Happiness is the enjoyable and satisfying feeling or gratification of the soul coming up because of fortune or due to experiencing an auspicious occurrence of a given nature. Among the philosophers that have attempted to describe happiness are Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Epicurus, and Epictetus among others.
In this context, Gertrude, an upright woman, dedicated to taking care of people in need by volunteering to various charities, is happy. However, she has her own share of problems. She lost several close people in her life, viz. children, husband, and friends.
Why be Happy?
Looking at Gertrude’s life, she seems that she has nothing to be happy with because she has always suffered throughout her life loosing noteworthy people to death or to someone else or something dreadful. The deaths are mysterious and cannot be well explained. She seems to have been exceptionally unlucky having lost her husband to a close friend. When one commits her life to a husband, it is an investment of a lifetime, and an investment of emotions and trust.
She is supposed to be suffering depression, disappointment, and dissatisfaction in life because of her constant deaths she sees throughout her life. However, she seems to attain satisfaction in what she does, her volunteer job causes her satisfaction that surpasses the disappointment that her misfortunes brings.
While suffering grief because of death of close people in her life, Gertrude may have found solace and maintained sanity by adhering to the teachings of the famous Greek Philosopher Epictetus (Agurruza 57). According to his counsel, self-control, and fundamental acquiescence to the universe’s willpower and unresponsiveness to the physical world, Gertrude fights stoically by offering her help to those who are suffering and eventually get honor and wining love of the people she helps.
In the modern world, the word stoicism is synonymous with unemotional or getting detached to stressful physical world situations (Agurruza 57). The theme of such the mode of life is “don’t worry, be happy”. Serenity of mind to Gertrude is found by accepting things that are beyond her control and seeking the strength and courage to change things that can be changed like cloth the naked, feed the hungry, and provide shelter to the homeless.
Epicurus shares same sentiments as Epictetus. Epicurean describes a life of dedication to pleasure-seeking pleasure, comfort, and sumptuous enjoyment (Agurruza 58). However, another notable viewpoint is that the pleasure seeking does not have to be materialistic or bodily pleasure seeking but instead contentment for the soul. The ataraxia, describing no disturbance is pertinent and hence epicurean ensures individual work to stay away from worldly destructions (Evangeliou 97).
The same way, Gertrude could be happy because giving and helping people in her charities bring satisfaction to the soul. Maybe she has decided to look at death as earthly thing, which just destructs her lifestyle of dedicated help. Note that Epicurus’s theory on materialism leads him to downplay the implication of death. He writes that the death has no meaning to the wise.
Aristotle is famous for the Nicomacchean Ethics in which he suggested that, everyone’s activities and dealings are aimed at some good that conclude the pursuit of happiness, which is the ultimate goal (Evangeliou 97). In Greek, happiness is a translation of Eudemonia, which also means excellence. As a result, happiness was likened to virtuous living where a person engages in satisfying activities, which bring pleasure.
Gertrude realized there is a reason attached to her dedication to helping others to fulfill her natural end she is oriented. Virtue is aligned to helping others in this context; virtuous acts mean doing the right things intentionally and happily. Aristotle defines happiness as being able to achieve through a lifetime all the goods, leading to perfection of human nature (Evangeliou 99).
Aquinas just like Aristotle base their theory of happiness on the fact that humans lives for a good ending, the eudemonia (Cahn and Markie 128). Accordingly, Aquinas described goodness as the force leading people to do selfless things. Aquinas, however, believed that people should seek for divine guidance from God who is the creator of the entire world. His motivation is the main meaning of life. Aquinas believed in human’s ability to reason, and Virtue came as a habit (Cahn and Markie 125).
To attain happiness, one needs to follow God’s plan as he has the eternal law. Since human derive reason from the creator, they share the same natural law (Evangeliou 105). By helping the needy, Gertrude finds soul satisfaction and hence joy to her soul, which could be the highest form of happiness. This comes regardless of the fact that her children have bad fate. One, the serial killer is sentenced to death, while the other was struck and killed by a meteor. She should be grieving and even depressed or unhappy.
Plato describes happiness as a complex process as it is based on metaphysics presumptions that are hazy and beyond the normal realm of understanding. However, he maintained virtue based ethics like Aristotle (Cahn and Markie 125).
Even though her husband leaves her, she has to do the morally right things like forgive and forget then continue to pursue her happiness. She cannot force her husband to stay, but she can help the poor get food. She cannot stop death, as it is inevitable; however, she can surely ensure that the lives of the people in need are better taken care of by her generosity.
Agurruza, Jesus. Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone: A Philosophical Tour De Force. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2010. Print.
Cahn, Steven, and Peter Markie. Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues. New York: Oxford University Press. 2011. Print.
Evangeliou, Christos. Hellenic Philosophy: Origin and Character. London: Ashgate Publishing, 2006. Print.