Within the constellation of the positive emotional responses related to the sense of accomplishment and/or fulfillment—a constellation that also includes feelings like pleasure and enjoyment as well as positive emotions like gladness, cheerfulness, hilariousness, serenity, etc.—joy and happiness stand out as two related, and yet different, experiences.
Within the constellation of the positive emotional responses related to the sense of accomplishment and/or fulfillment—a constellation that also includes feelings like pleasure and enjoyment as well as positive emotions like gladness, cheerfulness, hilariousness, serenity, etc.—joy and happiness stand out as two related, and yet different, experiences.
Considering recent work, the discrepancy between the large amount of research on happiness and the comparatively little one on joy is remarkable (cf. Demmerling and Landweer 2007, 111–125; Potkay 2007, 1–29). Interdisciplinary research on happiness have flourished in the last decades, and research fields called “happiness studies” or “the science of happiness” have developed (Ahmed 2010, 2–20; Haybron 2011). Several attempts have been made to establish more or less standardized criteria for the evaluation of individual and social happiness. This interest for happiness and happiness standards not only concerns scientific research but also social discourses: we read articles about the happiest country in Europe, about how to keep a happy relationship, about being happy with what you are, etc. There seems to be nothing similar concerning joy.
The reason for this discrepancy is at least partly bound to the cultural tradition in Western civilization and to the history of concepts. First, the concepts of joy and happiness are often used interchangeably, so that discourses about happiness should sometimes be better understood as discourses about joy and vice versa. Moreover, both concepts, ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’, harbor some ambiguities. On the one hand, experiencing joy may be either understood as ‘enjoying something’ or as ‘rejoicing about something’ and the two have rather different characteristics. On the other hand, ‘happiness’ is alternatively used to designate an emotional state—feeling happy about something essentially means feeling satisfied—or a judgmental stance we take about our life, or a period thereof—we are or were happy with what we are, with what we have reached, which means that a happy life is a life that “goes well for the person leading it” (Haybron 2011). I will assume that the former sense of ‘happiness’ comes rather close to joy, whereas the latter is a distinctive experience. ‘Happiness’ in this narrower sense has historically gained stronger ethical/moral connotations (cf. Annas 1993), which are not associated with our current understanding of ‘joy’ (Potkay 2007, 1–28). This is particularly remarkable if one considers how important figures in the philosophical, literary, and religious tradition have emphasized the social, ethical and even political impact of joy (cf. Potkay 2007). Finally, and relatedly, our understanding of happiness has requirements that do not seem to applicable in the same sense to joy. According to a tradition that has its roots in Aristotle’s account of eudaimonia, for rational beings, happiness is and should be the ultimate aim. In this sense, we are somehow accountable and responsible for the way in which we realize our happiness (Ahmed 2010).
In what follows, I will tackle these issues from a phenomenological perspective. I will emphasize what is distinctive for joy and happiness, particularly in relation to temporality and to processes of self-realization. Section 1 expands on the ambiguity in the use of and on some relevant distinctions between the concepts of joy and happiness; Section 2 focuses on joy, and in particular on what I will call ‘deep joy’; Section 3 addresses the specificity of happiness as based on an evaluative/judgmental stance on one’s own life as a good life.
That expressions of joy and happiness are often used interchangeably has notably been observed, in two different argumentative contexts, by Nozick and Foot. Focusing on what we mean by saying that we are happy to x or that we are happy that x is the case, Nozick (2006, 108 f.) distinguishes: (i) being happy that something or other is the case, (ii) feeling that one’s own life is good as it is right now, and (iii) being satisfied with one’s own life as a whole. Discussing these three meanings, he observes that the former two describe joy rather than happiness: they respectively refer (i) to the ordinary experience of rejoicing about something and (ii) to the experience of deep joy. Happiness in the strict sense is what is meant in case (iii), which differs from both previous ones because, on the one hand, it does not refer to one specific episode and, on the other hand, it entails a judgmental stance that the two others do not have. Foot’s (2010, 81f.) remarks converge with these in emphasizing how, besides being used in order to characterize dispositions or moods, expressions of happiness often refer to two rather different phenomena: rejoicing and being happy about one’s own life as a good life. Whereas the former designates an episodic state of mind, the latter implies a judgmental stance on the goodness of one’s life, thus coming close to the understanding of eudaimonia in Aristotle and the ethical tradition that followed.
