7 Sep 2022


Happiness and Love in the Works of Famous Philosophers

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The philosophers, Aristotle and Sigmund Freud, present different views on happiness. Aristotle argues out that happiness refers to the act or actions of the soul. Consequently, Freud, in his book; Civilization and its Discontents brings out happiness as entitled on two aims. He defines happiness as the absence of pain. He also says that happiness is the experience of strong feelings of pleasure. 

On a broader perspective, Aristotle, says that elements such as honor, pleasure, reason and other values that we choose in life have a directive at happiness. We tend to choose these values based on our happiness. He goes on to say that, as we chose on these values based on what makes us happy, happiness itself is not selected on the basis of these elements. For instance, one does not necessarily decide on happiness based on reason (Polansky, 2014). 

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Sigmund Freud on the other hand, says in his book that happiness is the absence of pain and misery. Therefore, this entails avoidance of suffering, keeping pain at a far distance and putting enjoyment before the caution. Freud compares happiness to unhappiness and also refers to it as unpleasure. One experiences happiness when he or she experiences strong feelings o pleasure. 

Aristotle argues out that happiness is the true account of one's desire. Most of the time, most people tend to participate or try to do what they desire. Passion drives people to do what benefits them and their souls. The measure of hope can be presumed to relate to the happiness gained directly. The stronger the desire, the more happily an individual would become after attaining the desire. 

Challenges are encountered while thriving to achieve or attain the much-desired happiness. People may do wrong things or come across obstacles in their quest to achieve happiness. Sometimes happiness may result in harmful consequences or pain. 

Freud explains further that, happiness entails putting enjoyment first before the caution. Most people especially the youth such as college students seldom search for happiness no matter the cost. These individuals do not take to account the adverse consequences that may arise on their quest for happiness. Most of the time, caution is not considered or taken before deciding on what form of happiness, one or a group of people would like to indulge in. It Shall result to an individual getting punished for his or her actions or by other persons who are concerned or affected. 

Aristotle also describes happiness as the chief good. What is good for one person is not necessarily right for another person. It might imply that what one person finds joy in may not be the same for another individual. All in all, things that a person considers to be good bring happiness to that particular person. He also goes on to justify that happiness is that which lacks in nothing. Alternatively, it is to mean that happiness is complete goodness. Aristotle depicts happiness as the actions or acts that are based on what we desire o rather, what the soul wants. 

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud says that happiness is a pleasure principle. It is a policy based on what pleases people. Thus, Happiness is found in pleasure. Pleasure may be generated in various ways by people. Freud justifies that pleasure is sought by individuals when they are running away from unpleasure or unhappiness (White, 1930). 

When people look to avoid their problems or stressful situations, they may find happiness as a solution. There are different sources of happiness depending on what pleases a person. Happiness can be triggered not only by external factors but also internal or personal factors. Fantasizing is a form of internal factors that is known to induce happiness to many people. External factors that trigger happiness are numerous including music and drugs. 

The virtue of reason is applied when one has to engage in activities. Reasoning can be guided by happiness as brought out by Aristotle in his book. When a person looks to do or to decide on two things, he or she will always opt or the one that will make him or her happier. 

Freud also says that happiness involves putting misery at bay. These imply that happiness helps one to escape his or her miseries. It may also be understood that suffering or pain can be eradicated through finding happiness and pleasure. Research reflects this phenomenon as it has been proven that the majority of people who love to indulge in bad habits such as drug abuse which is a way of triggering happiness are often victims of miseries. Such people will hide their true selves in happiness which in some instances is short lived. 

Opinions provided by the two authors explain one major aspect of happiness. Happiness is found in what pleases a person. Pleasure brings about happiness. Aristotle defines happiness as the actions or activities of the soul while Freud says that happiness refers to the absence of pain. Both critics agree and justify that pleasure brings about happiness. The descriptions of happiness are presented differently by the critics. 

Plato in the Symposium depicts love as a desire for immortality, which is pursued through an ascending series of planned acts. Individuals tend to 'reproduce' their beauty so as to look more appealing to be loved by others. Freud on the other hand, in Civilization and its Discontents, likens ‘eros' (love) to the drive which sustains life by seeking to unite individuals into larger and stronger communities. 

