Digest of terms

happiness

a state of contentment the nature of which, however, is contested and variously interpreted. In ethics the term is most popularly associated with Utilitarianism's advocacy of the consequentialist principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number as the criterion in terms of which to weigh the rights and wrongs of particular actions. Here, though, originally, happiness was further interpreted as pleasure, in a form of hedonic utilitarianism now widely criticized - some people take pleasure in actions widely condemned as immoral. By contrast, in virtue ethics, following the Aristotelian tradition, happiness is construed rather as the state of flourishing appropriate to the best in human nature. Pleasure is a bi-product of excellences pursued for their own sake, not an end in itself. This connects with some forms of religious ethics. In Buddhist ethics the ultimate goal is nirvana, often described as a state of bliss, yet the path to it is one of renunciation rather than of pleasure. In mainstream Christian and Muslim ethics the bliss of heaven is consequent on the ultimate goal of love for, and obedience to, God.

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