n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Paul Ricoeur en die belang van 'n transendente aard van geluk - : navorsings- en oorsigartikel

Volume 54, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


Ricoeur develops a unique understanding of happiness in his philosophical anthropology. He follows the thoughts of Aristotle and Kant on happiness to develop his own interpretation thereof in response to the existentialism of his time. Ricoeur's understanding of happiness can be summarised in three points. The first is that the need or longing for happiness is fundamentally part of human beings. This need for happiness is part of the dialectical or mediating nature of human beings. In Ricoeur's philosophical anthropology, happiness (at the level of deeds and the affective) represents the infinite pole in the human disproportion of finitude and infiniteness. Secondly, Ricoeur sees happiness as part of the originating affirmation of humans. This stands in contrast to its existential negation, and for Ricoeur it is within fallibility where these two poles find dialectical synthesis. Ricoeur therefore states that "Man [sic] is the Joy of Yes in the sadness of the finite" (1986:140). Thirdly, happiness according to Ricoeur is a totality of meaning, fulfilment and contentment. Happiness is the total aim of all facets of transgression - a horizon. This makes happiness inherently unattainable and transcendent in nature for Ricoeur. Accordingly, although we may experience some events of happiness, such events only indicate the direction of happiness: happiness remains the ultimate goal, or the horizon which must be interpreted again and again as it constantly moves away from the observer. This makes happiness part of the continuous hermeneutic existential project of the human being. In contrast to Ricoeur's transcendent understanding of happiness, the contemporary interdisciplinary understanding of happiness is that it is something attainable and immanent. Three such understandings are briefly discussed in this article, namely the interpretation of the philosopher Daniel Haybron; the concept of "flow" as happiness within the Positive Psychology (Haidt and Csikszentmihalyi); and happiness in relation to economic prosperity (Layard). In comparison with these three immanent approaches to happiness, it is clear that Ricoeur's understanding of happiness is, firstly, not reductive in nature. Happiness for him does not only involve desires, an emotional state or the satisfaction of some measurable factors, but it is something infinite. All these immanent concepts of happiness are inclined to reduce both happiness and human beings to mere causal beings - without complexity and mystery. A second positive characteristic of Ricoeur's understanding of happiness as something transcendent, is the fact that happiness is not understood as completely separate from human reason. Rather, happiness forms part of reason's demand for totality of meaning. Happiness and reason are thus focused together on human destiny. In contrast, the more immanent understandings of happiness see the desire for happiness as something irrational, as part of our vital desires and often as something immoral. In these theories, reason and happiness remain separate and reason is merely something that must postpone pleasure on behalf of other motivations. A third positive characteristic of Ricoeur's understanding of happiness as transcendent is that he does not see one's longing for happiness as something contingent or optional for humans, but that he views happiness as a necessary and inherent component of human beings from the start. One's constant desire for complete happiness (in its transcendent nature as something infinite) is in a dialectical tension with one's fragility and finitude, and with one's existential negation. Lastly, the transcendent nature of happiness has the potential to put our human desires into perspective. Ricoeur argues that an infinite understanding of happiness helps us to see the true value of our temporary desires. The advantage of maintaining the transcendent nature of happiness is that a single desire (like the vital) is not elevated to the absolute, but is relativised. The risk of immanent understandings of happiness is always that it may prevent this relativisation of our desires. With these four advantages in mind, the conclusion is made that Ricoeur's understanding of happiness as being transcendent in nature, is of continuous value for the contemporary interdisciplinary search for and understanding of happiness.

In sy filosofiese antropologie ontwikkel Ricoeur 'n unieke verstaan van geluk, in aansluiting by Aristoteles en Kant, maar ook in reaksie op die eksistensialisme van sy tyd. Ricoeur se verstaan van geluk as transenderend van aard staan in kontras met kontemporêre immanente beskouinge van geluk. Ricoeur slaag daarin om die mens se oneindige begeertes en feilbaarheid in verband te bring met die mens se ewige soeke na geluk: die ontwykende en oneindige aard van geluk is vir hom 'n noodsaaklike teenpool vir die eindige, eksistensieel ontkennende pool van die mens, wat albei inherent deel van die menslike aard is. Volgens Ricoeur se begrip van geluk is dit dus deel van die mens se voortgaande hermeneuties eksistensiële projek, en dit is nie-reduksionisties en transenderend van aard. Dit is juis Ricoeur se verstaan van geluk as transenderend van aard wat dit van voortgesette waarde maak vir die kontemporêre interdissiplinêre soeke na en verstaan van geluk.

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