There are many teachers who assert positions, which logically lead to pessimism. Some declare that happiness is a will-o-the-wisp ever deluding the eager grasp, and it is better not to attempt the impossible. Others see life lived under a leaden sky and on a sodden earth. They agree that to some, and under some conditions, happiness of a kind would be possible, but it is so rare a chance that it is not worth counting on ourselves becoming the fortunate exceptions. There is not enough happiness to go round. Others assert that the sure way to lose happiness is to seek it. If you aim at it at all, it must be indirectly. You may have it at the back of your mind, but you must not have your eye on it. Still another objection to the pursuit of happiness is that it is selfish. Yet everybody would admit that a world of happy human beings is an ideal worth while. How is this even to begin to be possible, if nobody is ever to try to be happy himself?
The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as a right of all Americans, as well as on the self-improvement shelves of every American bookstore. Yet the scientific evidence makes it seem unlikely that you can change your level of happiness in any sustainable way. It suggests that we each have a fixed range for happiness just as we do for weight. And just as dieters almost always regain the weight they lose, sad people don't become lastingly happy, and happy people don't become lastingly sad.
MARTIN E. P. SELIGMAN, preface, Authentic Happiness
It may be obvious that this world has not been made merely for the ease and happiness of men, and obvious that we are not made to inhabit an earthly paradise, but the human heart can never cease to long for satisfaction of desire. This primal need has been the driving power to transform society and to improve the conditions of life. Even when men miss happiness as an experience, they feel they were made for it. The capacity for joy, which is their natural human instinct, demands fruition. To ask them to abandon the quest for happiness and to acknowledge it a phantom would be to make a mock of life.
Perhaps happiness is, was, and ever shall be the ultimate human end in every time and place.
DARRIN M. MCMAHON, Happiness: A History
Love and work are crucial for human happiness because, when done well, they draw us out of ourselves and into connection with people and projects beyond ourselves. Happiness comes from getting these connections right.
JONATHAN HAIDT, The Happiness Hypothesis
The universal human drive for instinctual gratification that Freud identifies with happiness is doomed to frustration. The external world not only fails to conform to our desires for uninterrupted immediacy, but the requirements of civilization also prohibit the very primal behavior ... that would allow for gratification.
DEAL WYATT HUDSON, Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction
The problem with the concept of happiness is trying to make it do enough without making it do too much. If we define it narrowly as a certain type of feeling or physiological state, then we can, in principle, measure it objectively, but it is too trivial a thing to be the foundation of all public life and private decisions. On the other hand, if we define it broadly as something like 'the elements of a good life', then it is so broad as to beg the question, and certainly too broad to be measured in national statistics. Yet we intuitively feel that there is something called happiness, something unitary but not trivial, concrete enough to strive for yet broad enough to be worth striving for.
DANIEL NETTLE, Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile
Happiness is variously associated by different people with a multiplicity of conscious states, such as calm contentment, ecstasy, hilarity, elation, and others. These states all have some claim to be parts or aspects of happiness.... However, they certainly don't all obtain together, and some of them, once again, seem incompatible with each other--ecstasy and calm contentment, for instance.... It may be that happiness is one of those concepts of "folk psychology" that doesn't designate any psychological state, and can't have any explication in terms of the kind of science that tries to discover general laws or regularities.
NICHOLAS P. WHITE, A Brief History of Happiness
There is a difference between happiness, the supreme good, and the final end or goal toward which our actions ought to tend. For happiness is not the supreme good, but presupposes it, being the contentment or satisfaction of the mind which results from possessing it.
RENÉ DESCARTES, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes
Do you know what I think happiness is really? Lookin' forward.
JOHN HARTLEY MANNERS, Happiness and Other Plays
The paths by which people journey toward happiness lie in part through the world about them and in part through the experience of their souls. On the one hand, there is the happiness which comes from wealth, honor, the enjoyment of life, from health, culture, science, or art; and, on the other hand, there is the happiness which is to be found in a good conscience, in virtue, work, philanthropy, religion, devotion to great ideas and great deeds.
KARL HILTY, Happiness: Essays on the Meaning of Life
My friends' happiness forms part of my own.
PEDRO ALEXIS TABENSKY, Happiness: Personhood, Community, Purpose
At the heart of happiness lies peace. It is the last and the highest attainment of the soul.
The man who is unhappy will, as a rule, adopt an unhappy creed, while the man who is happy will adopt a happy creed; each may attribute his happiness or unhappiness to his beliefs, while the real causation is the other way round.
BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Conquest of Happiness
A somewhat depressing lesson that we learn from life is that there is no guaranteed sure-fire formula for happiness.
MICHAEL W. EYSENCK, Happiness: Facts and Myths
Happiness has been so degraded by its identification with well-feeling that one can appear spiritually callous in rising to its defense. Some of the prophets who warned against the pursuit of psychological happiness have been made welcome, even if their warnings were not heeded for long. One has only to draw a line from Augustine through Luther and Pascal, to Kant and Kierkegaard, to Reinhold Niebuhr and Karl Barth to be reminded of how much respect this dismissal has been afforded. They are heralded for their tough stance against worldliness and an unwillingness to conform to the spirit of the age. In short, they refused to be assimilated for the sake of temporal fulfillment.
DEAL WYATT HUDSON, Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction
There are some individuals who have too strong a craving, a will, and a nostalgia for happiness ever to reach it. They always retain a bitter and passionate aftertaste, and that's the best they can hope for.
ALBERT CAMUS, letter, Jun. 18, 1938
- Such is the force of Happiness--
- The Least can lift a ton
- Assisted by its stimulus.
EMILY DICKINSON, "Such is the force of happiness"
One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere.
DANIEL GILBERT, Stumbling on Happiness
Pain and illness, the deaths of those one loves, and discomforts and disappointments mar the happy norm, but they do not alter the fact that happiness is the norm, nor affect the tendency of the continuum to restore it, to heal it, after any disturbance.
JEAN LIEDLOFF, The Continuum Concept
The most damaging erroneous belief about happiness is, of course, that happiness is somewhere else--that is, that it is not with you.
ROBERT HOLDEN, Happiness Now: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good Fast
Regard this world as the place to sow seed for eternity, and after taking such a portion from this world as may give you strength to take the journey to the other world, turn away from whatever is more than this. Realize that the future world is the place for enjoyment and happiness which is eternal, and the land to behold the excellence and beauty of the Lord; and make it your purpose, divine and omniscient grace assisting you, never to cease from the pursuit of them, but to secure as your prey, the phoenix of felicity and happiness.
MOHAMMED AL-GHAZZALI, The Alchemy of Happiness