Aristotle in the commencement of his “Metaphysics” wrote: “pantes
anthropoi tou eidenai oregontai phuse”
(all men by nature desire to know). This existential passion or desire is quite
innate and intrinsic in man. Due to that irresistible urge in man to know, he
involves himself in a curious and inquisitive search into the reasons for his
existence. Perhaps Socrates realized this fact and so maintained, “an
unexamined life is not worth living”.
In other words, the life of man on earth must have a purpose. And, in
order to grasp this end of human life on earth, an intensive study is
To provide an answer or answers to these timely interrogatives,
scholars, thinkers, erudite philosophers from many schools of thought have
given diverse views and opinions. St Augustine of Hippo argues and advocates
that “Happiness” is the purpose of human life and actions. Put differently, he
submits that happiness is the essence of human existence. Following this
Augustinian trend of thesis would be that man; by virtue of his personhood has
a natural inclination to happiness.
Nevertheless, the postulation of the end of human life as a search for
happiness has altogether become problematic. The issue to grapple with is how
to effect a true understanding of the notion of happiness. What do we mean when
we say that someone is happy? In this wise, I intend to contribute to the
effort being made towards understanding the one human objective – “to achieve
happiness.” This will be done by a critical appraisal of the notion of
happiness in St. Augustine.
1.2 THE STATEMENT OF THE
There are myriads of instabilities – political, economic, religious et
cetera. The issues of bribery and corruption and the attendant poverty of purse
and mind have remained heart-rending. In the most parts of the world, some
countries are characterised as rich but poor nation, no thanks to her
administrators, from past to the present.
Although many interpretations have been given to account for the
numerous failures evident in the seemingly non-abating societal problems, I
wish to focus on the psycho-existential quest of man as the root of the
problem. What this means is that he understands the problem as emanating from
the deep human desire to be satisfied and to feel good. Everybody desires the good And even when at the end what
was desired turned out to be bad, it
was initially desired as an apparent good.
Accordingly, the failed administrators are all seeking the ways to be
happy. The youths who engage in violent, immoral and criminal activities are
invariably seeking for happiness. If all these are so, it then calls for a
fresh study of the notion of happiness. This is our contention! This is our
aim!! However we do so through the perspective pf St. Augustine of Hippo.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
What is happiness? What does it mean to be happy? And in what does
happiness consist? These and other like questions are what I set out to
investigate in this work. This investigation is proper especially at this
moment when there is an obvious misinformation about the concept of happiness.
People no longer understand what it means to be happy and the difference
between happiness and pleasure. The fact we shall gather through this
discursive investigation and exegesis, hopefully, will help to redirect our
minds towards the proper appreciation of happiness.
1.4 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The centrality of the concept of happiness to man has made it a topic of
everybody’s interest. Scholars of various inclinations have commented and
written profusely about happiness. Various religions preach it as the goal of
human striving encapsulated in the notion of the beatific vision. More so, the
goal of scientific and technological advancements has also been noted to be the
longing for happiness and good life
But not withstanding the available literary corpus on happiness, I will
limit myself to the Augustinean view on happiness, especially as explicated in
his works – The City of God and the Confessions. In any case, the views of
other thinkers, philosophers and theologians will be made use of when the need
Every literary work goes with its unique style and methodology. In this
work, I will employ the methods of exposition, analysis and evaluation. The
views of Augustine on happiness are brought to the fore through a systematic
narrative exposition to highlight the basic tenets. Now abreast with his
doctrine, I shall analytically evaluate the whole idea with the strength of
some existential facts. The whole methodological approach will be critical.
1.6 DIVISION OF WORK
The work is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is the general
introduction for Proper understanding of the essay: the statement of the
problem, the purpose and the method used, the scope, division of the work.
Chapter two bears literature review on happiness. Chapter three provides us
with the clarification of various concepts. The view of Augustine of Hippo is
portrayed in chapter four. A critical appraisal and conclusion brings the work
to an end in chapter five.
 Aristotle, as quoted in Metaphysics
the kpim of philosophy by Panteleon Iroegbu (Owerri,
International Universities Press LTD, 1995) , p.142
 E. Stumpf, Philosophy,
History and Problem (USA,
McGraw- Hill. Inc, 1994) p.38