According to McMahon, how have people’s ideas about happiness changed in modern times? How does he define happiness?

In his essay on the pursuit of happiness, Darrin McMahon touches upon some of the challenges and changes that have occurred over the centuries in pursuit of happiness. He writes about how people’s understanding of what it means to be happy has changed through time. In modern times, much emphasis is placed on material goods and career success as a measure for achieving happiness, whereas in earlier centuries pleasure was seen as more important than having possessions or financial success.

To illustrate this evolution in thought, McMahon looks at how different thinkers throughout history have approached the idea of happiness. He notes that Aristotle believed true well-being comes from engagement with public life, while Epicurus saw it as being rooted in friendship and pleasure. By contrast, Descartes suggested that joy could be found within intellectual pursuits alone; likewise Locke argued for human rights and self-governance being necessary components for achieving satisfaction with life. Going further into modern times he states “[…]modernity spoke less about finding joy than mastering control – not only over one’s circumstances but also emotions itself” (McMahon 738). This reflects the current trend among many where they focus on goal setting oriented towards personal achievement or status rather than soul searching to seek out their own form of true contentment or bliss.

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