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Marx versus Jefferson: On the Pursuit of Happiness Essay

Happiness is such a vague word that few people have been able to define it. This is because happiness is relative and is changing with circumstances. The pursuit of happiness has been the primary goal of man. Some people thought that money, wealth and luxury are the basic ingredients of happiness; while some thought that a good family with enough food and a decent shelter would be sufficient to make them happy. A society could not be called a happy society when not all the people are happy, when not all the people are in peace with each other and when not all the people are pursuing the betterment of each other.

Harmony and unity are basic ingredients in achieving happiness in a society. In fact, many philosophers in the ancient Greek have devoted all of their lives in studying the nature of man and on how man could attain happiness and the good life. From the time of Plato up to the time of the Renaissance, philosophers have constantly sought for ways to attain happiness in the material world. Until now, many are still restless and weary in finding the ultimate formula for perfect happiness. Success and motivational speakers and gurus were being hired by so many people in order to teach them the secret to a happy life.

However, say, if Karl Marx and Thomas Jefferson were hired to give their philosophies about happiness, what would they say? Karl Marx and Thomas Jefferson could be considered persons from different worlds. Both have lived in a different society and in different circumstances. When these two persons are placed side by side, one could notice a lot of differences. However, both these persons are great in their own rights. Marx is a great philosopher and political thinker while Jefferson is an outstanding politician and eloquent spokesman.

Yet, how do these persons view man’s pursuit of happiness? At Karl Marx’s funeral, Friedrich Engels described him as “the best hated and most calumniated man of his time. ” This statement is true because Marx was often misunderstood and his ideas often overlooked. Moreover, Marx has not enjoyed neither his childhood nor his adulthood and lived most of his life in poverty. As a young Hegelian, Marx has suffered a lot of persecution from the Prussian society. When he became the editor of a newspaper in Cologne, he increased his criticism of religion.

He was influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach’s idea that God is created by man according to his image, and the Hegelian belief that: “religion is the opium of the people. ” In addition, Marx, in his books, argued that the present status and organization of the society would never guarantee everyone’s happiness. He proposed the organization of the society be destroyed by any means necessary inclusive of bloody and violent revolutions. He stressed that a capitalist society was very inequitable and could not sustain the welfare of all the people.

He accentuated that only the capitalists would be having the good life while the peasants, the farmers and the proletariat would remain on their ranks and be devoid forever of happiness and decent life. Moreover, according to Marx, who do not believe in life after death, man’s end is an inherent and physical one and it should entail happiness. Marx, who is the founder of historical materialism, argued that every person is basically social. The needs of a person will determine the extent of the interpersonal relationship that he will extend to other people.

Marx stressed that everything can be achieved if everybody would share themselves to others. He emphasized that happiness is achievable if no one has private property and the society is classless and stateless. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson as compared to Marx would have an entirely different view on the pursuit of happiness. Marx adheres to communism where everything should be communal while Jefferson would endorse democracy and freedom. Jefferson could be regarded as a very lucky man because he suffered lesser misfortunes as compared to Karl Marx.

Jefferson was born wealthy and had easy access to education. . In fact, Jefferson’s philosophy and view about happiness was very simple. In his letter to John Adams, Jefferson said, “ He is happiest of whom the world says least, good or bad. ” In addition, Jefferson has stated well in his Declaration of Independence his stance about happiness. He declared, “ …All men are created equal, that they endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

” For Jefferson, the pursuit of happiness is an absolute right. He further this by stating in the next lines of the Declaration: “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ” Same with Marx, Jefferson argued that a government that compromises the safety and happiness of the people should be abolished.

The difference was that Jefferson talked here about instituting a new government while Karl Marx would have removed such government, by any means necessary, and never replaced it by another. The point is: for Jefferson, the government is necessary in a person’s pursuit of happiness while for Marx, a government is a useless institution that need to be eliminated. Thus, both Marx and Jefferson agree that everyone is entitled to pursue happiness and be happy. Both believe that man is a social being and has function for the welfare of the society.

Yet both presented different ways on how to attain happiness. Individual experiences maybe have dictated the difference. However both Marx and Jefferson guaranteed one thing, even though how bad, lowly or uneducated a person is, he would always pursue happiness and the good life. References Cohen, Bernard. (1995). Science and the founding fathers. New York: Norton. Jefferson, Thomas (1776 ). Declaration of Independence. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www. yale. edu/lawweb/av


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