The story of Alcibiades and Socrates is told in the Symposium which was written by Plato. Plato brings out the description of love which is shown by the act of the two characters. Alcibiades finds out what Socrates likes then goes ahead to make assumptions on the personality of Socrates. Alcibiades also learns of Socrates' great wisdom and intends to gain knowledge from him. Alcibiades plans to use his good looks to seduce Socrates to gain from him. When efforts put in by Alcibiades to seduce Socrates fail to work, he goes on to find new and better ways to get Socrates to come to him. He finally gets him to come to his place for dinner (Plato & Rowe, 1998). 

Alcibiades' act of love is seen as false love. He wants to get close to Socrates so as to gain wisdom. He wants something from Socrates, of which he is willing to have intercourse with Socrates just to get it. Freud in his book talks about false and genuine love. Real love is not based on favors and entails sharing between lovers. False love is best described as deceit. One individual pretends to love only because he or she targets something from the other. 

Freud includes the instinct of reproduction and self-preservation to his description of love. Freud talks more about love whereby he points out that people give the name love to the relationship between man and woman. Love is also seen in the way families care about their members, for instance, in the way parents care for their children. Freud defines love a value that can grow or develop. Love may start at a family level and later extends deep to other people due to interactions. 

Sexual love is described to be different from spiritual love. Spiritual love does not involve the ‘genital needs' – as said by Freud, of the lovers. Sexual love includes these requirements and may lead to reproduction and foundation of a family. Spiritual love is an aim-inhibited kind of love and may result in valued friendships. In Plato's book, Socrates soon begins to chase after Alcibiades to gain sexual satisfaction. It implies that sexual form of love is majorly centered on sex and sexual pleasure. Spiritual love is centered on the supernatural being, which in most cases is God. 

There are restrictions to love as brought out by Freud in his book. Love may be restricted by taboos of the family, society or community. Sexual love which involves people of the same gender has also been limited in many communities and societies. Sexual love before marriage is also not approved by parents or many communities. Sexual love between related individual e.g. cousins, which may lead to incest, is greatly discouraged by a vast majority of communities. Other people may also become obstacles to love. Societies may have limitation and taboos that restrict members from engaging in a sexual kind of love with other people. 

In Plato's book, the two characters, Socrates and Alcibiades are both males. It shows that the society or community in the setting of this book is not an obstacle to sexual love between people of the same gender. Alcibiades had a great challenge of getting Socrates to love or develop affection towards him. 

Love can also create hate as seen in Plato’s book. Third parties would always feel neglected or not loved by one who already loves another person. Hate may lead to malicious acts. Freud in his book says that man looks for ways to find his love objects and when the object rejects him, does not find it or when he loses it, he exposes himself to extreme suffering. 

The two different theories given by the authors in their writings, in each case, bring out differences of opinion on the two subject matters. Happiness and love are human virtues that are important in life. Love may result in happiness as happiness is that which brings pleasure to a person. Love and happiness are defined dissimilarly by the authors in their books based on their opinions. Aristotle argues out that happiness is the result of the actions of actions of the soul or heart desires. These measures are acts of joy and what pleases that particular person. Freud, on the other hand, says that happiness is the avoidance of unhappiness and absence of pain. 

Love is also described differently in the two books. In Plato's book loves is depicted as a valuable virtue that people wait for and are prepared to do anything to get it. Love is also portrayed as a means to get gifts or other things through acts such as seduction. Love is also a means to satisfy one's sexual needs. Freud talks about love in the context of sexual love, aim-inhibited love, spiritual among other forms of love. Sexual love can lead to the foundation of families. There are obstacles to love as seen in both contexts. 


Plato, & Rowe, C. J. (1998). Plato, Symposium: Edited with an Introduction, Translation and Commentary by . Aris & Phillips. 

Polansky, R. (Ed.). (2014). The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics . Cambridge University Press. 

White, W. A. (1930). Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents. Psychoanalytic Review , 17 (4), 471-473. 

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