Continental Contributions to Happiness and Suffering. In: Oxford Handbook of Happiness.

Continental Contributions to our Understanding of Happiness and Suffering
Emmy van Deurzen
Middlesex University – London
Word Count: 6127

Introduction
This chapter considers a number of contributions by continental philosophers who contrast the idea of happiness with the experience of suffering. In light of the fact there are other chapters in this volume dealing with classic philosophy as well as with early continental contributions, this chapter focuses exclusively on 19th and 20th century philosophers and in particular on phenomenological and existential authors, excluding post-structural and post-modern contributions. The main theme of the chapter is whether the pursuit of happiness can be philosophically justified without taking its opposite of suffering into account. While the definition of happiness used is different for each of the authors discussed, they each argue against happiness as a valid objective of human existence. This chapter will argue that continental philosophers in line with Athenian philosophers have generally maintained that it is important to take a balanced view of happiness and suffering as the one is not possible without the other.
For the purpose of this chapter we shall define continental philosophy as the philosophies that have flourished on the continent of Europe from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the end of the twentieth century. This leaves out many important earlier continental contributions, as well as more recent continental philosophies under the broad umbrella of post-structuralism and post-modernism. The focus here will be on the movement of existential philosophy that revolutionized European thinking over the 19th and 20th centuries by putting the human condition at the centre of its focus. These philosophies have returned firmly to the fundamental question of what human existence is and how it should be lived. Each of the authors considered in this chapter has defined the purpose of human living differently, though none has offered human happiness as a candidate for the purpose of life. This makes it difficult to give a definition of happiness from the standpoint of continental philosophy, though we shall attempt to do so in the conclusion.
These philosophies stand in sharp opposition to the analytic and positivistic traditions of Anglo-American thinking and thus propose a rather different take on happiness as well. In light of the current trend of positive psychology, which is deeply rooted in an Anglo-American framework of pragmatism and positivism and which is promoting a vigorously positivistic approach to the concept of happiness in the human sciences, continental philosophy has a very different perspective on offer, which may be both refreshing and much needed. Continental philosophy, as defined by Rosen (1998, p. 665), rejects scientism (i.e. the exclusive use of science as the ultimate authority on everything), tends towards historicism (i.e. the assumption that we define ourselves and our values in the process of living our lives), emphasizes the importance of human agency and of personal and moral transformation, and stresses the importance of meta-theory.
The question that continental philosophers would ask about current preoccupations with happiness as a prime objective of human living is whether happiness, pleasure or well-being can ever be goals worth pursuing for their own sake. If there is any lesson to be learnt from the history of continental philosophy it is that happiness and well being can never be singled out but need to be understood in relation to their counterpart of suffering and hardship.
Continental authors would ask questions such as: “How and when did we forget that happiness is not the ultimate objective in life? Why did we decide to pursue it so relentlessly in this new age of technology? When did we begin to think that the art of living could be reduced to the art of positive thinking that some people seem to equate with an understanding of what a good life entails? What seismic shift has separated us from the insights that were so hard earned by those who lived and thought about life long before us? Is it a reflection of the comfort-seeking nature of contemporary society that we let ourselves be lulled into the belief that happiness can and must be obtained?” Continental philosophies are deliberately unsettling in nature and challenging to the status quo.
One of the fundamental paradoxes that more recent continental philosophers have emphasized is that only to the extent that we are prepared to face difficulty, trouble and suffering can we find ease and peace as well. It is only if we are prepared for the tension of existence that we can ever learn to master it. Kierkegaard prefigured most of these arguments.
Kierkegaard’s Up-Building and Stages on Life’s Way
Søren Kierkegaard has often been called the father of existentialism and he contributed much to the description of human experience and the meaning of life. His philosophy was a critique of Hegel’s grand view of the world which he considered to be too idealistic and out of touch with the reality of human existence. Kierkegaard studied and described his own subjective experience carefully and tried to come to grips with his internal world, even though, like Schopenhauer, he was soon aware that a sense of nothingness, coupled with anxiety and despair were at the core of human experience when we face the abyss that reflected selfhood entails. Kierkegaard wrote detailed accounts of his personal struggles with unhappiness and spoke of the human tendency to isolate ourselves and:

‘emigrate to a sixth continent where it is wholly sufficient to itself’ (Kierkegaard, 1941/1846, p. 295).

