What does the "pursuit of happiness" actually mean?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. According to British philosopher John Locke, happiness is humankind's natural state of being. We are, wrote Locke, naturally drawn to things that cause pleasure and repulsed by the idea of pain. Although the concept of happiness varies widely, studies have shown that prosperity is a major source of pleasure. Besides material gain, another source of happiness is marriage, and a poll of Americans indicated that married people, regardless of income, were happier than single people [source: CBS News].

    In composing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson understood that it's up to the individual to decide what pursuits will cause him or her happiness. However, the Founding Fathers also understood that government has a responsibility to create a society where one's right to pursue happiness is guaranteed by social and legal protections.

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