The Pursuit of Happiness and the Question of Justice

Lucas Charbonnier

Hatched by Lucas Charbonnier

Oct 12, 2023

4 min read


The Pursuit of Happiness and the Question of Justice


Happiness, or "le bonheur," is often considered the ultimate goal for humanity. It is an enduring state of complete satisfaction and fulfillment of desires, an harmony with oneself and the world. However, is the pursuit of happiness an illusion? Can human existence truly avoid experiencing unhappiness? Moreover, can our desires ever be fully satisfied, given their often contradictory and incompatible nature? In this article, we will explore various perspectives on happiness and its connection to justice.

The Ancient Wisdom of Eudaimonism:

Ancient philosophies, such as Epicureanism and Stoicism, propose that happiness should be attained through moderation of desires. The Epicureans advocate for limiting our efforts to satisfying only natural and necessary desires, while the Stoics encourage us to desire only what is within our control. Both philosophies emphasize the importance of rationality in determining our desires and their fulfillment.


Epicurus, the founder of Epicureanism, suggests that true happiness lies in pursuing simple and limited pleasures. By focusing on natural and necessary desires, such as satisfying our hunger, we can find contentment. However, he warns against pursuing excessive and unnecessary desires, as they can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.


The Stoics, on the other hand, believe that happiness comes from accepting what is within our control and relinquishing attachment to what is not. By focusing on our actions and attitudes, rather than external outcomes, we can find peace and fulfillment. For example, an archer's happiness should depend on their skill in aiming, not on hitting the bullseye, which is beyond their control.

The Modern Perspective: Joy and Self-Actualization:

Contemporary philosophers, such as Henri Bergson, emphasize the importance of joy in the pursuit of happiness. Joy arises from the full development of our potentialities and the increase in our sense of personal power. Bergson distinguishes joy from mere pleasure, highlighting the deeper satisfaction that comes from the realization of our vital and existential potential.

Happiness as a Collective Endeavor:

While personal happiness is important, happiness is also a collective affair. Philosopher Alain argues that it is a duty to be happy not only for ourselves but also for others. This perspective transforms happiness into a political concern, as societal structures and institutions, such as the state, should work towards reducing social inequalities that contribute to the suffering and unhappiness of many individuals.

The Paradox of Thinking and Happiness:

A thought-provoking question arises: should we refrain from thinking to achieve happiness? This question presupposes that we should avoid acknowledging our misery by not thinking about it. But is our condition truly so miserable that we should deny it and forego self-awareness? Does thinking truly obstruct happiness, or can it instead bring profound joy?


In our quest for happiness, it is essential to recognize the importance of moderation, rationality, and self-actualization. By understanding and aligning our desires with nature and reason, we can find true contentment. Additionally, we must remember that happiness is not solely an individual pursuit but also a collective responsibility. Society should strive to create conditions that promote happiness for all. Lastly, thinking should not be seen as an obstacle to happiness but rather as a source of profound joy and self-awareness.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Practice self-reflection and identify your natural and necessary desires. Focus your efforts on satisfying these desires, as they are more likely to bring lasting happiness.
  • 2. Cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the joys and pleasures that come from the development of your potentialities. Embrace personal growth and self-actualization as sources of happiness.
  • 3. Advocate for social justice and equality. Recognize that societal structures play a significant role in individual happiness. Support initiatives and policies that aim to reduce inequalities and promote well-being for all.

In summary, the pursuit of happiness is a complex and multifaceted endeavor. It requires a balance between personal fulfillment and collective well-being. By understanding the wisdom of ancient philosophies, embracing joy and self-actualization, and actively working towards social justice, we can navigate the intricate path towards a happier and more fulfilling life.

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