Kierkegaard argued that we can paradoxically rise above the ordinary contradictions and difficulties of living only by facing them and not by trying to eliminate them. Kierkegaard’s view is a dialectical one. Initially (Kierkegaard, 1843/1992) he suggested that we had to make up our minds and choose either to follow our aesthetic preferences, aiming for pleasure and happiness, or to follow our ethical inclination and live by the letter of the law and moral code. But later he proposed a dialectical overcoming of these options and suggested that we can go beyond these opposites by taking a leap of faith into a spiritual life instead (Kierkegaard, 1845/1940). Spirituality as defined by Kierkegaard is to think for ourselves rather than following our senses or the prescriptions of existing rules and regulations. We can only come to this if we allow for initial doubt.
‘In the sphere of historical freedom, transition is a state. However, in order to understand this correctly, one must not forget that the new is brought about through the leap’. (Kierkegaard, 1844/1980, p. 85)
The leap was only possible once we decided to have faith and to abandon the pursuit of aesthetic pleasures or the ethically correct living that was exacted by the bible or other religious dogmas, but that ultimately could not satisfy. It is only when we started doubting, and thus thinking, that we could become aware of the possibility of falling into the abyss. This was the experience of anxiety (Angst) that made us fully aware of our existence and ourselves. It is then that we could encompass the tensions between infinity and finitude, possibility and necessity. And it was this that would make us feel dizzy with freedom.

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs in this dizziness. (Kierkegaard, 1844/1980, p. 61)

The rush towards happiness for Kierkegaard then was the exact opposite of grasping one’s freedom. Wanting happiness was nothing but an attempt at not experiencing the contradictions and tensions of life. It was an attempt to return to the Garden of Eden, where all would be well ever after. But human beings owed themselves more than such ignorant freedom of tensions. The fall from paradise was the best thing that ever happened to us, in that it allowed us to discover the contradictions and tensions of life, recognizing the differences between good and evil, right and wrong, male and female. It is therefore not happiness we should pursue but rather the ability to fully come to life in awareness of our freedom and in awareness of our possibilities. This means that we should welcome anxiety, which wakes us from the comforting illusions of happiness.
Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate. (Kierkegaard, 1844/1980, p. 155)

Nietzsche’s Will to Power and the Love of Life
Nietzsche took this vigorous exploration of human existence one step further. He believed that suffering was a teacher and that looking for happiness was to look in the wrong place.
The discipline of suffering, of great suffering — do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and courage in enduring, persevering, interpreting, and exploiting suffering, and whatever has been granted to it of profundity, secret, mask, spirit, cunning, greatness — was it not granted to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering? (Nietzsche, 1886/1990, p. 225)

This is an even stronger argument against the pursuit of happiness, in the sense of our original definition, than we have heard before. The point Nietzsche made was that learning comes form experience, especially from the experience of stretching ourselves and improving ourselves, in order to bridge the gap between animal and god. Because he observed that God had been killed and that human beings were left to their own wits, we needed to reach out across the abyss between animal and divine and come into our own power, as the Superman (Ubermensch).

Man is a rope, fastened between animal and Superman – a rope over an abyss. A dangerous going-across, a dangerous wayfaring, looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and staying still. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal; what can be loved in man is that he is a going-across and a down-going. (Nietzsche, 1883/1961, p. 43–44)
In order to become more like the super human who affirms his will to power and accepts his human destiny, human beings need to learn to accept their fate and love it: this is what Nietzsche referred to as ‘amor fati’ – the love of fate. For him our combat is essentially a lonely one and we can certainly not learn if we pursue happiness as our goal. There can be no self-indulgence and we need to be tough and accepting of our destiny. For it is often because we are unready to accept difficulty and adversity that we fail to appreciate life. ‘Life has need of enmity and dying and martyrdoms’ (p. 124), says Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (1883/1961). It is only when we suffer that we are deepened and go down into the depth of life. Because of this it is only if we are willing to accept what life contains in reality that we can realize our will to power and live in a Dionysian way. Happiness is not something that we should be too keen on, for:

