Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lincoln on the right to pursue "happiness"

In debate with Judge Douglas in the latter 1850s, Lincoln said that "there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence,—the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

But what did "happiness" mean back in 1776? Was it linked to the concepts of "chance" and "luck"?

Let's check the OED:
The quality or condition of being happy.
a. Good fortune or good luck in life generally or in a particular affair; success, prosperity. Now rare.

In later use chiefly in to have the happiness to: to be fortunate enough or have the privilege to (do something).
b. An instance or cause of good fortune. Frequently in plural (in later use often as part of a stylized formula for wishing good fortune).
This would show that the meaning of "happiness" as "chance" or "good luck" still obtained in 1776.

But one cannot pursue  "chance" or "good luck"! Or can one?



At 12:16 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

At the risk of conflating the concepts of chance and randomness, I just read a different blog entry and had a thought: you might not be able to pursue chance, but you can still find beauty and wisdom in randomness.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kevin.

Jeffery Hodges

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