ʿAqīl المُصْطَفَوِي

ʿAqīl المُصْطَفَوِي

28-07-2021

01:30

Utilitarianism as an ethical system might be unpopular to many people but the effect of reviving the attention given to pleasure has had considerable influence even until today. This is a thread on 'happiness' and 'pleasure', inshāAllāh.

By equating (or even replacing) happiness with pleasure, the modern man is everyday stripped down to an animal obsessed with fragmentary sensations fueled by the culture of consumerism—that promotes this very profitable lifestyle—and a kind of individualism.

Individualism, as Charles Taylor says in The Ethics of Authenticity, leads to relativism as a moral position where one cannot challenge another's value. And since one cannot appeal to some higher value or system to rectify the situation...

(since nothing is wrong, relatively speaking), it becomes "the mainspring for the development of the lowest possibilities of mankind", as per Guénon's critique of individualism. While Guénon was concerned with the loss of "genuine spirituality and intellectuality" given by...

Tradition (with a capital T), this could even be considered a perversion of the ancient Greek tradition that the West is indebted to. The question of happiness/flourishing ('eudaimonia' in Greek) was a central component in figuring out how to live one's life.

Being intertwined with the inculcation of virtues ('arete'), obtaining happiness was pretty much a lifelong project that required moral consistency and internal harmony. Happiness, which is attributed to an entire life, is now replaced with pleasure which by its very nature...

is a short and transient experience. The episodic nature of pleasure thus drives people to maximise it in order to prolong the experience the same way one would experience happiness. The difference between the two is made even clearer in the Islamic tradition.

In an article "Miskawayh's Conception of Saʿādah", M. Ansari says that the English translation 'happiness' for saʿādah is unsatisfactory. Happiness differs from pleasure by "its suggestion of permanence, depth and serenity", and saʿādah is even more than that because it is...

a "comprehensive concept, including in it happiness, prosperity, success, perfection, blessedness and beautitude", similar to the Greek eudaimonia. In fact, Miskawayh in his famous Tahdhīb al-Akhlāq says that pleasure cannot consist in saʿādah, as it is related to the body and..

cannot be the object of the soul. "To make saʿādah consist in pleasure would mean subjecting the spiritual to the material, the eternal to the transient, the real to the unreal, and the higher to the lower..." Imām al-Ghazālī in Kimiya-e Sa'adat (The Alchemy of 'Happiness')

expounds on the various methods of—what he summarises to be—"turning away from the world to God", and this is the crucial step in achieving saʿādah. This is perhaps the most straightforward answer as to why people with abundant material wealth can still be unhappy,...

or feel as though they are living an unfulfilled life. Material wealth might necessarily lead to attaining pleasure but achieving happiness (or more precisely, saʿādah[in this world and the next]) is only through obedience to Allāh. Wallāhu aʾlam Correct me if I'm wrong.


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