The argument that one’s happiness derives from other’s happiness assumes that people only enjoy a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment after contributing to the general well-being of others. Yet, this assumption, I believe, does not effectively reveal the authentic origin of happiness and thus is dubious at best.
History indeed witnessed a myriad of saints who devoted their lives to the happiness of others. People like Mother Teresa do set up examples of people of high integrity and thus should be said to have based their happiness on that of others. Yet, it is both impossible and unrealistic to require an average person to follow suit.
Unlike those saints, worldly people usually acquire a sense of happiness from mundane affairs or sensual pleasures rather than how much they have pledged themselves to others. When theater-goers see a movie with a happy ending, they feel happy because the plot meets the expectation of them; when a tourist visits a long-cherished scenic spot, he or she acquires the due happiness; when a teenager has the ticket to his or her favorite rock band, he or she yells with unimaginable pleasure. All these sorts of happiness have nothing to do with making others happy in the first place. From this perspective, it is misleading to pretend that one’s happiness must be based on that of others. (Original work by Laozheng, please do not repost without permission).
Second, the pleasure of happiness is a private, highly individual experience. To wit: one’s pearl might be another’s poison. What one finds convenient and delightful might be considered disgusting by another. For example, many gourmets relish food with oil and fat, a behavior would repel most, if not all, athletes who would prefer a diet that would be considered bland by the former. These mutually exclusive preferences indicate that the origin of happiness varies from person to person and thus the feelings of happiness should not be measured with the same yardstick. In other words, happiness comes from one’s own experience of the outside world.
Be that as it may, it would be wrong and extreme to suggest that people should base their happiness on the sufferings of others. Though history abounds with examples of tyrants or brutal masters who enjoyed a privileged life because they exploited slaves or servants, the general trend of society towards equality has, to a large extent, destroyed such distorted and unfair relationships. The current society that respects the choices of individuals favors the principle that happiness should be confined to the innermost feelings of people who are not supposed to intrude into the life of others under the pretext of giving happiness to or deriving happiness from them.