Nozick and Foot thus agree on the two following claims: first, joy has an episodic character, whereas happiness refers to larger segments of one’s own life or even to one’s life as a whole; second, different from joy, which is an immediate response, happiness entails an evaluative and judgmental stance.
Yet, a further aspect, which is more explicitly thematized by Strasser in the phenomenological tradition, is implicit in both Nozick’s and Foot’s observations. Considering both joy and happiness as experiences of accomplishment, Strasser (1956, 238f.) emphasizes that joy is felt while we experience the accomplishment of a process, whereas happiness, as an emotional experience based on evaluation, only comes at the end of a process.
Accordingly, joy should be considered as the feeling of “affirmation” in “taking possess”, which occurs after previous uncertainty (ibid., 233f.) and accompanies processes of accomplishment through and through (ibid., 239). A similar view can be found in some of Husserl’s manuscripts collected as Studien zur Struktur des Bewusstseins (Husserl forthcoming). Here, Husserl often associates joy with the fulfilment of the intentional tendency, with the satisfaction of instincts and drives—whereby joy arises in the process of satisfaction and culminates at its end—and with the dynamics of accomplishment of activities that are considered to be aims in themselves, like playful activities (cf. Bernet 2006, 2013, 223–332, Summa 2014, 224f.).
Conversely, Strasser (1956, 238f., 244f.) observes that happiness only occurs at the end of processes of accomplishment, or at the moment of achievement: we are not happy at the beginning of a process, nor during its unfolding, but rather only at its successful conclusion, 1 as we reflectively turn to the process and its ending.
These remarks indicate that joy and happiness have a different temporal structure and are differently related to experiences of accomplishment, realization, and self-realization. In the following two sections, I will explore these aspects more closely.
Let us begin with some semantic and grammatical distinctions in the expressions of joy. In English, the two main verbs that have ‘joy’ as their root are ‘enjoying’ 2 and ‘rejoicing’. The distinction between these two verbs at least partially coincides with the distinction between Freude an etwas and Freude über etwas in German. In his work on aesthetic enjoyment, Geiger devotes much effort to this distinction, contending that only in the latter case—i.e., only in rejoicing about something (Freude über)—can we properly speak about joy. Despite the etymological connection in English and the use of the same word with a different preposition in German, the experience of enjoyment (Freude an, Genuss) is, in other words, to be distinguished from joy as rejoicing (Freude über). We should particularly retain three aspects of Geiger’s phenomenological analysis.
First, Geiger (1913, 587f.) observes that while joy is motivated by inner experiences, enjoyment can be said to be grounded, but not properly motivated. Motivational relations concern the reasons why the given state of affairs is something I rejoice about: we cannot universalize any claim concerning the content of joy, but we can (formally) claim that something can be the source of joy for someone only if it is meaningful for him/her. Enjoyment, and aesthetic enjoyment in particular, does not have the same motivational structure. We can typically mention the aspects that make something enjoyable, and thus also raise general and quasi-normative claims concerning aesthetic enjoyment, but we are not always able to say why something is enjoyable for us.
Second, Geiger (1913, 616–617, 587 f.) emphasizes that joy is always an act in the strict sense. Joy describes a centrifugal movement. We are certainly first of all affected by what we rejoice about, but the proper experience of joy expresses an active movement toward the object, and the affirmation of the experience. Enjoyment is instead centripetal, since what its central feature is the passivity of the affection (ibid., 616–617). Although he does not explicitly refer to Geiger’s work, this view on the primacy of affection—and of hetero-affection in particular—in enjoyment is something we also find in Levinas’ (1979, 109f.) discussion of enjoyment (jouissance). Although Levinas understands enjoyment as a much more encompassing and multifaceted phenomenon, the reference to the primacy of affection may also be taken to justify his understanding of enjoyment as an experience of separation—an interpretation that is not appropriate to the traditional understanding of joy, which rather emphasizes unification, and joining (cf. Potkay 2007).
