Pursuit Of Happiness in Philosophy

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Just because something has worked in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t criticize it. Many people never do and never contemplate the question, “ what is the way we ought to live?” Instead, the course of their lives is greatly navigated within a way that authority figures and traditions have deemed correct and, they go about life unquestionably adhering to the set norms of their society and the values of their culture.

According to Socrates, the pursuit and examination of the aforementioned question are crucial and it is through striving for the answers to it, that one can expect to improve his or her life. Most people automatically assume they are aware of what is truly good and what is truly evil. They view wealth, power, status and social acceptance as the things that constitute a good life and regard death, poverty and social rejection as the evils in life. Socrates believes that this is a colossal mistake and finds that ignorance causes us to have a futile pursuit of happiness. He asserts that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” He firmly believed that our soul was all important, not the things we owned or our social status. He claims that there was only one supreme good, which was virtue (moral excellence) and that knowledge of oneself, what is truly good and what is truly evil, is the necessary knowledge to proliferate the good and purge the evil in oneself, thus becoming virtuous.

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According to his philosophy, this virtue is what is truly necessary to attain happiness. The answer to the question, “ what is the way we ought to live?”, in my thoughts, it is an enigma. I depart from all my previous philosophies and choose to agree with Socrates’ account of how and why we should relentlessly pursue the truth. After all, the pursuit of the truth can either reveal to us that our ways are just and our means of pursuing happiness are appropriate or alarm us that we’d been living in a paradoxical nature and allow us the knowledge of the true code we must live by. I believe that there is one singular truth regardless of your beliefs or my beliefs, there will always be one singular truth. Over twenty-five thousand years ago, according to Plato: Euthyphro, Socrates is accused of impiety, which is worshipping the wrong Gods and harming children through spreading this impiety by teaching the children his ways. The charges being brought against Socrates are awfully similar to the kind of charges being leveled against controversial figures of our time who would agree that there is one truth and that we don’t own that truth because that singular truth is being kept from us by politicians and government officials. Much like in Socrates’ case, authorities often throw in the “harm of children in the process” because it riles people up against the controversy, thus furthering the government’s agenda to keep us in the dark about the one true nature of things.

Most controversial individuals including Socrates himself, believe people must be more interested in the truth based on logic, observation, and reasoning rather than stories and teachings which are probably allowed by authorities because they want to condition our thinking. Socrates wants us to question religion, authority, whether or not bisexuals and gays are wrong in being the way they are, whether or not adults have the right to carry a concealed handgun, if abortions are wrong, is college education worth it, etc. He was not corrupting children or spreading bad ideas or lies to people, he was demonstrating the false beliefs that people have that they have been taught. He was not telling them what the truth was, he was trying to expose them to the idea that the things they thought they knew just weren’t the truth, maybe in hopes that what they would pursue what the truth was. In the Apology, interesting questions arise for us because I assume that all of us claim we value the truth more than lies and that it’s better to have knowledge than to be ignorant. Yet when presented with such truths or the opportunity to let go of the untruth we’ve attained through teachings, we become perplexed much like Euthyphro was by Socrates and his inquiries at the courthouse.

When people exposed our own ignorance and challenge what we think we know, we don’t welcome that. Instead, we latch on to those untruths and resist learning that what we think we know is not actually something that we know. We claim that we are pursuing the truth yet when someone comes along, who challenges the things we believe, much like Socrates, we resent it so much and we get defensive and end up putting them on trial just like they did with Socrates twenty-five thousand years ago. Abortion is a prime example of an ongoing controversy in our society. There have been talks of actual laws being made to ban abortions. Who is to say that it is wrong or not? Scientists? Religious groups? Government officials? Who put them in charge of what is wrong or right; what is just and what is not? The People? When more than half of us voting, does not have the knowledge or cognitive abilities to determine anything about a woman’s body, a woman’s financial standing in life or what is wrong for her to do or not to do, let alone elect people to represent us in such politics.

What about the women who are raped? Should they have to live carrying a baby or raising a child of their rapist? What about women who have fatal diseases that they do not wish to pass on through generations? Are they subjected to the “truth” of whether it is wrong or not, that is solely decided through politics or should they pursue the truth for themselves and find the truth that reigns so in their situations? The lot of us might disagree with Socrates because as much as we say we do, we do not like being confronted about our beliefs, we do not like being wrong nor do we welcome the idea that we are wrong and we are uncomfortable and possibly scared of change. There is also danger in pursuing the truth. Truth can be controversial and cause an uprising against the current order of things, or at least, the officials in Socrates’ time believed so. Pursuing the truth means to go about your own way, with no external guidance or rhetoric and that lonesomeness is indeed scary. I can’t refute your claims that there is more than one truth and that the truth is objective or subjective, but I can leave you with this, “what is the relative value of knowledge versus ignorance?”. I can’t tell you that being thrown in jail and put to death is worth discovering the truth. Honestly, I myself would most likely neglect my own pursuits of the truth if it came to that.

Gautama Buddha is quoted to have said, “Happiness is the way’’, but if pursuing truth meant dystopia and chaos, then, by all means, take the “I believe ignorance is bliss” road and choose happiness in not knowing. 
 Buddha is only partly correct since the meaning of happiness is abstract and can mean something different to me than to you, I have rephrased his saying to “happier-ness is the way”. As the not knowing would make me, personally uncomfortable and I don’t regard discomfort to be in correlation with any form of happiness. I believe that Socrates wants us to relentlessly pursue the truth so that we don’t ignorantly damn ourselves in the name of the law because who is really in charge of conditioning what is and what is not? A degree doesn’t give someone the right to tell us what we concepts and ideas we should deem true and false. It is important to seek the truth because only in doing so will we know if we are living an admirable life or not and if we aren’t, we would have the knowledge to change.

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Pursuit Of Happiness in Philosophy. (2021, Oct 29). Retrieved from


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