Sample Essay On Happiness And Individuality

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Happiness, Freedom, Immanuel Kant, Society, Philosophy, Utilitarianism, Kant, Enlightenment

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/16

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Since the times of the Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus, philosophers have been arguing about the role of happiness to the individual. Not only have philosophers struggled with the question of what should make the individual happy, they have wrestled with how important it is to be happy, as well as what kind of society best promotes the interests of the development of the individual's happiness. While many philosophers have written at length about the so-called "pleasure principle", i.e. the pursuit of pleasure and the elimination of pain constitute happiness in the individual, other philosophers, such as John Stuart Mill and John Locke, have explored the question further. Mill and Locke's philosophic insights are the best prescription for individual happiness, as it describes both what an individual should do to become happy (as well as responsible) and what kind of society best promotes and nurtures the individual's happiness.
While Mill's immediate predecessors, such as his father, James, stressed that happiness was becoming whatever the individual wanted to become (, internet). James subscribed to the popular notion in philosophy that the individual pursuit of happiness was a distraction from reasoning -- and the ability to devote one's energies to applying reason to solving more important problems. John Stuart Mill found his father's Utilitarianism very limiting in terms of its definition of happiness, and its willingness to address the issue, especially on an aesthetic basis. Mill found that the consideration of individual happiness was excluded from the scope of philosophy because it was an emotion, and therefore not under the purview of reason. For example, Utilitarianism did not consider pursuit of the arts and humanities worthwhile, and did not attempt to answer questions such as the nature of beauty, and the significance of human feelings (, internet). Mill felt that his father's brand of Utilitarianism was wholly inadequate in the context of these pressing philosophical inquiries, especially the question of happiness and its role in individuality.
Similarly, John Locke espoused the view as well as the term, "pursuit of happiness". He believed that every individual was imbued with this innate ability. However, he believed individuals differed in what they defined as pleasurable or painful. Thus, their pursuits of various avenues of pleasure differed. Like Mill, Locke did not believe in the value of a life that pursued hedonism. He placed immense on the prospect of everlasting happiness -- that happiness could be sustained into the beyond, whether that be heaven or another incarnation on earth. Nevertheless, he thought that it would be a wiser course of action to pursue long-term, virtuous happiness (the kind associated with the performance of good deeds for others) than short-term hedonism, which he thought, could guarantee a lifetime of misery (, internet).
Both Mill and Locke thought that there was an ideal type of society and government that could promote, support, and nurture an individual's God-given pursuit of happiness. For example, "Mill concluded that the role of society, the economy, and government was to enable individuals to achieve their individuality. Mill believed that individuality could not prosper without a 'liberal culture,' consisting of individual liberties, equality of women, toleration of different lifestyles, a free-market economy, and limited government" (,internet). Locke, too, believed that the government especially played a very significant role in allowing individuals their rights to the pursuit of happiness. Individual liberty, Locke asserted, is grounded in each individual's right to pursue happiness. Both men's views were cornerstones of the ideals and principles that helped lay the philosophical foundation of both the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Both Mill and Locke (especially Mill) advanced a sort of Utopian Socialism, where society and the state were set up to accommodate the rights of individuals to pursue happiness.
As concise and airtight as both Mill and Locke's arguments for individuality and its relation to happiness are, others, namely Immanuel Kant, argued against Mill's Utilitarianism because of its exclusive focus on the consequences of individual happiness. For instance, Mill contended that happiness that resulted in the greatest happiness was the only kind of happiness worth pursuing, whereas Kant thought that an individual's intentions were just as important as the consequences of their actions. For Kant, "a good will is the only thing that is always good" (, internet). Kant attempted to refute Mill's contention that actions are right to the point that they contribute to the greatest happiness. Kant stated, "No one has a right to compel me to be happy in the peculiar way in which he may think of the well-being of other men; but everyone is entitled to seek his own happiness in the way that seems to him best, if it does not infringe the liberty of others in striving after a similar end for themselves when their Liberty is capable of consisting with the Right of Liberty in all others according to possible universal laws" (, internet). In this respect, Kant's views on the individual, happiness (and liberty) are somewhat at odds with Mill's views -- his Utilitarianism -- but more aligned with Locke's views.
However, Mill's Utilitarianism takes into account the greatest happiness, and in order for the greatest happiness to be obtained, Mill argues that a society must accommodate the individual by having certain liberties, such as "liberty of conscience, liberty of thought and feeling, absolute freedom of opinion, freedom of speech and press, freedom of assembly, and libertyof forming the plan of our life to suit our own character, of doing what we like even if this appeared to be 'foolish, perverse or wrong' " (, internet). These civil liberties have been the backbone of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights for more than 200 years. Thus, Mill's Utilitarianism allows the individual to pursue happiness, but prescribes a set of optimal conditions that a free society must have. Without this kind of society, Mill contends that individual happiness is unattainable.
Kant's views are important, as they also stress the importance of individual happiness, ideals that intertwined with ideals of personal liberty. Perhaps more than any other philosopher, Mill's ideas have shaped future generations' thoughts about individuality and happiness. Also, perhaps more than any other philosopher, Mill asserted that individual happiness is the foundation of a free society, and that the greatest happiness is fundamental to such a society. Moreover, Mill's version of Utilitarianism, with its ideals of artistic beauty, have been put into practice. Mill and Locke have helped shape the underlying philosophies of the United States, and several other democracies.
Finally, Locke, and especially Mill, have inquired about happiness and individuality, and their relation to governance by the state, as well as the individual's role in society. As a result of their philosophic efforts, the Founding Fathers based two moral documents on the work of these two men. Locke's phrase, "pursuit of happiness", is stamped indelibly in every global citizen's imagination, and the fruits of Mill's labors resulted in the document that protects us from the state, as well as protects our innate freedoms -- the Bill of Rights.

Works Cited

John Stuart Mill and Individual Liberty. (2015). (n.p.). Retrieved on 11 Mar 2015 from liberty.html
Kant on the Natural Right to Seek Happiness in One's Own Way. (n.p.). 2015. Retrieved on 11 Mar 2015 from
Mill, Kant, Plato, and Aristotle. (n.d.). (n.p.). Retrieved on 11 Mar 2015 from

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Sample Essay On Happiness And Individuality. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 16, 2020. Accessed December 01, 2021.

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