Third, whereas enjoyment can occur only on the basis of the mere presentation of its object, or on the basis of imagistic representations, joy requires the position of existence, or of the actual occurrence of that about which we rejoice (Geiger 1913, 598). Joy, in other words, presupposes a twofold affirmation: of the intentional correlate and of its existence. 3 In his attempt to trace all complex emotions back to joy, sadness, and conatus and their composition, Spinoza already hints at this. Complex affects like hope and fear are inconstant, since they respectively entail joy and sadness related to the content (or the idea) of something uncertain (Spinoza 1985, III, P. 18, schol. 2). Yet, these affects are complementary—there is no hope without fear and no fear without hope. Thus, the uncertainty concerning the outcome—the future effective existence—implies sadness even when the content or the idea is the source of joy (in hope), and joy even when the content is the source of sadness (in fear) (ibid., III, def. XII–XIII, exp.). Similarly, longing is for Spinoza sadness concerning the absence of something we love (ibid., III, P. 36, schol.), i.e., concerning the cause of our joy (ibid., III, P. 13, schol.).
Given these distinctions, what interests us here is rejoicing, which, following Foot’s and Nozick’s remarks, should be specified either as ordinary joy or as deep joy. An ordinary experience of joy is something like a positive emotional response to an event or state of affairs—a response which, however, remains confined to the present and does not impinge on how we relate to ourselves and the world we experience in a more encompassing way. Precisely this bigger impact in terms of meaningfulness of the event or state of affairs about which we rejoice is characteristic of the experience of deep joy, on which I will concentrate in the following.
Admittedly, the metaphorical reference to depth may sound somehow vague and is certainly difficult to define (Foot 2010, 86f.). Such a difficulty can be interpreted as mysteriousness: the depth of an emotional experience, and particularly the depth of rejoicing, is something we would not be able to grasp in rational terms. In the history of the concept of joy, such a view on the ineffability of the depth of joy is widely spread, particularly in religious discourses, and can similarly be found in literary and poetic traditions (Potkay 2007, esp. 17f., 30f.). Yet, the remark on the metaphorical character of the concept of deep joy, as well as the reference to the tradition that emphasizes the ineffability of deep joy (or the incapacity to capture and render the experience by means of rational inquiry), should not prevent us from trying to shed some light on what is characteristic of this phenomenon. The touch of mysteriousness, in other words, might certainly point to the limits of strictly philosophical and rationalizing inquiries; but it should not be taken as a mystification of the experience itself. In order to address some of the aspects that characterize deep joy, let us consider one passage from Nozick’s discussion at length:
Recall those particular moments when you thought and felt, blissfully, that there was nothing else you wanted, your life was good then. Perhaps this occurred while walking alone in nature, or being with someone you loved. What marks these times is their completeness. There is something you have that you want, and no other wants come crowding in; there is nothing else that you think of wanting right then. I do not mean that if someone came up to you right then with a magic lamp, you would be at a loss to come up with a wish. But in the moments I am describing, these other desires—for more money or another job or another chocolate bar—simply are not operating. They are not felt, they are not lurking at the margins to enter. There is no additional thing you want right then, nothing feels lacking, your satisfaction is complete. The feeling that accompanies this is intense joy. These moments are wonderful, and they are rare.
