woods he is nervous and unsure whether or not he can obtain the needed objects. The same daunting feeling comes over them as they lose things they’ve obtained, but they rejoice as they finally have the required items having worked through their adversity. Jack must sell his “friend” the cow, which happens in the woods. And Little Red Riding Hood faces an obstacle in the woods on the way to Grandmother’s house.

We have our own trials in this life. We lose loved one’s, as did Jack. We have decisions to make: which major/degree, which career, and whom to marry? Just as Cinderella faced decisions in the woods of her life. Finally like the Baker and his wife, we all have obstacles to overcome to reach a desired goal. Maybe it’s not having a child, maybe it is. Maybe it’s working for a promotion at work, or doing the necessary work for a desired grade in a course. Whatever it is, it’s different for everyone. Yet we all have them. We learn from the play, however, that if we work at it, we can overcome our supposed obstacles, and come out on top of things.