The Pursuit of Happiness and the Intersection of Morality and Politics

Lucas Charbonnier

Hatched by Lucas Charbonnier

May 27, 2024

5 min read


The Pursuit of Happiness and the Intersection of Morality and Politics


The concept of happiness, or "le bonheur," has always been a central aspiration for humanity. Aristotle famously wrote that all other desires are ultimately rooted in the pursuit of happiness. However, is the definition of happiness as complete satisfaction merely an illusion? Can human existence truly avoid experiencing unhappiness? And can our desires ever be satisfied altogether, considering their often contradictory and irreconcilable nature? This article explores the different perspectives on happiness and delves into the intersection of morality and politics in its pursuit.

The Philosophy of Happiness:

Happiness, in its truest form, is an enduring state of complete fulfillment, the satisfaction of our desires, and the realization of our potential. It is the harmony with oneself and the world. Some argue that happiness depends not on chance or fate but on the will and capacity for choice. This is the premise put forth by ancient philosophies such as Epicureanism and Stoicism, which advocate for the moderation of desires. The key to happiness lies not in desiring anything and everything but in knowing how to desire appropriately.


Epicureans suggest limiting our efforts to the satisfaction of natural and necessary desires. By focusing on limited desires with simple satisfaction, such as the enjoyment of good food, Epicurus offers a form of hedonism. However, this hedonism is not unrestrained, as rational reflection and reason serve to temper certain desires.


On the other hand, Stoics advocate desiring only what is within our control and renouncing desires that depend on external factors. For instance, an archer's happiness lies in aiming well, as it is immediately within their power, rather than obsessing over hitting the bullseye. The Stoics view pleasure as a mechanism devised by nature to ensure the preservation of life. This perspective aligns with the contemporary notion of joy derived from the full expression of our potential and the enhancement of our personal power.

The Collective Aspect of Happiness:

While happiness is often seen as an individual pursuit, it is also a collective concern. Philosopher Alain argues that it is not just a personal obligation to be happy but also an active engagement in promoting the happiness of others. Happiness, in this sense, becomes a political objective. Collective solidarity structures, primarily the state, should intervene to correct social inequalities that generate widespread suffering and unhappiness.

The Intersection of Morality and Politics:

Another crucial question arises: should we refrain from thinking to achieve happiness? This query can be reformulated as follows: Does our condition necessitate such a lack of awareness and avoidance of thought? The debate centers on whether we should suppress our capacity for rational thought to attain happiness or, conversely, embrace our intellect and potentially forego happiness. Is thinking truly an obstacle to joy? Can thinking not bring profound happiness?

Morality as the Best Politics:

Morality encompasses the rules governing a good life, distinguishing right from wrong. Politics, in this context, refers to the exercise of power and the manner in which it is wielded. The question of whether morality is the best form of politics arises, with a distinction between relative and absolute conceptions of what is morally justifiable. We must explore the limits that morality potentially imposes on political action and the extent to which morality should guide politics.

The Primacy of Efficacy in Politics:

The pursuit of the common good necessitates prioritizing efficacy over morality. Political action requires efficiency and practicality rather than a strict adherence to moral principles. While morality should inspire political action, legal frameworks must constrain politics within certain boundaries. The most moral politics is often the most effective, both in terms of governing and shaping the state.

The Inseparability of Morality and Politics:

Politics cannot exist in isolation from morality. Moral principles must guide political action, and legal frameworks must regulate it. The best politicians are those who possess virtue and exemplify ethical conduct in their personal lives and exercise of power. The education and exemplariness of political leaders are vital for a just and prosperous society.

Justice and Efficacy in Politics:

The common assumption that justice and efficacy are mutually exclusive in politics is flawed. Kant argues that Machiavellian precepts, which advocate for deceit and treachery, perpetuate the very problems they aim to solve. In international relations, justice and efficacy can coexist, as democracies are more inclined to consider the implications of war, prioritizing peace. A legal international system ensures that rules are universally accepted, leading to both justice and efficacy.


In conclusion, the pursuit of happiness requires a nuanced understanding of desire and the moderation thereof. The notion of happiness extends beyond personal well-being and becomes a collective responsibility. The intersection of morality and politics is crucial, as morality should inspire political action while legal frameworks constrain it. The most moral politics is often the most effective, and justice and efficacy need not be opposing forces.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Practice self-reflection and introspection to understand and moderate your desires, focusing on fulfilling those that are natural and necessary.
  • 2. Engage in acts of kindness and promote the happiness of others, understanding that happiness is both an individual and collective endeavor.
  • 3. Advocate for social and economic justice, supporting structures of solidarity that address inequalities and alleviate suffering.

By integrating wisdom from ancient philosophies and contemporary insights, we can strive for a more harmonious and fulfilling existence, both individually and collectively.

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