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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L033-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Happiness is a fundamental, prudential value. It is something good for the person who has it. Most philosophers accept that there is a difference between happiness and well-being, and those engaging in interdisciplinary research frame happiness in terms of subjective well-being.

Historical philosophical discussions of happiness have had a longstanding influence on contemporary discourse. Aristotle’s theory of eudaimonia presents a view of happiness that is distinctive to human nature and prioritises the role of reason and virtue in its development. Other historical philosophers, including Epicurus and Mill, defend hedonistic views of happiness, according to which happiness consists in pleasure.

Contemporary analyses of happiness include extended discussions of hedonism, much of which tries to characterise pleasure in a way that makes hedonism viable as a theory of human happiness. Attitudinal hedonism maintains that pleasure derives from a subject’s pro-attitude towards their experiences, while phenomenological hedonism sticks with the ordinary view of pleasure according to which what characterises pleasure is its felt quality.

Other prominent contemporary theories of happiness include the emotional state theory, according to which happiness is an emotional state that is productive of feelings of happiness, and the life satisfaction view, according to which happiness consists in an endorsement of one’s life – be it a cognitive judgment that one’s life is going as one wants, or an affective state of being pleased with one’s life, or some combination of both. Whereas hedonism focusses on the episodic feelings of happiness, both the emotional state theory and the life satisfaction theory seek to explain happiness as consisting in a stable, long-term state.

The past several decades have seen a large increase in interdisciplinary research on happiness, which teaches us much about the sources of happiness, as well as the nature of its pursuit. This research shows the importance of establishing relationships, as well as experiencing emotions such as compassion and gratitude. It also reveals a complex relationship between happiness and material goods.

Citing this article:
Besser, Lorraine L.. Happiness, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L033-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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