Happiness and unhappiness are twins that grow up together. (Nietzsche, 1882/1974, p. 270)

We cannot have happiness on its own, for it will always come with its counterpart of unhappiness. To feel deeply we have to be willing to be open to both kinds of experiences. To pursue one in isolation is not to know life at all. This does not mean that we cannot feel joy, however. Exuberance is a hallmark of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch. According to Nietzsche what one should aspire to is not the easy effortless happy life, but the life in which we are ready to do our work of living, the labour of life with all its challenges and difficulties:

‘My suffering and my pity – what of them! For do I aspire after happiness? I aspire after my work’ (Nietzsche, 1883/1961, p. 336).

Heidegger’s Re-Owning of Life and Death
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are the forerunners of modern and post-modern existential philosophy, which begins in earnest with the phenomenology of Husserl and his pupil Heidegger. Heidegger did not intend to write about ethics and his discourse is reserved for ontological descriptions of human existence. His philosophy is metaphysical in nature and he is not interested in the question of human happiness. But many of his ideas are directly relevant to an understanding of the concrete realities of human existence, nevertheless, and his work has been used to underpin new forms of existential psychotherapy (Deurzen, 2010) which very much do wonder how to use his ideas to enable people to live better lives.
Heidegger’s (1927a/1962) ontological substratum is that of time. Human beings need to be understood in relation to the horizon of time they are thrown into, which implies that they are born in order to die. It also means that they are always no longer in the present they thought was theirs to keep, and not yet in the future that will be. Time constantly moves us and indeed moves through us. We are time and therefore we are historical, always in progress. This has important implications for our pretensions to a happy life, since happiness, even if it were achievable, would never be a steady presence, but would be fleeting. Everything passes and is in movement. There is no human certainty and human beings are mobile and homeless.
In fact one of the fundamental ontological givens, according to Heidegger, is that of our Unheimlichkeit (literally ‘not at homeness’), the unease that is with us from the outset and that can never be overcome as long as we are alive because human beings are defined by their existence rather than their essence and therefore are for ever doomed to worry about the projects of their life. With death, when our life is finally completed, we may eventually find safety and a home. Human beings unlike objects are in a constant process of becoming. We are projected, or thrown into the world towards the project that is our death (Deurzen, 2010, p. 55-56).
We are initially taken over by the world and we fall in with others, to such an extent that we find it hard to live for ourselves, as authentic individuals with awareness of the possibility of our death. Only when objects break down do we become properly aware of them and only when our relations with others become unsatisfactory are we able to start defining ourselves as separate from them. It is thus not the harmony and continuity of a happy and monotonous monochrome existence that makes us who we are, but rather the lack of these things, which invites us to become conscious by experiencing anxiety and guilt, leading to what Heidegger describes as the call of conscience.
It is because we cannot have full presence, but are always standing in what Heidegger terms the ec-stasies of past, present and future, that we can formulate and comprehend the idea of difference and therefore exist for real. The search for happiness in this context would be described as the search for oblivion and ease, for a time when the worry of our care is no longer required and we can sink into the simplicity of merging with all that is. Indeed such falling with others or with the world is the opposite of authentic life. Authentic living is about awareness and requires us to face finitude and reality.

