Essentially, to broaden and develop my understanding and perspective of the notion of happiness, I embarked on a thorough research process to identify what I could potentially cover in regards to my conceptual idea.
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘happiness’ as “the state of being happy”. But what does this happy state actually mean?
From a philosophical point of view:
One of my favourite philosophical quotes that I found regarding happiness is that belonging to Aristotle. He states that:
“The question is asked, whether happiness is to be acquired by learning or by habituation or some other sort of training, or comes in virtue of some divine perspective providence or again by chance. Now if there is any gift of the gods to men, it is reasonable that happiness should be god-given, and most surely god-given of all human things inasmuch as it is the best.” (Aristotle, 350 BCE)
This made me ask:
- How is happiness acquired? Is it just given to us? Or is it by chance?
From a psychological point of view:
According to an article in Psychology Today, there are certain characteristics in happy people:
- Happy people manage money well
- Happy people spend their money on life experiences instead of material items
- Happy people think about the past fondly
- Happy people “catch” the emotions of others
- Happy people live in a great community
I would love to see if this is true or not.
From a scientific point of view:
Happiness can only be defined to a certain point:
“The science of the human mind is far too young to attempt anything like a unified theory of happiness, despite the best efforts of drug companies to associate well-being with levels of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters.” (Brown 2004)
From a religious point of view:
David Horner suggests that from Christian Discipleship,
“All too often, the pursuit of happiness represents to us something actually immoral: “because I want to be happy” is probably the most common reason we hear-or give-for justifying morally wrong behavior. ” (Horner 2009)
“[A] new measure [of] our happiness…could give us a general picture of whether life is improving, and that does have a really practical purpose. It will open up a national debate about what really matters; not just in government but amongst people who influence our lives: the media, in business, the people who develop the products we use, and build the towns we live in and shape the culture we enjoy.” (Cameron, 2010)
The pursuit of happiness
I also took a look at various conversations held online through TED Conversions regarding the concept of happiness. Discussions such as What is Happiness? ,What is Happiness for You? & Is Fear the Greatest Threat to Happiness? all bring up valid questions surrounding happiness as well as factors that can threaten people’s happiness.
As demonstrated from just some of the examples shown above, there is a vast array of perspectives on what happiness means to people under different perspectives and what it involves. Therefore, rather than just examining one of those perspectives, I want to be able to reveal and exhibit the different perspectives of happiness within the Sydney community.
Bibliography & References
Oxford Dictionary, ‘Happy’, viewed: 24 April 2013,
Aristotle, 350 BCE, in Burnett, S. 2012, The Happiness Agenda: A Modern Obsession, Palgrave Macmillan.
Brown, C. 2004. ‘The (Scientific) Pursuit of Happiness’, Smithsonian Magazine, available via: <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/The_Scientific_Pursuit_of_Happiness.html?c=y&page=1>
Cameron, D. 2010, ‘Plan to measure happiness ‘not woolly’ – Cameron’, BBC News Politics, available via:
Horner, D. 2009, ‘The Pursuit of Happiness: C. S. Lewis’s Eudaimonistic Understanding of Ethics’, In Pursuit of Truth | A Journal of Christian Scholarship, available via: <http://www.cslewis.org/journal/the-pursuit-of-happiness-c-s-lewis%E2%80%99s-eudaimonistic-understanding-of-ethics/>
Murphy, P. W. 2011, Always Know What To Say – Easy Ways to Approach and Talk to Anyone, Smashwords.
Howell, R. T. 2013, ‘What is Happiness? Five Characteristics of Happy People’, Psychology Today, <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cant-buy-happiness/201301/what-is-happiness-five-characteristics-happy-people>