Recall those particular moments when you thought and felt, blissfully, that there was nothing else you wanted, your life was good then. Perhaps this occurred while walking alone in nature, or being with someone you loved. What marks these times is their completeness. There is something you have that you want, and no other wants come crowding in; there is nothing else that you think of wanting right then. I do not mean that if someone came up to you right then with a magic lamp, you would be at a loss to come up with a wish. But in the moments I am describing, these other desires—for more money or another job or another chocolate bar—simply are not operating. They are not felt, they are not lurking at the margins to enter. There is no additional thing you want right then, nothing feels lacking, your satisfaction is complete. The feeling that accompanies this is intense joy. These moments are wonderful, and they are rare.(Nozick 2006, 108–109)
There are two aspects in this description that allow us to better characterize the experience of deep joy. First, the difference between ordinary cases of rejoicing and deep joy does not rely merely on the intensity of the feeling. 4 Second, deep joy is not related to some specific content, to something we already know to be valuable, or to something we assume to be equally valuable for everyone. We can thus say that joy is not based on a previous and detached evaluation of the object, but rather that the evaluation of the object depends on the fact that it generates a response of deep joy for us in the present situation. Watching a sunrise, for instance, may produce for someone an experience of deep joy because it yields a sense of completeness and participation in what this particular person is doing or experiencing. Yet, deep joy is not simply independent from the qualities of the object, nor shall it be understood internalistically. Instead, depth relies on some kind of attunement between oneself and what one experiences. As Pugmire (2005, 30f.) observes, emotional depth in general depends on both content and personal susceptibility, and it essentially reflects the embeddedness of the emotion in one’s own larger concerns, or in what matters for a person’s life. These rather general remarks should now be further explicated in relation to the temporality of deep joy and its impact on how we experience ourselves in the situation.
With respect to temporality, we can observe that deep joy is characterized by both a sense of the uniqueness of the episode and by a sense of abidingness, which somehow lets the feeling irradiate into the past and the future. 5 Deep joy is related to moments of fullness and expresses a feeling of self-sufficient unity with what one is experiencing. 6 The feeling of completeness, of unification with what one experiences, and of integration of the present moment within one’s own life are certainly among the most characterizing aspects of joy. As Nozick’s emphasizes, they seem to blend all further desires and expectations, and they entail some sort of appeasement and tranquility, so that we can somehow experience that present moment as eternal. Although one might interpret this in terms of a liberation from the passions—something that we can find in different terms in the understanding of both joy and happiness in the Stoic and the Epicurean tradition (McMahon 2006, 50f.)—what Nozick emphasizes is rather that there is some inevitable contingency in these moments, which is also part of their inner value. Also, these moments are not only contingent, they are also extremely rare, fragile, and transient: they leave in their wake the nostalgic wish to re-live them.
Such fugacity of joyful experiences is probably what justifies the traditional conception of an eschatology of eternal joy. As Potkay shows, eschatological descriptions about the joyful sense of unity and about the empowerment that results from this sense of unity can be found in religious and literary texts (Potkay 2007, 31f., 50f.). They refer to an eternal and fully lived-through presence as something we long for, and as operating in terms of a salvation to be reached in another world, also thanks to the mediation of worldly joy. Yet, the experience of joy one longs for is that of an anticipated deep joy, mostly coinciding with the moment in which the oneness with God and the universe or with the beloved one is reached. Joy is still considered to be fully realized only in the moment of full presence and realization; yet, the perspective from which such joy is experienced always implies some divergence, or perhaps even the hope for an enduring oneness that is always there to come. And this, paraphrasing Spinoza, would actually be a complex affect in which moments of joy also contain moments of sadness.
The previous remarks also impinge on the relation between joy and self-realization. The self-realization that occurs in joy is related to a sense of achievement, which also entails a sense of unity and sharing. Joy is something that accompanies the process of achievement through and through. Authors like Spinoza (1985), Bergson (1929), Nietzsche (1987, 1974), and Deleuze (1988) strongly emphasize this aspect of joy as an affect that is intrinsically connected with the expression and the increasing of our power to act, as well as with creativity. Self-realization, in this sense, occurs in the expression of the activity itself. Joy fulfills us by expressing who we are, and this also has social and even political reverberations. Commenting on Spinoza and Nietzsche, Deleuze brings this to the fore by contrasting the increment of the power to act (puissance d’agir), which is something that unites and promotes self-realization, to power (pouvoir), which is instead based on separation and on maintaining those upon whom power is exercised in the state of ignorance, thus promoting sadness instead of joy through the inhibition of expressiveness (Deleuze 1988, 17f.). 7
These remarks should clarify what I previously called the centripetal character of joy as an act. Rejoicing means affirming and such affirmation is not only relevant for the evaluation of specific contents (which actually have their value precisely because they are the source of joy for someone), but also because it says something about who we are, and in this sense, it can be characterized as a form of self-realization. This kind of self-realization differs from what we consider to be the self-realization occurring in happiness. Particularly, the self-realization in moments of joy does not seem to have the same implications in terms of responsibility and accountability or the same claim to truthfulness as the self-realization occurring in a happy life.
