Is all happiness but an escape from pain?

Peggy is skiing with friends. The Willamette Pass temperature was nine degrees when she left, that alone being sufficient to make me glad to stay home. Add to that the $35 lift ticket, and I am very, very glad to stay home. Next, add my aversion to noisy ski lodges, my near phobia of snow, and my unwillingness to risk life and limb sliding down steep hills on slick planks, and I am practically apoplectic. It would appear that happiness can arise from what doesn’t occur as well as from what does.

Schopenhauer argued that all happiness is but a respite from pain. Eating sweets, having sex, and everything else we do in our pursuit of happiness aims to satisfy a hunger, therefore it isn’t sex or chocolate that makes us happy but rather the cessation of our craving.

I think his argument is well evidenced in addictive behavior. Drunkards don’t talk about how much they enjoy getting smashed but of how much they need a drink. Their enjoyment, such as it is, is like that of one who rubs himself to scratch an itch. I know of nothing more satisfying than a good long pee when I am desperate, but the degree of my satisfaction is directly related to the intensity of my need; and I consider it likely that all human behavior is so predicated. If it is, good would seem to lie in reducing our needs rather than in fulfilling them.