Happiness is the only goal in life that is worth working for. How far do you agree? As individuals we work in life to achieve many goals we desire, at times we work for them to any extent. These goals can take form physically or mentally and can bring great intellectual or spiritual developments. Happiness is seen as the major and most important emotion us humans seek for, it is what provides us with our ‘desired’ pleasures. However for some individuals they may argue that this view is too hedonistic and that life should encompass many other important goals, thus making it unworthy and is seen as a futile goal.
Bentham, founder of ‘utilitarianism’, would certainly agree with this statement as according to him, every moral decision should be based on the “greatest good for the greatest number. ” Also Bentham’s act of utilitarianism emphasises ‘ends over means’ this is where the result or the consequence of an act is the real measure whether if it’s good or bad. Therefore, in this respect, Bentham would argue that the happiness of the majority is the only goal in life worth working for. Additionally, further evidence that supports this view is found in the Hedonic Calculus.
This strongly supports the proposed statement as the hedonic calculus has a purpose for weighing up the pain and pleasure (happiness) in each moral decision in life and consequently finding the best option according to which decision produces the most happiness (pleasure) and the least pain. Clearly, this is strong evidence that Utilitarian’s always have the goal to produce happiness and pleasure from their actions, and consequently, this suggests that happiness is the most important goal in life for them; this is a consequencialist approach. Utilitarianism consists of two more parts, motivation and the principle of utility.
Bentham argues that human beings are motivated by pleasure and pain, meaning they are more likely to move towards pleasure (happiness) and more away from pain. He is thus a hedonist, he believes that pleasure is the ultimate motivation; however this does not mean to say it is the ‘only’ motivation. Bentham quotes, “it is for them (happiness/pain) alone to point out what we ought to do as well as well as to determine what we shall do”. This suggests that all humans pursue happiness and seek to avoid pain; this is a moral fact for it is happiness and pain that identifies what is good or a bad action.
Therefore it is known as “hedonic utilitarianism”. Lastly the ‘principle of utility’ plays a part in the whole concept of Bentham’s utilitarianism. The principle of utility is where the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ of an action is judged by its usefulness to produce happiness However, on the other side of the argument, deontologists would not be in favour of this argument as they would argue that the most important goal in life is to perform your “duty” according to natural law, it is ‘ones obligation’ towards others; this does not at any point take into account consequences or happiness (pleasure).
For example, the Roman Catholic would not allow an abortion despite if the mother was raped and even if the abortion would create the least happiness for the mother, because it would be seen as a wrong and unmoral act to do, this is strikingly different from an utilitarianism as they would permit an abortion in this circumstance to create happiness.
This clearly proves that to deontologists the end result, in this instance being happiness, is not an important goal they are aiming for, but doing the right thing or religious duty because you are obligated to do so, is the main goal in life for them, even if this caused unhappiness; again, this shows the shear contrast between utilitarianism and deontologists.
In conclusion, based on these arguments, happiness can be a goal in life worth working for but it is not the ‘only’ goal in life that one may work for, perhaps because sometimes happiness is not always in the best interests of the individual, in terms of their development and growth as a cultured human being.
However I feel that majority of human beings do go through life trying to achieve the highest form of happiness, but it can be expressed through different ways, for example it could be that one achieves happiness through spiritual experiences whereas one may find happiness through family and education or even helping others in life, as a result they therefore feel its worth working for.