The universality of pursuing happiness

Not open for further replies.

Mr. Bultitude

Puritan Board Freshman
Augustine said:
Every human being, though, of whatever kind or quality, wishes to be happy. There isn't anybody who doesn't want that, and want it in such a way as to want it above everything else; or rather, in such a way, that whoever wants other things wants them for the sake of this one thing. People are carried away by the most diverse longings, and one longs for this, another for that. There are different modes of life in the human race; and in the great variety of modes of life, one has chosen and taken to one way, another to another. There is nobody, however, whatever mode of life may have been chosen, who does not long for a happy life. So a happy life is the common aim of all; but how one gets to it, how one makes one's way to it, what route one follows in order to arrive at it, that's what the argument is about. And thus if we were to look for the happy or blessed life on earth, I don't know whether we could find it; not because what we are looking for is bad, but because we are not looking for it in its own place. (Sermon 306)
Blaise Pascal said:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. (Pensees)
Would these two statements, that "all men seek happiness … without exception" be controversial to ancient philosophers? I know there was controversy about whether happiness was essential to or opposed to virtue, but would there have been a similar controversy about whether happiness is universally sought? If so, would philosophers have answered both questions the same way, or would some have claimed (for example) that even though some men don't wish to be happy, nonetheless virtue must consist of happiness or that while all men wish to be happy virtue requires renunciation of happiness?
By "ancient philosophers," I most have in mind Greek and Roman philosophers prior to about 200 AD (well before the time of either of the men I quoted.) But I don't mean to limit responses to only that time or place.
Not open for further replies.