Impassioned freedom towards death [is] a freedom which has been released from the illusions of the “they” and which is factual, certain of itself, and anxious. (Heidegger, 1927a/1962, p. 266)

For Heidegger then a search for happiness would inevitably be a false, disowned inauthentic way of life, in which we would seek to hide and not own up to the realities of life, covering up the truths about time, death, and other frailties and conflicts of existence.
Of course, since human beings (Dasein, literally means being-there but might be best translated as human being) are always related to a world and part of it, absorbed by it, they will continuously worry about this world and this existence they are thrown into and have to stand out in. This worry, or care (Sorge) is an ontological given, which flows from the fact that we cannot be separate and are always in relation, so that what we relate to matters very much to us. Our worry only briefly gets covered up when we are in a state of self-deceptive rapture. Such rapture fools itself into the belief that it is aware when it is actually nothing but avoidance and denial of what is really the case. What is the case is that things matter to us and that we need to remain connected to that without which we are nothing. This is a direct consequence of the phenomenological fact of intentionality: i.e. that there can be no conscious life without an object of consciousness and that all is relationship and connectivity (Heidegger,1927b/1981).
Heidegger sees the human capacity for alienation (Entfremdung), closing off (Verschließen) and forgetfulness (Vergessen) as the enemy of authentic existing. It can be argued that Heidegger’s objective for Dasein is to have vision, which allows it to grasp past, present and future at the same time and see the full reality of human existence in one blink of an eye. This moment of vision (Augenblick) far from being a moment of happiness is a moment of truth and requires resilient facing up to what is actually the case.
Heidegger moved from describing resolute facing and anticipating of death as the epitome of authentic living in his early work (Heidegger, 1927a/1962), to describing the human capacity for releasement (Gelassenheit), or letting be, which puts us in touch with BEING itself in his later work (Heidegger, 1954/1968, 1957, 1959/1966). Both the concepts of resolution and releasement, or letting be, are about disclosing existence more effectively; in essence, both are about opening ourselves up to what is already there. In the first case, we do this by being brave; in the second case, by yielding to Being. But it is never done by a mindless search for oblivion or for happiness and feeling good. Feelings for Heidegger only come into play as a guide to our better understanding and they are not cultivated in their own right, but translated into understanding, then articulated into language.
The feelings that help us find our way are anxiety and guilt as they point us towards that which we still owe to our existence and to Being. When we achieve this we can speak of Ereignis, which means literally happening or event, but also means renewal of ownership. We achieve this by deep, meditative thinking instead of calculative thinking or hiding. The goal of such thinking is to let the essence of being manifest. We now have become the guardians of being, allowing the complex interplay of the fourfold, which is that of Earth, Heavens, Divines and Mortals (Henry, 1969; Heidegger, 1957).

‘To be subject to the claim that presence makes is the greatest claim that a human being makes; it is what “ethics” is’. (Heidegger, quoted in Boss, 1987/2001, p. 273)

For Heidegger then happiness is not even an option that has remote interest: the state of mind we aim for is openness and receptivity to what being entails. If we can be true to Being we have done the best we can.
The Existentialist Solution of Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre reinterpreted Heidegger’s ideas in a concrete and ontic manner. But he too had some difficulty in formulating ethical principles, at least initially. Camus and Beauvoir and to some extent Merleau-Ponty were more forthcoming on this point.
Sartre argued eagerly in his Being and Nothingness (Sartre, 1943/1956), that human beings are pure freedom, pure nothingness that tries to assert a way of being. We have to act in order to be anything at all. We are our actions and therefore we can manipulate our identity by either denying what we are, or pretending that we are something we are not. Interestingly this applies directly to the notion of happiness: the waiter in the café who gingerly manoeuvres his towel and tray, is play acting at being a waiter, but he could equally well play act at being happy, wearing a cardboard smile on his face. The pursuit of happiness is like the pursuit of l’homme serieux, the man who takes himself too seriously and who believes that to make himself solidly happy once and for all is virtuous, or safe, when in fact it is a lie, because it betrays his true condition which is to be nothing and therefore free. We are free to be different things at different times: sometimes the mood takes us to be one thing and sometimes another. Sartre describes how we manipulate our moods to magically fall in with the beliefs that suit us.
The fundamental assumption Sartre makes is that human beings are essentially emptiness. They are not a something like a table or a chair. They are not defined once and for all – for they are fundamentally nothing. If we do not accept this basic idea we can imagine that happiness is the kind of fulfilment we wish to achieve and this is self-deceptive. If we do accept it we see immediately that the chasing of a particular state of mind, be it happiness or anything else, is bad faith (mauvaise foi) and is a way of alienating ourselves from our true nature, which is to be nothing and to resonate with the world.