The main differences between joy and happiness, both considered as emotional responses to processes of accomplishment, can be reassessed on the basis of the following two factors. First, joy accompanies the process through and through, whereas happiness seems to be more strictly tied to the moment of achievement of the process. Second, joy is not only a direct emotional response to an event that is embedded in our life-concerns but is also tightly bound to the present moment, whereas happiness presupposes an evaluative stance concerning one period of one’s life or one’s own life as a whole. 8 This is also what underlies the traditionally stronger relation between happiness and ethics/morality (Annas 1993)—mostly based on the relation between happiness and the good life. 9 Different from deep joy, happiness is not an experience of completeness and lack of further desires; it rather derives from a balanced evaluation of what one has or has achieved.
In his later ethics, and notably in his later manuscripts collected as Grenzprobleme der Phänomenologie (cf. Husserl 2014, 297f., 379f., 502f.), Husserl also commits to this view (cf. Drummond 2010; Peucker 2008, 2010). 10 He understands happiness as closely related to virtue ethics, in which self-satisfaction is combined with virtue and corresponds to the best possible accomplishment of one’s life, as an ideal state of happiness. In his later approach to ethics, Husserl contends that goodness in general, and the goodness of ethical principles in particular, do not only refer to singular acts of will, but rather to the significance of these acts for one’s own personal life, which is always embedded in the life of a community. Furthermore, he argues that happiness arises from a retrospective overview (Überschau) that should in principle embrace one’s own life as a whole (e.g., Husserl 2014, 502f.). Accordingly, happiness is an emotion that derives from an evaluative, judgmental, and reflective stance taken on one’s own life as a whole. The ethical value of a happy life, as well as its reflective character, become evident if one considers how Husserl ‘tests’ happiness in relation to regret (Reue): a happy life is a life I can appraise and affirm without regret. What Husserl has in mind here is a “radical and universal regret” (Husserl 2014, 492) concerning the whole of one’s life, or those important choices and volitions that impinge on one’s life as a whole.
This has implications concerning the temporality of happiness. On the one hand, as we have seen, happiness arises at the end of a process, and therefore, it seems to rule out the moments of uncertainty that accompany an unfolding activity. On the other hand, happiness implies a certain tension between the three temporal dimensions of experience. Although not episodically tied to the present moment, happiness is nonetheless a present experience. Yet, this is the presence of an instant (Augenblick), which has its meaningfulness only in relation to the openness toward the past and the future (cf. Bollnow 2009, 123 f.). Moreover, while the fullness and completeness of joyful experiences is strictly tied to a present moment that we may somehow wish to be eternal just as it is, the experience of happiness has some overarching temporal implications.
Yet, as Nozick (2006, 99f.) observes, it would be wrong to consider happiness as exclusively bound to the temporality of the present. This has to do with his critique to a merely quantitative understanding of a happy life: intuitively, we would not wish ourselves or someone we care about to experience a short period of happiness to be followed by misery and unhappiness. Assuming that happiness can be experienced without hope for future happiness seems to entail something like an experienced contradiction. 11 This also shows that happiness does not have the same (aspiration at) fullness as joy: in the experience of deep and fully actualized joy there is—or there would/will be, if we follow the eschatological tradition—no space for hope and further desires.
Thus, there is an interplay between different temporal dimensions in happiness. The presence of a happy moment is the presence of a balanced reflection about what one has and what one can still wish. It entails a self-evaluative reference to the past and the still open future possibilities. Moreover, it is the presence of a reflection on how what one has or has done is related to what is good and valuable, whereby both are not related to the experience of completeness, but rather to the feeling that one has made the right choices, even if this implies that one had to give up others, including moments of deep joy. Also, the openness to the future implied in happiness is not intended in eschatological terms as a salvific unification, but rather as something we are and can be (ethically) responsible of.
