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The Ssial as a Paradigmatic Reconciliation on Happiness

Song-Chong Lee | University of Findlay

In this paper, I will single out and contrast two major religious paradigms (constructive and deconstructive) on happiness, which have been prevalent in public discourse in Korea, and suggest an integrative model through which each paradigm would reflect and necessitate the outcomes of the counterpart. I present Ham Seok-Heon’s ssial philosophy as an example for this new model. The constructive paradigm is a pattern of storytelling and narrative found in religious communities with highly structured sense of personal identity, community, and God. A representative tradition in Korea is Christianity based, in general, on exclusive truth claims. In contrast, the deconstructive paradigm is found in Eastern traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism. The way this paradigm seeks and presents the truth is antithetical to the constructive approach. Traditions in this paradigm do not usually boast absolute truth claims, nor do they systematically promote a particular set of tasks and goals to ease our life. However, they often question, or undermine in some cases, our foundation of communal happiness. To reconcile this disparity, I suggest to revisit the ssial philosophy of Ham Seok-Heon, which demonstrates a syncretic and integrative view of happiness. Ham’s thought would broaden and deepen our perspective on happiness.