OSCAR: Socrates, Socrates, slow down. Give me a chance to catch up. Where are you going in such a hurry?
SOCRATES: It is good to see you, my friend. I am on my way to listen to a political rhetorician. There is an election coming up, and I am eager to hear what the politicians have to say.
OSCAR: May I join you? I would like to talk.
SOCRATES: My fine fellow. You know I will never turn down an opportunity to dialogue. What’s on your mind?
OSCAR: I have been thinking about our recent conversations concerning happiness and wealth. You said that “money can’t buy happiness”, but I think that is not true. I think money can buy happiness.
SOCRATES: That is an interesting thought, Oscar. I would very much like to learn more. Can you provide an example to support your claim?
OSCAR: Certainly I can. I have bought a new TV, a phone, a laptop, a painting, a Lego model, and a great many other things that have made me happy.
SOCRATES: Would you mind showing me one of your products, so that I may see the happiness for myself?
OSCAR: Well, it so happens that I have one here in my backpack. I am taking it to show a friend.
[They stop walking and Oscar carefully pulls a Lego model from his bag]
OSCAR: Here you go, Socrates. Take a look at this model.
[Socrates examines the model]
SOCRATES: Can you confirm that this is an example of money buying happiness?
OSCAR: Yes, indeed it is.
SOCRATES: I must be blind in my old age. Can you please show me? Can you point to the happiness?
OSCAR: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: You claim that this is an example of happiness which you have bought with money. Well, where is it? All I see is a collection of plastic bricks. Can you point to the ‘happiness’ that you’ve purchased?
OSCAR: Are you acting deliberately foolish, Socrates? I can’t point to it. It’s a feeling. An experience. I felt a sense of happiness while working with the bricks.
SOCRATES: Is this feeling guaranteed when someone buys bricks?
OSCAR: No, of course not.
SOCRATES: Ah, I understand. So, would you agree that happiness is not a thing contained in the bricks. It comes from the person using the bricks—in this case, you?
OSCAR: It is as you say, Socrates.
SOCRATES: It seems, then, that money can buy pieces of plastic but not happiness itself. Something more is required to achieve happiness. Perhaps you could experience the same level of happiness by stacking pebbles or building sandcastles. Happiness is not a property of any of these things. Rather, it is a thing you create for yourself.
OSCAR: I must agree with your assessment Socrates. Perhaps you are right, after all. Money alone is no guarantee of happiness.