Text - "Human Action" Ludvig von Mises

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In colloquial speech we call a man "happy" who has succeeded in attaining his ends.
A more adequate description of his state would be that he is happier than he was before.
There is however no valid objection to a usage that defines human action as the striving for happiness.

But we must avoid current misunderstandings. The ultimate goal of human action is always the satisfaction of the acting man's desire.
There is no standard of greater or lesser satisfaction other than individual judgments of value, different for
various people and for the same people at various times. What makes a man feel uneasy and less uneasy is established
by him from the standard of his own will and judgment, from his personal and subjective valuation.
Nobody is in a position to decree what should make a fellow man happier.

To establish this fact does not refer in any way to the antitheses of egoism and altruism, of materialism and idealism,
of individualism and collectivism, of atheism and religion. There are people whose only aim is to improve the condition
of their own ego. There are other people with whom awareness of the troubles of their fellow men causes as much
uneasiness as or even more uneasiness than their own wants. There are people who desire nothing else than
the satisfaction of their appetites for sexual intercourse, food, drinks, fine homes, and other material things.
But other men care more for the satisfactions commonly called "higher" and "ideal." There are individuals eager
to adjust their actions to the requirements of social cooperation; there are, on the other hand, refractory
people who defy the rules of social life. There are people for whom the ultimate goal of the earthly pilgrimage
is the preparation for a life of bliss. There are other people who do not believe in the teachings of any
religion and do not allow their actions to be influenced by them.

Praxeology is indifferent to the ultimate goals of action. Its findings are valid for all kinds of action
irrespective of the ends aimed at. It is a science of means, not of ends. It applies the term happiness
in a purely formal sense. In the praxeological terminology the proposition: man's unique aim is to attain happiness,
is tautological. It does not imply any statement about the state of affairs from which man expects happiness.

The idea that the incentive of human activity is always some uneasiness and its aim always to remove such uneasiness
as far as possible, that is, to make the acting men feel happier, is the essence of the teachings
of Eudaemonism and Hedonism. Epicurean "arapacia" is that state of perfect happiness and contentment at which all
human activity aims without ever wholly attaining it. In the face of the grandeur of this cognition it is of little
avail only that many representatives of this philosophy failed to recognize the purely formal character of the notions
pain and pleasure and gave them a material and carnal meaning. The theological, mystical, and other schools
of a heteronomous ethic did not shake the core of Epicureanism because they could not raise any other objection than
its neglect of the "higher" and "nobler" pleasures. It is true that the writings of many earlier champions
of Eudaemonism, Hedonism, and Utilitarianism are in some points open to misinterpretation. But the language of modern
philosophers and still more that of the modern economists is so precise and straightforward that no misinterpretation
can possibly occur.