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date: 06 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the pursuit of happiness from a historical perspective, tracing Western philosophical reflection on the subject from the ancient Greeks to the present. Focusing on a number of key junctures or shifts in conceptions of happiness and its pursuit, the article nonetheless identifies a recurrent preoccupation: the frustrating tendency of human happiness to elude its would-be captors. Though this body of received wisdom, it is suggested, should not inhibit our further pursuit of an elusive human end, it does provide a cautionary message against the inflated expectations of our own day: the single-minded focus on happiness can be self-defeating.

Keywords: happiness, history, Greeks, Aristotle, eudaimonia, Christianity, Enlightenment, John Stuart Mill, pursuit of happiness

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