The human tragedy is that we aspire to being definite and fixed as objects are, while retaining total power and freedom at the same time. Human beings crave to be both in themselves (solid as objects) and for themselves (as self-determining consciousness). In other words, they aim at being substantial subjects. Interestingly, this idea of the combination of total solidity paired with absolute liberty is a classical definition of God. (Deurzen, 2010, p. 80)

Our consciousness is an indeterminate and open experience that gives us access to reflection and self-reflection. But we can also pretend not to have such abilities and choices, giving up our freedom and responsibility, behaving as if our consciousness were solid and set in stone. We can do all that, but the one choice we do not have is not to chose, for not choosing is also a choice.
We are capable of a wide range of choices and emotions and if we choose to settle for happiness, or any other particular emotion or experience, we are by the same token opting to eliminate the wide range of experiences we are in fact capable of and entitled to. If we let ourselves be beguiled by the idea of happiness we lose our capacity for attending to other things in the process. We could argue that such a search for happiness is a search for the end of consciousness, rather than the cultivation of that consciousness, for we can only be happy if we temporarily lose ourselves in the act of enjoyment. Such self-deceptive behaviour requires us to make ourselves one with an idealized image of reality and pretend it will be permanent. It is an act of bad faith in which we give up our capacity for self-reflective consciousness.
Such self-deception or bad faith is always an act of insecurity and fear. It requires that we deny the facts of the human condition, especially the fact that human beings can never be secure, solid or happy.
It is this very fact of the emptiness and fragility of consciousness that is most important and its denial betrays our capacity for lucidity and transparency. Because of this Sartre’s ethical work, which was only fully formulated posthumously, requires us to rethink moral and emotional matters minute by minute. There can never be a definitive ethical framework, nor can there be sure-fire ways towards a happy state.

There is no abstract ethics. There is only an ethics in a situation and therefore it is concrete. An abstract ethics is that of the good conscience. It assumes that one can be ethical in a fundamentally unethical situation. (Sartre, 1983/1992, p. 17)

Merleau-Ponty and Camus
Merleau-Ponty’s ‘philosophy of ambiguity’ (Kearney, 1986) goes down this same path as he reminds us to be alert to the tricks the mind plays on us. For Merleau-Ponty human life is so fundamentally about contradiction and opposites, which are mediated by the body, that we cannot escape from the ambiguity of sensations or feelings either.

It is all too easy to let ourselves only be immersed in our embodied situation and not remember previous ones. If we are in a situation we are surrounded and cannot be transparent to ourselves, so that our contact with ourselves is necessarily achieved only in the sphere of ambiguity. (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1962, p. 381)

