Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 13, 1987/1988

Edward Walter
Pages 137-150

A Concept of Happiness

I propose a broad concept of happiness as an ultimate moral goal that is consistent with what reflective people desire and what people generally approve. Broad happiness includes many and various pleasures, a minimum of pain, a predominately active life and awareness of what can be attained. Besides these characteristics, which are found in Mill, I add that mental and physical faculties must be developed in accord with biological potential, people must be able to choose activities that exercise their developed faculties and must be able to achieve many of the goals toward which their activities aim. This claim can be established by considering scientific data and analyzing what moralists usually approve. According to it, intellectual activities will be found to be the most important aspects of happiness. My concept will differ from Mill’s in that I reject the notion that happiness is synonymous with pleasure and the absence of pain, although both are part of happiness. Because Mill adopted this definition, his theory produced many anomalies. For example, in order to maintain that intellectual activities are morally superior, Mill was led to introduce qualities of pleasure. This maneuver is inconsistent with his empiricism. Moreover, the activities that are most approved from a moral point of view cannot be explained by the pleasure principle. The broad concept of happiness can account for the primacy of intellectual activities and those activities that are most often morally approved.