A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here

3.  Happiness (Part 3)

What is happiness anyway?!


Remind the students that they are thinking about what happiness actually is and reflecting on whether the pursuit of happiness is all that it is cracked up to be!

Having discussed possible routes to happiness in the first two sessions of this unit this final session is designed to help students consider what ‘happiness’ actually is and whether pursuing happiness is actually a good idea anyway!


Begin this session by asking each of the students to create a ‘Happiness Matrix’ like this:

Then ask them to fill it in as per the example below. In this example, the student has identified ‘Eating sweets’ as a source of ‘Short term’ and ‘Shallow’ happiness whereas ‘Getting married’ has been identified as a source of ‘Long term’ and ‘Deep’ happiness. It is vital that the students do this ON THEIR OWN because they are going to discuss their findings later on in the session.

Once the students have filled in their matrices ask them a series of questions about their choices, such as:


These questions should help the students to really delve deeply into the philosophy of happiness. As the discussion begins to peter out ask them to reflect on the following quote by John Stuart Mill:

‘It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.’

Encourage the students to reflect on this quotation and to offer some thoughts on it.

It is crucial that the students understand that John Stuart Mill meant that pursuing shallow and short term happiness was only suitable for animals and fools. As such, if they are struggling to identify what Mill meant then it is appropriate to ask them the following questions:

After this discussion has finished ask the students what they think of this quote from the philosopher Albert Camus:

‘You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.’


Once you have shown them this quote finish the session with a plenary discussion drawing on Camus’ quote but getting them to think more deeply about all the thoughts they have uncovered during the past three sessions. The following questions might help to stimulate the discussion:

Shallow Happiness

Deep Happiness

Short term happiness

Long term happiness

Shallow Happiness

Deep Happiness

Short term happiness

Eating sweets

Long term happiness

Getting married

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