Happiness is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “ A state of well being or contentment”. Many philosophers believe that all humans desire to reach this goal of happiness. However the best way to achieve this state has been pondered and argued for thousands of years. Aristotle believed that happiness is “ the activity of the soul expressing itself as virture”, and that without living a virtuous life happiness is unattainable. Three philosophers Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Immanuel Kant all agreed to Aristotle’s belief that virtue is necessary to attain happiness. It is the role of virtue in attaining happiness and what constitutes virtue or morality that is the issue that is disputed.
Jeremy Bentham believed in the pleasure and pain principle which was that happiness was identified with pleasure and with an absence of pain. He believe all people should seek happiness and pleasure. Bentham identified 7 principles of pleasure 1. Its ...view middle of the document...
However he did believe that no motive is intrinsically bad nor good. The motive is always to attain pleasure it is not until the action resulting from the motive that causes pain in others than in that case would be evil.
John Stuart Mill was influenced by Bentham greatly and holds many of the same views of Utilitarianism and that all people desired to be happy. He differed from Bentham in that he felt that there were two tiers of pleasure and that virture was not a means to happiness but contributed to happiness. Mill thought that the two tiers of pleasure could be divided into High pleasure and Low pleasures. High pleasures being that of intellect and morality and low pleasures being physical pleasures. The statement by Mill that “ it is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied” explains the two tiers of pleasure greatly. For a pig who will be content eating it’s slop and fulfilling his psychical needs will never know the happiness that can be attained by a intellectual being. Mill also believed that happiness was an end, that all action was in attempt to attain happiness. He thought that virtue was important but not an end to happiness. He believed that if people thought something was virtuous it would lead them to happiness. Virtuous to Mill was also doing good for the greatest number of people.
Immanuel Kant agreed with Mill and Bentham that all human beings strived for happiness and that happiness is based in pleasure. He does not believe that humans can seek happiness and attain it. Kant says that one can not say consistently and determinately what they really want and wish. He believes that the idea of happiness in each person is constantly changing. For example someone who seeks riches because it gives him pleasure may find that in the pursuit may bring him unhappiness and if he ever get to the goal it man not be what he actually wanted. He believed that there was no universal way to get happiness and only experience can teach us joy. Kant was much more focused on the self compared to Mill and Bentham. He believed in a moral duty that each individual had, this is what he considered virtue. By fulfilling your duty he believed that you feel worthy of happiness and that it will come.