Sunday, February 28, 2016

In The Pursuit Of Happiness

How is our relationship with the environment affected by our definition of happiness?
How our views on progress are affected by the way we measure it?

This week in our Earthkeeping class we were addressing these questions based on the knowledge we have of our human nature. This week we started reading Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" and Bouma-Prediger's book "For The Beauty Of The Earth." (You can read an excellent review of the book following this link.)
In Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle brings back the idea of balance within temperament and action. Citizens should have a balanced approach between what we need and what we want. Starting in the first book Aristotle points out that "every art, every inquiry, every action, and pursuit is thought to aim at some good." Later Aristotle defines what this "good" is based on the idea of what makes people happy. So the first thing we have to articulate and define is the meaning of happiness. Aristotle refers to happiness using the Greek word Eudenomia or Eudainomia  that translates also as "welfare" meaning that in that mental state people will flourish in their lives and endeavors.

Here we bring Bouma-Prediger's book where he is first describing where we are in the evolution of our society. How our definition of progress based on material possessions has missed the point of human well-being and welfare. Bouma-Prediger describes how we have to use a different approach to how we measure eudenomia. Maybe using some kind of index of well-being and happiness.

The questions posed at the beginning need further analysis, so we will have to come to them later on. For now we can stop and think what was declared in 1776 as the United States became an independent nation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."     

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