nl en

Happiness from Aristotle to Freud


Admission requirements

  • Students in the BA programme Philosophy: first year BA has been successfully completed.

  • Prerequisites for students from other departments (including contactstudenten): first year BA has been successfully completed as well as the following courses in philosophy: Ethics, History of Modern Philosophy.

This course has a limited number of places available for students from other departments.


This course will address the concept of ‘happiness’. Happiness being a philosophical concept par excellence, seems to have always oscillated between objective and subjective approaches, none of which is satisfactory on itself. Whilst objectivist approaches prevailed in Antiquity, contemporary thinkers, if they value happiness at all, tend towards a more subjectivist stance relegating the notion to the realm of mere individual preference. This course will not only consider some of these approaches, their weaknesses and their strengths. It will also ask the question as to the meaning of happiness as such, and if not most debates on happiness are drawing too much on problematic anthropologies. Authors discussed are Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine, Plotinus, Spinoza, Rousseau, Feuerbach, Freud and Simone Weil.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • some classical and contemporary conceptions of happiness, the difficulties inherent to them, and some viable approaches for a today’s dealing with the topic.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • distinguish some prevailing approaches of the concept of ‘happines’, ancient and modern;

  • identify their weaknesses, strengths, and implicit premises;

  • give a personal assessment of the concept of happiness and its meaning for contemporary people.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2014-2015, BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), derde jaar.
See Timetables Philosophy 2014-2015 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load: 280 hours.
Attending lectures and seminars: 42 hours.
Time for studying the compulsory literature: 50 hours.
Time for completing assignments: 52 hours.
Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 136 hours.

Assessment method

  • Conclusive paper (50%)

  • Weekly assignments (40%)

  • Course attendance and participation (10%)

One resit will be offered, consisting of the final paper. Any student who did not take the first examination cannot take the resit.


Blackboard (digital learning environment) is used in the course for posting of instructions or texts, discussion, posting of questions for the instructor or fellow students etc.

Reading list

All literature will be made available on Blackboard or on the library’s course reserve shelf.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens
See Registration for courses and examinations

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the collegerooster in the column under the heading “”.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs
Registration Studeren à la carte: not applicable


Dr. H.W. Sneller