The search for happiness in the eighteenth century and today

Hanna Talikka


The changing world of the eighteenth century and the preceding centuries challenged the traditional view of happiness and good life. Thinkers of the eighteenth century pursued happiness through their texts in various ways. By reading these texts we can notice that most of the key elements in our thinking today derive from the eighteenth century.  A parallel can be seen between Rousseau's idea of the good life and today’s view of happiness. Rousseau didn’t think that progress was always leading towards a better life. Today the currently rising trend is to revert to natural ways of living and to criticise the negative progress that has led to pollution, isolation and depression. This connection between Rousseau’s and today’s thinking shows that people deliberate over the same questions regardless of the period of time. We can see that the eighteenth century includes those roots of thought and those questions which have been developing and have been a part of the general discussion all the way to the present moment.

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