This page contains a collection of philosophical quotes on happiness, arranged in roughly chronological order. These quotes are all genuine and details about the author, book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Quotes that begin with a section of bold text are my personal favourites. Without further ado, here are eleven philosophical quotes on happiness:
The human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete.
But we must add ‘in a complete life.’ For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.
– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1097b22, trans. W. D. Ross
That which is proper to each thing is by nature best and most pleasant for each thing; for man, therefore, the life according to reason is best and pleasantest, since reason more than anything else is man. This life therefore is also the happiest.
– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1177a12, trans. W. D. Ross
The goods of fortune, even such as they really are, still need taste to enjoy them. It is the enjoying, not the possessing, that makes us happy.
– Michel de Montaigne, Essays, I, 42, Of the Inequality, trans. Donald Frame
If our condition were truly happy, we would not need diversion from thinking of it in order to make ourselves happy.
– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, II, 174, trans. W. F. Trotter
The notion of happiness is so indefinite that although every man wishes to attain it, yet he never can say definitely and consistently what it is that he really wishes and wills.
– Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, II, trans. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott
A man never is happy, but spends his whole life in striving after something which he thinks will make him so; he seldom attains his goal, and when he does, it is only to be disappointed; he is mostly shipwrecked in the end, and comes into harbor with masts and rigging gone. And then, it is all one whether he has been happy or miserable; for his life was never anything more than a present moment always vanishing; and now it is over.
– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity of Existence, trans. T. Bailey Saunders
Those only are happy . . . who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit . . . Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.
– John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, V
We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.
– George Bernard Shaw, Candida, I
But a lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.
– George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, I
Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact. Perhaps their pride is like that of the fox who had lost his tail; if so, the way to cure it is to point out to them how they can grow a new tail. Very few men, I believe, will deliberately choose unhappiness if they see a way of being happy. I do not deny that such men exist, but they are not sufficiently numerous to be important. I shall therefore assume that the reader would rather be happy than unhappy.
– Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness, I, 1
The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.
– Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness, II, 10
Know of a quote that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!