The "Flower of Happiness". Phenomenology, Psychopathology, and Clinical Psychiatry

Comprendre. Archive International Pour L’Anthropologie, la Psychopathologie Et la Psychothérapie Phénoménologiques 34 (31-34):216-235 (2022)
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This paper deals with a classical issue that remains at the core of the contemporary philosophical debate: the fact that the meaning of life is interlaced—in both negative and positive ways, with respect to morality—with happiness. On some historical conceptions, individual happiness must be sacrificed for the moral (universal, objective) good of a life, where the good fundamentally coincides with the meaning of life. On other approaches, happiness and flourishing (where flourishing is understood in terms of life’s meaningfulness) consist in good action and a good life. On still other views, happiness, while equated with the meaning of life, is reduced to mere pleasure, to a sensorial state that can be influenced by outside forces. In the current literature, the prevailing interpretations of this question are largely deontological, eudaimonic or hedonic in character. Moving from the Schelerian theory of the stratification of the emotional life, and emphasizing the affective side of this broadly ethical question, this paper intends to examine this issue through the lens of phenomenology. From this perspective, the connection between happiness and the meaning not only of life but also of existence can be understood in light of what appears to underlie both phenomena: the entire existence of the individual, which is revealed most clearly in an act of personal love. Since this paper considers the condition humaine in all its complexity, that is to say, even in its fragility and vulnerability, within this framework I will also consider possible abnormal manifestations of happiness. Following Rümke’s clinical observations of pathological frameworks in which the feeling of happiness manifests itself, this paper shows how the deepest feeling of happiness, understood as a Schelerian personality feeling, can remain untouched by pathology. In his classic (but largely unappreciated) enquiry into the happiness syndrome, Rümke engages in a fruitful dialogue with Scheler, whose theory of the stratification of emotional life plays a crucial role in the former’s study of the phenomenology and the clinical aspects of happiness. Not only is Rümke’s Zur Phänomenologie und Klinik des Glücksgefühls an excellent example of applied phenomenology, but it also confirms the results of Scheler’s research on affective life.

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