“Happiness does not lie in happiness, but in the achievement of it.”
– Feodor Dostoevsky
In this quote the famous 19th century Russian writer Dostoevsky claims that happiness is not an entity in and of itself. In identifying happiness as a product of achievement, Dostoevsky is identifying it as something to be earned. This attitude was shared by many of his fellow existentialists. For them, happiness came to be seen as a result of work put toward the completion of a goal. In other words, it is only in crossing the finish line successfully that we have cause for celebration. Existentialists such as Dostoevsky would not have simply celebrated effort, as we often do today. There is something to be said for finding happiness in both success and effort and the postmodern world has taken to setting up “minigoals” while considering the entire journey and not just the destination. Our current attitude toward happiness has come to be influenced by Eastern philosophy and psychology.
While the existentialist attitude toward happiness doesn’t match the current one, the impact of 19th century writers such as Feodor Dostoevsky can’t be ignored. Like many of his contemporaries, Dostoevsky wrote in different genres and he came to be known as novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist and philosopher. My two favorite works of his are Crime and Punishment and The Idiot. His corpus belongs to the literary movement of Realism and he wrote endlessly about the human condition.