We cast our own shadows and there cannot be a blue sky without a cloud. We may sometimes be immersed in the world in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but immediately experience ourselves as confused or out of touch with the very experience we aim to achieve. Unlike Sartre, who saw freedom as the basis of human action, Merleau-Ponty believes that our freedom is gained only from the way in which we act. There is no doubt, however, that both existentialist philosophers prefer freedom to happiness. Freedom opens the world I live in, whereas the pursuit of happiness closes it off and enslaves me to the pursuit of one single experience. Actions are commitments and we should not commit ourselves to anything that takes away the breadth and depth of experience. Experience may be demanding, but it is more worthwhile than stagnation in one state of mind.
Camus (1942/1955) goes a bit further, by describing human existence as a constant struggle, in which many people feel alienated and unsure. But for Camus, ultimately the challenge of life is not to find happiness but to grasp the freedom of having experiences and to persist no matter how difficult the challenges are. Our struggles may seem like Sisyphean tasks, but in accomplishing these tasks and relishing our destiny we can find satisfaction in the very experience of our journey and in the affirmation of our life. Camus’ image of human life is that of a Dionysian experience which inspires us to strength even as we are tested and tried. His view is that it is not in spite of hardship that we awaken to our life, but because of it. Courage and determination are far greater values than the pursuit of happiness. When Camus defines Sisyphus as happy, he means by this that Sisyphus is aware of challenge and struggle. This is clearly not a definition many would agree with.
Beauvoir’s Embrace of an Ethics of Ambiguity
Beauvoir, not unlike Camus, showed that people shape their own destiny in line with their project. She argued that it was crucial to keep such a project alive, renewing it constantly. She believed that when we lose the capacity to connect to our project, we lose ourselves. One way in which this may happen is when we become taken over by others and act out their desires for us, but it can also happen when we give up on our ability for creativity, for instance when we are aging or when we consider ourselves condemned to a particular fate. She formulated the importance of living our lives passionately (Beauvoir, 1944/2004), without excusing ourselves from taking on board the predicaments we encounter. Human living is full of ambiguity, crisis, contradictions and dilemmas; and to be fully alive is to be prepared to face these and rigorously work out on each count how best to face the challenges. Such is only possible if we allow ourselves full range of movement rather than confining ourselves to a happy medium where such questions may never arise because they have been suffocated out of life. She puts a premium on freedom, like her male colleagues Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Camus, but she shows how such freedom is best encountered and preserved by clear communication and a willingness to be fully present both in one’s own life and in relation to others.
Beauvoir is fully aware of the burden of freedom, which does not allow us to rest on our laurels. We need to be prepared for the imperfections of the world, each other and ourselves (Beauvoir, 1948/1970) and not ask for the guarantee of happiness and ease, but be prepared for whatever life brings on a daily basis and meet this with integrity. It is ultimately passion and commitment that make life worthwhile, not whether we have had a happy life. A happy life only exists in death.

If it came to be that each man did what he must, existence would be saved in each one without there being any need of dreaming of a paradise where all would be reconciled in death. (Beauvoir, 1948/1970, p. 159)

Jaspers’ Comprehensive Boundary
Jaspers, a psychiatrist turned philosopher, came up with the important insight that life is essentially lived within a frame that has limits to it. To ignore these limits is foolish and yet most of us try to do just that.

In our day-to-day lives we often evade them, by closing our eyes and living as if they did not exist. We forget that we must die, forget our guilt, and forget that we are at the mercy of chance. (Jaspers, 1954/1951, p. 20)

Jaspers argued that these limit situations should not be avoided, but faced because there is something about the fundamental limits and tragedy of human life that brings out the best in people as well. To be in despair makes one aware of things beyond this world. It is through our suffering and our finality that we become aware of what is not within our grasp and that we begin to aspire to improve ourselves while understanding our limits and finding peace and redemption within these. Jaspers claims that the source of philosophy is not just wonder, as Plato believed, but also doubt and the sense of forsakenness that we get when things go wrong or are hard. It is, in other words, uncertainty and suffering that bring us to life.
I am only myself when I become authentic by being willing to face up to my freedom and possibility as well as to my limitations and my loneliness. Only when I suffer do I find myself and communicate genuinely to others.

Contrary to a life either without solid substance or a life in which this substance is never affected, only the enthusiastic attitude means a life awake, a life in totality and authenticity . . . Enthusiasm is becoming oneself in the act of devoting oneself. (Jaspers, 1938/1971, p. 119)

