[FOUNTAIN]How to define happiness

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[FOUNTAIN]How to define happiness

During the previous presidential election, one candidate from the opposing party had some fun with the ironic question, “Are you happy?” That was very effective for a campaign slogan, and it was not easy to answer the question. First of all, it is quite hard to define exactly what happiness is. From ancient Aristotle to Bertrand Russell, Eudemonics has been a favorite topic for philosophers. But no one has reached a definite agreement on the definition of happiness. And just how does one measure happiness?
Jeremy Bentham had a motto that “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” was a working definition, and one way to approach this complex question.
He came up with the “Felicific Calculus,” which assigned a numerical value to the amount of pleasure and pain.
This method grades pleasure and pain in four categories: intensity, duration, certainty and remoteness. By adding up the score you can calculate a degree of happiness. However, it does not seem that Bentham was able to define the greatest happiness for the greatest number by this method of calculation.
Soon after that, the economists tried to define happiness.
Paul Anthony Samuelson, who wrote “Economics: An Introductory Analysis,” suggested the equation that happiness equals consumption divided by desire. In this formula, if one wants to increase happiness with human desire as a premise, then one must increase consumption.
For this reason, Samuelson’s equation was criticized for stressing materialism and the excesses of capitalism. But this equation reflects Eudemonism more than people think. Reduced to the common denominator of the fraction, we are happier with restricted resources.
It is the same sense whereby monks are able to reach happiness by reducing their desires until the very end of life.
After Samuelson proposed his equation for calculating happiness, many other economists presented even more complicated ways to configure happiness, but not many agreed with their proposals.
All of a sudden, it seems that people have become more interested in happiness than ever before.
Over 26 books related to happiness have been published since June, so we can call it a time of happiness fever.
But if we were able to find happiness through a couple of books, there would not be so many books written on the subject.
Maybe because so many people think they are unhappy, the pursuit of happiness has become greater than ever.


by Kim Jong-soo

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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