The Pursuit of Happiness
Throughout this course, we have studied what it takes to successfully govern the people. We have been taught theories, ideas, concepts, and methods presented by different philosophers in order to explain just what it means to provide structure and order for millions of people searching for “the good life”. The concept of the good life is simple enough in theory. It is a life in which a person is free to live without fear of oppression or persecution. Though never devout of hardship, it is a life that holds purpose, meaning, and ultimately brings happiness to those who pursue it. But happiness is a subjective word. Ask a million people how they define it and you will get a million different answers. This being said, how does one create a government that protects and ensures the successful pursuit of happiness of all its citizens? After doing some research I found Locke had a few thoughts on the subject, not in the reading we read as a class but in his essay “Concerning Human Understanding”. Locke believed “the necessity of pursuing happiness” to be “the foundation of liberty” (Locke, 348). He saw the freedom for the individual to choose what makes he or she happy as an essential part of any beaurocracy. What a person chooses to pursue in search happiness becomes a determining factor in the degree of their liberty. He said we must “not mistake imaginary for real happiness,” and this is “the necessary foundation of our liberty”(Locke, 348). Meaning, there are things in life that appear to bring happiness, when in reality this happiness proves false. For example, should a person choose to pursue happiness in the form of drugs, their liberty may be negatively affected because this is not a form of true happiness. Drugs provide an alternate reality and produce a false sense of contentment. In actuality, drugs harm the user and thus cannot produce the consistent, true happiness Locke advises. As a consequence, drug users may also face incarceration as a penalty for their misguided pursuit. Liberty protects people from following false forms of happiness by limiting their freedom to do so. Liberty, as defined by Locke, is closely tied to the pursuit of happiness. As stated above, an honest pursuit for real happiness provides the foundation of our liberty. Without it we cannot be truly free. As we see through various philosphers and authors, happiness may be one of the most complex concepts to grasp. It is, however essential to the life of liberty we all seek.