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Happiness for Blaise Pascal and Spinoza

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Blaise Pascal (17th century)

“All men seek to be happy. This is without exception, a few different ways they use it. (…) This is the reason for all the actions of all men. And yet, for so many years, no one, without faith, has come to this point where all are continually striving. (…) What is this greed and helplessness, if not that there was once in man a true happiness, of which he now only has the mark and the trace all empty and that he tries vainly to fill with all that surrounds him, seeking in the absent things the help which he does not obtain from the present, but which are all incapable of it, because this infinite gulf can not be filled only by an infinite and immutable object, that is, by God himself.”

– Blaise Pascal, Thoughts (1670)

Spinoza (17th century)

SpinozaEthics according to Spinoza is the search for bliss, defined as the intellectual love of God (that is, of Nature). The main translations of the Ethics do not use the word “happiness”, but translate for more precise felicitas by “felicity” and beatitudo by “beatitude”. Spinoza often uses both terms as synonyms:

“Our supreme felicity or beatitude consists in the only knowledge of God.”
Ethics II, 49,

“In life, then, it is first of all useful to perfect the intellect, in other words the reason, as much as we can, and it is in this that the supreme felicity, or beatitude, is for man.”
Ethics IV, appendix, chap. 4.

“True felicity and true beatitude consist in the mere enjoyment of good.”
Theologico-Political Treatise, chap. III, beginning.

“If joy (laetitia) consists in the passage to greater perfection, beatitude, surely, must consist in the mind being endowed with perfection itself.”
Ethics V, 33, School.

Robert Misrahi decides to make Spinoza the philosopher of happiness. Similarly Bruno Giuliani.

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