The word ‘happiness’ carries with it a special association, which is essentially attributed to its application based on an occurring context that leads to its different forms, consequently having an impact on its final meaning. This aspect is well shown in these sentences: ‘Daniel’s performance at the show was the ultimate representation of happiness’; ‘the happiness my sister is experiencing in her marriage life is unmatched with any other’; and, ‘happiness, is what I can say about the winner of the recently finished public speaking competition.’
On historical grounds, the word happiness got its way into its current utilization in the English language back in the 15th century primarily between 1520s and 1590s during which it was respectively referred to as, ‘good fortune’ and ‘pleasant and ‘ a contented mental state’ (Harper). The three definitions influenced the development of a more contemporary definition of the word based on its initial root or derivative , which essentially begins from the English formulation of the word ‘happy’ followed by the suffix ‘ness’ (Rotherford 12).
Therefore, this led to the formation of the current definition of the word, which today means ‘individual fulfillment’ or alternatively ‘individual satisfaction’ coming from as a result of a good event or happening. This seems to be supported by the modern day definition according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary which states: ‘a state of well-being and contentment’ and ‘a pleasurable or satisfying experience’ (Merriam-Webster). This forms the basis of its current use as seen in the present setting whereby we tend to associate the use of ‘happiness’ with the ‘individual fulfillment’ or ‘individual achievement’, of which the degree varies in different people. According to a quote from one famous philosopher named Bertrand Russell: “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness” (ThinkExist). Taking a more critical outlook on ‘happiness’ there is a revelation of the fact it represents the ultimate experience of human reaction towards a certain objective that has essentially been a focus for specific period of time.
This brings in the concept of ‘happiness’ as seen from a philosophical perspective. Using this as our basis we note that the word ‘happiness’ has gone through visible levels of transitions of meanings all in a bid to give it a special touch. This can be seen in the interpretations coming from famous philosophers of the word ‘happiness’ most which aim at connecting experiences of the word with an individual’s own self. This is well demonstrated by Aristotle who says, “Happiness depends upon ourselves” (Famous Quotes and Authors). Here he merely implies that happiness is overtly built on a single personality. He further adds on that: “Different men seek after happiness in different ways and by different means, and so make for themselves different modes of life” and that “all mean seek one goal: success or happiness” (Famous Quotes and Authors).
This quotes serve to build on the definition that ‘happiness’ formally represents individual lifestyles that are primarily present themselves through visible behaviors, and common or daily pursuits witnessed in normal human activity. This notion is further supported by Aristotle who objects that, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” (Famous Quotes and Authors). By saying this, Aristotle therefore serves to enhance the fact that happiness is an individual feeling experienced when one has achieved his or her initial set of goals that form what they are pursuing in their daily life struggles. In order to portray this feeling, it is a common practice for human beings to show this through feelings of joy. This supports their natural belief in hard work, and serves to build hope for a better future. To further bring out this picture more vividly, imagine that you are in a tight struggle to get something done. It reaches a time when you finally achieve what you were looking for just the way you wanted it, and your heart explodes in uncontrollable joy. This is primarily because of the involuntary nature of the feeling of happiness in itself.
In an attempt to bring out a deeper meaning of the word ‘happiness’ let us examine Robert Spitzer’s article on ‘the four levels of happiness.’ Spitzer presents an analysis of the major levels of happiness according to the old Greek and Christianity definitions. In his analysis, Spitzer names four distinct levels of happiness, which are according to him: laetus, felix, beatitude, and sublime beatitudo. In ‘laetus’, happiness is essentially described as something existing external to one’s self, is based on reflection, and is a short lived factor hence it is rarely equated to human happiness (Spitzer). This is true and happens to the most despised level or form of happiness by everyone. It is common for human nature to disregard any short term perspective of life or the commonly described by many people ‘it lasted for a short period of time.’
In ‘felix’, Spitzer describes a form of happiness that is essentially attained through comparison with other people’s achievements leading to the development of competition among people (Spitzer). This is true when we draw evidence from the common habit of people to judge their happiness by comparing their achievements with others. Spitzer further adds on that: “Such happiness is rather unstable and, if one fails, can lead to unhappiness and sense of worthlessness. Exclusive pursuit tends to oppress others.” (Spitzer). This therefore leads to the real definition of the negative forms or associations with the word ‘happiness’, which according to Spitzer are essentially ‘worthlessness’ and ‘unhappiness.’
The third level of happiness, ‘beatitudo’ is essentially described by Spitzer as happiness which is derived from the act of seeing the level of success or good in others of the act of doing good to others (Spitzer). Here happiness has been essentially described as the feeling derived when we see others doing well or the element of progress and also the feeling derived when we fulfill an act of good to others and see them express some satisfaction. The fourth level of happiness according to Spitzer is ‘sublime beatitudo’, which represents the attainment of an element of fullness and perfection of happiness in itself (Spitzer). This level of happiness is hence the ultimate happiness which is primarily achieved after an individual has undergone significant struggles in attaining the other levels of happiness. This is ultimately described by Spitzer as, “The fullness, therefore, of goodness, beauty, truth and love…beyond what we are capable of doing purely on our own” (Spitzer).
‘Happiness’ as one of the common word in English language therefore represents several levels of transitions, which are primarily shown through human actions and reactions with an aim of portraying their feelings. ‘Happiness’ therefore represents the achievement of a process through which we go through in order to fulfill what our hearts desire. The fundamental nature of happiness is therefore represented by our individual life goals that are essentially based on a long term plan.