Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Happy Philosopher

A friend of mine claims that a "happy philosopher" is an oxymoron. His contention is that only a person who is unhappy would be in search for answers to life, the universe and everything. That if you were satisfied, you wouldn't need these answers.

It makes sense I suppose. If you were truly satisfied, you really wouldn't need anything. You certainly wouldn't be analyzing life and its purpose.

I think the problem here is that we're confusing happiness with satisfaction, and these, to me, are very different things.

Happiness is a state of being, a mood, or even an outlook on life. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is the fulfillment of need. You could sate your hunger but not be happy. And you could be dissatisfied with your job without spiraling into depression.

To say that satisfaction is the only route to happiness would mean that an inventor who makes something, an athlete who works hard at improving his skills, a student trying to learn more about his chosen field of study, a traveler who wanders the world, even a person who goes shopping, are all miserable. After all, they must be dissatisfied with the way things are for why else would they feel a need to change anything?

In fact, the only people who are truly satisfied are the dead.

I don't believe thinkers are unhappy, they are simply people who are dissatisfied with the answers given to them and seek out something more. They are those who find joy in contemplation, whose curiosity leads them on a pursuit of knowledge like one possessed by love, for what is a philosopher but a lover of wisdom? They lose themselves in the vast universe of their minds and then laugh at the absurdity of life.

They may, in fact, be the happiest amongst us.

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