Plato’s Surefire Criteria for Determining Happiness

Exerpted from the Journey to Excellence curriculum 
Spitzer Center for Visionary Leadership
Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.

There are three criteria that Plato used to judge the quality of happiness 2,400 years ago. How pervasive? How enduring? How deep? These three simple questions will unlock the mystery of happiness for us. Posing these questions will better inform our decisions. Applying them will empower us achieve a superior quality of happiness – one that affects more people, lasts longer, and engages our highest powers. 

However, there is a price to be paid, a trade-off so to speak. To achieve the higher levels one must sacrifice or delay gratification on the lower levels. This requires some commitment. The lower levels are good but can rivet our attention too much since their rewards are more immediate and intense. Rather than restricting our freedoms, commitment to higher happiness can literally set us free from the immediate and intense demands and rewards of the lower levels.  By committing ourselves to a happiness that is more pervasive, enduring, and deep, we can achieve a higher form of freedom that will enable us to live a life of love, empathy, and contribution toward an enduring legacy.

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