The Importance of Happiness in the Human Existence

Categories: Happiness

One of the main ideas in the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle is that every action of a rational human being is made for a definite purpose. There can be low and high-scaled purposes and actions. The achievement of low-scaled ones serve as a means to achieve higher goals, and eventually the end goal – happiness. Basing on Aristotle, human is happy when he or she is living the life of contemplation, in accordance with reason and principles of moral virtue. Thus, in order to achieve happiness, a man has to go through the actions based on reason and virtuousness, most of which can be hard to complete.

Therefore, humans at first have to overcome some difficulties before reaching the happiness. Happiness is an end goal of every reasonable human action, for the sake of which people are capable to overcome obstacles and reach goals, and even negative feelings exist to contribute to the final happiness. The ultimate purpose of rational human actions is happiness.

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The end goal of a low-scaled action can be limited, i.e. can be easily achieved in a short-term period, but it can serve as a prerequisite to greater goal which is subordinate to more greater goal, and eventually, it will come to the final goal which will be the highest good – happiness. Even small-scale actions, which seem not to contribute to the happiness, serve as prerequisites to larger goals (Aristotle, 1984).

If we ask “Why?” as a child to everything we do, the answer will be “to be happy”.

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For example if we ask: Why are you studying? -To get a good waged job. Why do you want to get a good waged job? –To be able to satisfy my material needs. Why do you want to do so? -To be happy, which is the final goal. Thus, happiness is an end goal, for the sake of which humans accomplish many other different actions, which sometimes might be difficult, but definitely will fulfill their lives. Happiness is the ultimate destination and there is nothing beyond it, as we pursue happiness for its own sake. Influential philosophers like Epicurus, Plato, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson also agree with Aristotle on his conclusion that happiness is an end goal. John Locke, an English philosopher, known as the most authoritative figure of Enlightenment intellectuals, in his book “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” wrote: “…the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness…” (Locke, 1690, p. 348).

John Locke’s position regarding happiness was mainly affected by an ancient Greek thinker – Epicurus, who stated in his Letter to Menoeceus, that the only thing that moves forward human desires is the happiness and that alone; other goals are desired as a tools to achieve happiness (Annas, 1987). The other claim, which also leads to the conclusion that happiness is an end goal, is that people do not give up because they hope that eventually they will be happy, thus, happiness motivates people to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. The path of pursuing happiness is not pleasurable, it comprises of many actions and goals, through which eventually happiness will be acquired. Achieving goals, for instance career or educational goals requires motivation and hard work, as there might occur a plenty of obstacles and disappointments. However, the one’s understanding that he/she will eventually achieve the goal and will be happy, gives him/her a strength to go further (Haase, Poulin, Heckhausen, 2012). This is clearly illustrated in a movie, based on true story of an African-American guy, Christopher Gardner, called “The Pursuit of Happiness”. The film was about unemployed Christopher, whose wife left him and their five years old son due to financial indebtedness and his inability to satisfy material needs of the family.

The father and the son has been experiencing extremely difficult times, as Christopher’s investments have burned; he lost his house and forced to live in the streets with his little son. Then, he has found a 6-month internship program, without a salary and any guarantees that eventually he will be employed. During all this time, despite all failures, disappointments and desperateness he bravely struggled to provide a better life for his son and so-called “American dream”. Eventually after the internship, he was accepted to a workplace, and afterwards he achieved success, money and high career goals. So, Christopher was in a desperate situation and he had nothing but a hope that eventually he will succeed and achieve happiness.

Thus, disappointments, difficulties, obstacles, sufferings are essential things in humans’ lives and only a hope that eventually they will be happy motivates them not to give up and continue to fight for their end goal – happiness. It was discussed above that happiness serve as a motivator to overcome difficulties and evil, but these things themselves help to produce happiness. Life is not perfect, it does consist both: good and evil, and even evil, which is expressed in sufferings, serve as a mean to achieve happiness. These negative feelings usually resulted from major crises help to contemplate thyself, thus leading to happiness, because happiness includes life of contemplation and self-researching (Aristotle, 1984). It is interesting that if people were asked about valuable situations in their lives that helped become closer to happiness, spiritual life and wisdom, they would not remember about happy, positive moments, they would say about major negative, difficult events. According to a study, conducted by Tedeschi & Calhoun (2004), difficult incidents in people’s lives change them, shaping their perceptions, personal characteristics and priorities, making them stronger, teaching to overcome sufferings and appreciate more every moment of their lives, thereby providing essential experience that only major sufferings can give.

To describe this phenomenon a term “post-traumatic growth” was invented by U.S. psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun from the University of North Carolina, which conceptualizes the betterment brought by extremely difficult life events. Despite the fact that the term is new, the idea that great evil can cause great good, or “there is no evil without a good” are ancient. Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most bright minds of humanity, supports this point of view, which can be seen in his book “The Will to Power” where he writes: “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures” (Nietzsche, 1968). Thus, Nietzsche consider that suffering is the only thing that provides the understanding of life.

The book of Hamilton Jordan (2000) named “No Such Thing as a Bad Day” also supports this idea from another side, by describing his experience of positive change and growth as a consequence of fight with cancer. He wrote that after his disease he started appreciate every small and for some meaningless things of the life, like watching a dawn, a cuddle from his kid, having fun with Dorothy and so on. This level of his life appreciation has not decreased over the period. Thus, negative emotions like sadness, disappointment, failure, hatred or the most effective one – being at the margin of a life, make people truly appreciate good emotions and become closer to happiness. In order to feel happiness, people should know what unhappiness is. Therefore, even extremely negative feelings exists to serve as a contributors or prerequisites to our final happiness (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

Life of rational human beings consists of vast variety of different actions that serve as a stairs to achieve happiness, because they desire happiness as an ultimate purpose in itself. Many great and influential thinkers and philosophers stated this point. However, there are difficulties and obstacles which are essential and which have to be overcame in order to achieve happiness. Therefore, happiness as an end goal motivates people to overcome difficulties, which are the essential part of their lives. Eventually, the evil, which at first sight seem to have nothing in common with happiness, indeed serve as a tool to achieve happiness. Thus, every essential components of humans’ lives have an end purpose to achieve happiness.


  1. Annas, J. (1987). Epicurus on pleasure and happiness. Philosophical topics, 15, 5-21.
  2. Aristotle, ., & Sachs, J. (2002). Nicomachean ethics. Newbury, MA: Focus Pub./R. Pullins.
  3. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
  4. Emerson R.W. (1841). Self-reliance. Essays: First Series. Jordan, H. (2000). No such thing as a bad day. Pocket book.
  5. Haase, C. M., Poulin, M. J., & Heckhausen, J. (2012). Happiness as a motivator: positive affect predicts primary control striving for career and educational goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1093-1104.
  6. Locke, J. (1690). An essay concerning human understanding. New York : Dover publications.
  7. Nietzsche, F. (1968). The will to power. New York: Random house, Inc.
  8. Smith, W., Black, T., Blumenthal, J., Lassiter, J. & Tisch, S. (Producers), & Muccino, G. (Director). (2006). The pursuit of happiness. United States: Columbia pictures
  9. Tedeschi R.G., & Calhoun L.G. (2004). Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychological inquiry, 15, 1-18.

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The Importance of Happiness in the Human Existence. (2021, Sep 29). Retrieved from

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