Svavar Hrafn Svavarsson: The Genealogy of Happiness
The notion of happiness is central in the history of Greek thought. The Greeks were wont to contrast the fragility of human lives with divine power and immortality; they lauded the justice of Zeus, and the prosperity of the pious. But the happiness of men did not depend on men, but the gods. Near the end of the 5th century B.C. philosophers transformed this idea, thus marking the beginning of philosophical ethics. Internal excellences are separated from other kinds of excellences, excellent character and wisdom become the very criterion of human happiness. External goods and divine control recede into the background, sometimes disappear altogether. The happiness of men depends on men. But this transformation is not only ethical, but also theological, for the all-important internal excellences consist in divine rationality. Happiness consists in being as like god as possible. The subject of this article is this fundamental idea of the Greeks: happiness as divine.
Keywords: Happiness, eudaimonia, divine, godlikeness, Greek