Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life, Osaka Prefecture University


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Better to Be a Renunciant
: Buddhism, Happiness, and the Good Life

Charles K. Fink

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.3, No.2 (April 2013):127-144



This essay seeks to understand the nature of happiness and the good life within the context of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism is a pessimistic philosophy, but only in the sense that it insists that happiness, as we ordinarily conceive of it, is unattainable. It is optimistic insofar as it maintains that true happiness is humanly possible, but only if we see things as they really are and relinquish our desires. Yet, even if we would be happier as renunciants, would our lives be better? To answer this question, we must understand the relationship between happiness and the good life. I argue that happiness is a complex psychological state involving affective, cognitive, and motivational components. Buddhist practice seeks to cultivate these different dimensions of happiness and in this way lay the foundation for living a good life.

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