This latter remark brings us to the relation between happiness and self-realization, which differs from self-realization occurring in joy. Regarding this, Foot (2010, 81f.) emphasizes that happiness even more than joy presupposes the concept of goodness, so that one cannot be authentically happy and desire or choose the evil, and this already indicates that there is some form of responsibility for one’s own happiness, which extends beyond one’s own individual experience.
The idea that happiness is connected to the assumption of responsibility for one’s own present and future within social experience can also be interpreted in performative and social terms of a reciprocal promise between individuals and the society in which they are embedded. With respect to this, the implications of happiness in terms of commitment and responsibility even more explicitly come to the fore. Ahmed (2010) develops a reading of happiness in terms of promise, the uptake of which seems to imply a double-bind situation. On the one hand, we find ourselves in a social and cultural environment that promises us happiness, in terms of ethical self-realization, i.e., in terms of an appropriation of one’s own life as a good life. On the other hand, however, this very promise implicitly made to the modern individual implies not only the conformity to what one believes to be good, but more importantly to what is ethically, socially, intersubjectively recognized as good. And this eventually implies that one is also called to take responsibility for one’s own happiness, and for what makes him/her happy. For Ahmed, the fact that criteria for happiness are often criteria of social acceptability and recognition results in the risk of some explicitly or implicitly imposed assimilation to models or discursive practices. These often require individuals to be happy, and to be happy in a certain way, i.e., precisely according to those standards of acceptability that are often confused with social and ethical goodness.
From this social embedment of the evaluation of one’s life as a happy life, two other aspects follow, which I wish to mention in conclusion. First, being strictly bound to the responsibility of self-realization as self-conscious determination, happiness makes an even stronger claim concerning the reality of its object than joy. As we have seen above, different from aesthetic enjoyment, joy also entails the position of real existence of its object. We would not properly rejoice about a merely imagined experience of unification, if our actual experience is in fact that of a deep separation or inner laceration. Yet, this does not exclude that we can experience genuine joy only about what we believe to be the case, and that we might not be interested in checking whether such an experience of joyful unification is real or deceptive (or that we may even more or less consciously avoid to check whether our joy was fully justified in terms of a reality-check or not). In other words, precisely because joy is not based on a detached self-evaluative stance, there seem to be no reasons to question the authenticity or genuineness of joy. This does not hold for happiness, as Nozick (2006, 110f.) aptly illustrates with his imaginary example of a happiness machine. In such a machine, we would live an entire happy life, without, however, ever being able to check whether our happiness passes the test of Nozick’s own reformulation of the “reality principle”, i.e., without being able to say whether our happiness is actually “fitting”.
Second, an etymological characteristic of the concept of happiness, which should not be overlooked if one believes that the history of concepts is also revelatory for their meaning, is often underestimated, if not explicitly bracketed, in current understandings of happiness emphasizing the moment of responsibility. This etymological characteristic, which can be found in several languages, binds happiness to contingency and the arbitrariness of luck. For instance, in English, this is expressed by the root ‘hap’ in happiness, which signifies ‘luck’, ‘fortune’, ‘chance’. In ancient Greek, ‘eudaimonia’ signifies ‘good-spiritedness’ and, while certainly remaining secondary if confronted with what is attributed to rational deliberation and evaluation in the achievement of happiness, the reference to the contingent aspects that may facilitate or obstacle such achievement is present in Aristotle’s philosophy of happiness. 12 In German, the relation is even more salient since ‘Glück’ ordinarily means both ‘happiness’ and ‘fortune’ or ‘luck’ (McMahon 2006, 10f.). Authors believing that ethical responsibility and commitment to make of one’s own life happy should ideally rule out the contingency or outer conditions, or that one should focus on the ideality of what is good—isolating it from contingency—either tend to overlook or to explicitly neglect the ‘hap’ of happiness, even claiming that “one of the basic tasks of the phenomenology of happiness is to take as much of the hap out of happiness as possible” (Heffernan 2014, 251). Authors who are keen not to oppose contingency in phenomenological descriptions, instead, would precisely make the ‘hap’ of happiness stronger, and rather insist on the need to appropriate this ‘hap’, to make it a virtue, rather than a hindrance, to the understanding of happiness. Ahmed’s (2010) discussion of cases of resistance to the mere acceptance of established and socially normalized models of happiness precisely goes in this direction.
