Friday, November 02, 2007

on the history of "happiness"

following my Blog posting titled: "Even French Philosophers can be wrong on happiness", a correspondent writes:
"You could point to your friend that the whole concept of the pursuit and enjoyment of earthly happiness hails much earlier. It can be found for instance in old Greece in the teachings of Epictetus". He also assures me that his teachers "have found references to 'eudaimonia' - pursuit of earthly pleasure well established in old Greece".

Well, Epictetus was BORN in about 55 AD (according to the scholarly consensus) - that would be over tweny years after Jesus the Lord was killed and rose the time he was able to write anything that would be remembered would another twenty years at least, I imagine - well after the teachings of Jesus had spread through the "old world" of Greece.

The oldest Greek thinker REPUTED to have thought about this subject (and many others) is Socrates (around the 4th century BC) - though we nothing about him except for what we are told about him by his supposed pupils Plato and Xenophon (there is also information about Socrates in Aristophanes, Timon of Philius and later sources), and scholars disagree about whether ANY of what we are told about Socrates is historically accurate.

In any case, Socrates lived well after the time of the Hebrew prophets (sixth century BC - that's nearly 200 years before Socrates).

But the texts to which I was referring from the books of Deuteronomy and Exodus in the Jewish Bible, are put by Jewis traditionalist scholars at the 10th century BC. Even if we, being modern skeptics, take that with a large pinch of salt, Deuteronomy and Exodus certainly predate even the Hebrew prophets by a century or more.

In addition, it must be pointed out that, when scholars write about something, that is hardly likely to be the first time anyone has felt or even thought about that thing.

However, such efforts to establish, on a scholarly basis, who was the first person to WRITE about happiness, do not (so far) modify in the least my basic argument in the original post on the French Philosophers. Sphere: Related Content

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