Happiness is the only worthwhile goal in life

‘Happiness is the only worthwhile goal in life’ [15]

There are many other goals apart from happiness in life that are worth pursuing. Although Jeremy Bentham (inventor of first type of utilitarianism, act utilitarianism) famously said “nature has placed humanity under the rule of two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain”, it seems pleasure is not the only goal people strive for. For example people may pursue a spiritual goal in life. Many people live under religious guide lines such as the Bible. This means following moral absolutes such as the Ten Commandments (thou shall not kill, steal etc.) even if happiness is not the end result. Many Christians believe that we live to please God and that personal happiness or satisfaction is irrelevant so pleasing God is the main goal in life. Similarly, Immanuel Kant and his deontological philosophy states that people should live their lives according to duties that need to be fulfilled such as helping others in need. Kant argued that these duties should not be fulfilled with expectations of positive rewards or happiness – they should be done simply because they should be. Deontologists may say that happiness in not always the point but doing the right thing is and this is done through following moral obligatory duties.

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Having considered the above arguments, however, it seems that even when you follow ‘duties’ because you naturally should it can still be seen as doing a positive thing so therefore it must bring about some form of happiness. Happiness can be seen as physical pleasure which some may consider a distasteful and unworthy goal because it only satisfies our basic needs and physical natures. Many people berate act utilitarianism because it debases humans to essentially animals who do not think beyond, or to a higher capacity than, pleasure and pain. Happiness as a goal may seem unrealistic and unobtainable because of the nature of life. The pursuit of happiness could be argued as self-centred.

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