Monday, April 5, 2010

A Short History of Happiness

Creating a healthy happy world is a worthy pursuit which we all have a stake in. It’s something academic colleague Dr. Mike Pratt has been working on to evolve Peak Performance theory. This week I have three posts based on Mike’s recent work, and for starters here’s some historical ground from the deep delvers:
  • BC 384-322: Greek Aristotle strikes it long and deep: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
  • BC 341-270: Greek Epicurus hits the pleasure button (Epicureanism), and gets tagged as a supporter of hedonism. To his credit, he said you have to draw the line somewhere.
  • On sweeping levels, Buddhism and Islam develop powerful paths to happiness.
  • 13th century, the Italian Roman Catholic priest Thomas Aquinas weighs in with: “Every man necessarily desires happiness.”
  • 1711-1776: the Scot David Hume high five’s Aristotle’s view.
  • 1776: The American Declaration of Independence includes the pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right.
  • 1748 – 1832: Englishman Jeremy Bentham defines happiness as pleasure and the absence of pain. An advocate of utilitarianism, he describes natural law and natural rights as “nonsense upon stilts.”
  • 1806 – 1873: John Stuart Mill works up utilitarianism with Jeremy, and focuses on actions that generate pleasure. He says OK to different types of pleasure, and pumps ‘higher pleasure’.
  • 1818 – 1883: Karl Marx sees happiness as the ultimate destination, achieved through crashing the lead vehicle.
  • 1844 – 1900: Friedrich Nietzsche says happiness is something for British Shopkeepers. Ronnie Barker’s sitcom alter-ego, the grocer Arkwright, to double negative, wouldn’t disagree.
  • 1879 – 1955: Albert Einstein compares moral aims like well-being and happiness to the ambitions of a pig.
  • 2000 – 2010: Happiness gets pondered, indexed, studied, measured, blogged and tweeted about. Stand by for more.