Saturday, 31 March 2018

John Locke on the Pursuit of Happiness

Portrait of John Locke 
John Locke, in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, says that the greatest good for man is to realize himself as an intelligent being. He relates happiness with the “highest perfection of the intellectual nature” and “our greatest good.” He says that by being good and happy we establish the “necessary foundation of our liberty.” His idea is clearly reminiscent of the Epicurean philosophers.

Here’s an excerpt from Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Chapter 21: “Of Power”):
"The necessity of pursuing true happiness [is] the foundation of liberty. As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will to any particular action, and from a necessary compliance with our desire, set upon any particular, and then appearing preferable good, till we have duly examined whether it has a tendency to, or be inconsistent with, our real happiness: and therefore, till we are as much informed upon this inquiry as the weight of the matter, and the nature of the case demands, we are, by the necessity of preferring and pursuing true happiness as our greatest good, obliged to suspend the satisfaction of our desires in particular cases.”

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