Definition of Happiness


Happiness is a complex phenomenon that functions in different ways depending on the context and the pursued aims of a particular individual. The concept of happiness is rather flexible since each separate person endows the term “happiness” with a unique meaning. In addition, it seems relevant to note that happiness as a notion acquires different interpretations in such spheres as philosophy, ethics, and psychology. The present paper argues that the sources of happiness (or stimuli) define the key characteristics of the phenomenon in question within the frameworks of various contexts.

Philosophical Approach

Happiness is understood as a state of lasting satisfaction from a particular experience. It accompanies every moment of human life and represents the highest value. The philosophical approach does not provide any specific definition of happiness but presents several theories describing various conditions associated with happiness. The scholars M. Seligman and E. Royzman note that there are three theories of happiness: hedonism, desire, objective list, and authentic happiness (Seligman & Royzman). The first theory defines happiness as the preponderance of positive emotions and experience over negative ones and minimization of the latter. The second speaks about happiness as a state when somebodies’ desire is fully satisfied. The third theory is based on assumption that every person has a list of significant aim he or she pursues and the achievement of these aims is seen as the state of happiness. The last theory presents happiness as a three-piece phenomenon that includes such aspects as pleasures, engagement and meaningful life that, being combined, make a person happy.

Ethical Approach

This approach towards defining happiness is closely connected to the social studies and real-life manifestation of the phenomenon in question. For example, E. Kant believes that happiness is a complex phenomenon that involves such elements as continuous well-being equal to the satisfaction with life, health, power, riches, etc. However, living a life in accordance with the moral principles in incapable of satisfying all the above-mentioned needs. Ethical approach defines happiness as an ultimate goal of the moral person’s existence. However, in terms of this approach, happiness is subjected to the rule of moral principles that limit the number of the potential sources of happiness (Hughes 66).

Psychological Approach

This approach is based on the objective understanding of happiness as the reaction of the nervous system to certain positive experiences. This is a mental state of a person that occurs when a person reaches achieves the desired. The duration and emotional intensity of the state of happiness are determined by the cultural and intellectual development of the individual. In terms of psychological studies, happiness is strongly associated with the element of diffuse positive moods (Algoe 109). The insights presented above invite an assumption that the state of happiness could be reached at the account of various emotional stimuli.


To conclude, it seems relevant to note that happiness is interpreted in different ways in terms of different approaches. However, in terms of all approaches listed above, happiness is associated with the emotional reaction to positive stimuli. The ethical, philosophical and psychological theories define the potential sources of happiness and the ways to reach them. Ergo, they define the concept of happiness by defining particular stimuli that evoke the emotional responses associated with the state of happiness. Therefore, the ability or inability of a person to reach the state of happiness, as well as its emotional intensity, is defined by the quality and quantity of the original stimuli.

Works Cited

  • Algoe, Sara B.; Haidt, Jonathan. Witnessing excellence in action: the ‘other-praising’ emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The Journal of Positive Psychology, Vol. 4 No. 2, 2009.
  • Hughes, Julie. The Role of Happiness in Kant’s Ethics. Aporia, Vol. 12 No. 1, 2004.
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. and Ed Royzman. Authentic Happiness. Accessed September 22, 2017