Despite the overlapping in the ordinary and, occasionally, also in the philosophical use of the concepts of joy and happiness, in this chapter, I have shown that they not only have assumed a different meaning throughout the (Western) history of ideas, but also that there are various reasons for this distinction that can be phenomenologically investigated.
The differences between joy and happiness are, in particular, tied to their respective temporality, to their relation to different forms of self-realization and accomplishment, and to a different ethical and social relevance. A task still to be accomplished is to clarify whether there are, besides the distinctions, also some necessary relations between the two. What we can certainly say on the basis of our discussion, is that happiness is neither reducible nor exclusively dependent on the joyful experiences one has had throughout one’s life. Even a life that has been confronted with several sad episodes and obstacles, to which one has however responded in a way that corresponds to what one takes to be a valuable accomplishment or self-realization, could possibly be experienced as ‘happy’ in self-evaluation. Yet, it seems plausible that at least in the moment when one realizes that one’s life was a happy life, even if only under a certain description, one should also experience deep joy, as a sense of unification with what one is and as expression of a power to act.
This understanding has remarkable precursors in Christian philosophy and notably in Augustine. Cf. McMahon (2006, 75f.).
Conceptual/grammatical remarks on ‘enjoying’ are developed by Anscombe (1967) who notably distinguishes “enjoyment of substance”, whereby ‘enjoy’ is related to activities, things, happenings, or existence from “enjoyment of fact”, whereby ‘enjoy’ refers to what is the case.
This distinction between joy (which presupposes existential positing) and aesthetic enjoyment or pleasure is something Husserl also emphasizes in his Studien zur Struktur des Bewusstseins. See Bernet (2013, 328–329).
Pugmire (2005, 30f.) convincingly argues that this cannot be the case for emotional depth in general.
On the importance of abidingness for the dimension of depth in general, see Pugmire (2005, 30f.).
The connection between joy and the movement of unification is characteristic of the history of the concept of joy; cf. Potkay (2007).
See also the episode on “Joy” in the 1988/1989 series of interviews between Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet in the French television, entitled L’abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze.
Tatarkiewicz (1976) focuses particularly on the understanding of happiness as satisfaction with one’s own life as a whole.
This is true for the Aristotelian and post-Aristotelian tradition, which has had a most remarkable impact on the debate on happiness. Nevertheless, in current trends in the research on happiness we can observe a kind of reversal of the Aristotelian approach. This concerns one of its crucial points, namely the autotelic account of happiness. In particular, the positive psychology of happiness often involves the instrumentalization of happiness as a technique, so that in scientific and ordinary discourses happiness becomes both: a means to an end, as well as the end of the means; cf. Ahmed (2010, 10f.).
To be sure, Husserl’s use of the concept of happiness is not univocal throughout his work. Thus, it has been pointed out that one should consider his account of happiness (i) in relation to satisfaction, (ii) the temporal form of (self-)satisfaction in individual life, and (iii) ethical happiness. Cf. Brudzińska (2017), who seems to consider the three as continuous with each other. I am only discussing the third conception here, yet, I would suggest that the first typically converges with joy and the second can be considered as an aspect of the third.
A particular case is of course represented by cases of happy deaths, particularly when the person does not believe in a happy afterlife. If we can speak of happiness in these cases at all, I contend that happiness derives from a present and retrospective sense of accomplishment, which allow the person to abandon his/her life in serenity, which does not exclude the sadness for the occurring farewell.
Husserl (2014, 321 f.; 526 f.) too emphasizes these moments of contingency, related to ‘destiny’, which may facilitate or hinder the achievement of happiness.