Man is inclined to self-forgetfulness. He must snatch himself out of this and not get lost in his work, and thoughtless habits. We need to dare get off the beaten track. One of the best ways to snatch myself out of forgetfulness and into existence is by encountering my limits. They abound. The world is full of them, so it is not hard to do if we let ourselves be unafraid in our encounter of the unusual and the difficult.
Such experiences are like ciphers – a secret text that we can interpret and make sense of. This leads us to live our lives with heroic intensity. Such lives are never lived in isolation. They are lived in the world and with others. Far from searching for happiness, we search for an understanding of all events, limits, and confrontations with difficulty—or even catastrophe.
Conclusion
In conclusion there can be little doubt that the tradition of continental philosophy is rather suspicious of the idea of happiness as a panacea of good living. There are no continental philosophers who have ever applauded the pursuit of happiness per se. Continental philosophy has never considered happiness a viable path towards an ethical life. While different authors may disagree on what the important pursuits of life are, they usually value enhanced consciousness, awareness, courage, freedom, truth and the pursuit of purpose and meaning over the goal of easing one’s life into a happy state.
If we are to follow in the steps of continental philosophers and deepen our understanding of human living, we shall have to aim for wisdom rather than for happiness. Wisdom, as defined particularly by Heidegger means facing the conflicts, dilemmas and paradoxes of the human condition and working out how best to live with these, whether or not fate smiles on us and whether or not we are fortunate. If Western philosophy is to rise to the global and intercultural challenges ahead, it may benefit from taking on board some of the views of continental philosophy, much as they may seem lacking in scientific rigour and positivity. Continental philosophers invite us to learn the lessons of life itself by throwing ourselves into our existence and feeling deeply and thinking passionately. Happiness then becomes redefined, as Camus pointed out, as the satisfaction of a radical reappraisal of what we might otherwise dismiss as mere challenge and struggle. This, in turn, may lead us to living a very individual and hard-earned, but profoundly meaningful life. The continental contribution to understanding the human plight is to realize that it is in the juxtaposition of good and bad experiences, including those of happiness and suffering, that we get to know life. It is this grappling with difficulty and with ups and downs that creates the possibility for the evolution of a consciousness that is awake and liberated, as it searches for truth, rather than for a state of harmony or happiness.

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Sartre, J. P. (1992). Notebooks for an ethics. (D. Pellaner, Trans.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1983).

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8 Responses to Continental Contributions to Happiness and Suffering. In: Oxford Handbook of Happiness.

  1. Kim astrand says:

    Excellent, well written and enjoyable.

  2. Zheng Shiyan says:

    Dear Emmy,

    I’m very glad to write to you. I’m a Chinese man, my name is Zheng Shiyan. I have read your two books in China, they are Psychotherapy and the Quest for Happiness and Existential Counselling & Psychotherapy in Practice. I like them and learn much from them. Thank you very much.

    Then I read a article on your website, it’s Continental Contributions to our Understanding of Happiness and Suffering, there are many continental philosophers were illustrated, for example, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and so on. They have an insight into Happiness and Suffering.

    So, here, I wish you will allow me to translate this article into Chinese in order to more Chinese people who are interested in psychology can read it. I think it would help them to understand happiness and suffer better, and live their life better. So, May I do this job? I will appreciate you if you permit me to do it.

    And I have got inspired from you,I’m going to write a article of title Chinese Contributions to our Understanding of Happiness and Suffering, to state that Chinese culture how to consider happiness and suffering.

    In conclusion, thank you very much. Thank you for your book and article . I’m looking forward to your answer.

    Best wishes!

    • Emmy says:

      Hi

      Thanks for confirming that two of my books are available in Chinese! I knew this from my publishers but have never actually seen them.

      I would be most happy for you to translate any further articles into your language. I am very glad people in China enjoy my work.

      best regards
      emmy

  3. Zheng Shiyan says:

    Dear Emmy, Nice to read your article. I’m a Chinese reader. I want to write a letter to you and ask you some questions. Would you mind telling me your email address?

  4. Ana Arellano says:

    Hello,

    I am pursuing my masters in group counseling. I am taking a class on theories of counseling, and we were asked to investigate the original works of a major theorist and contrast it against the summative information provided in the text “Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy” by James Archer Jr. and Christopher J. McCarthy. I would like quote you directly on your general feelings on existential therapy.

    Any words would from you would be greatly appreciated, but I imagine you are quite busy. Here is to a shot in the dark.

    Sincerely,

    Ana Arellano

  5. Denis says:

    Have you ever looked at Emmanuel levinas MAYBE YOU MISSED HIM.

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