Happiness is a topic that keeps drawing my attention. Probably because my philosopher's mind insists on obsessively trying to articulate and understand what various things are and how they work (or fail), especially simple seeming ordinary everyday concepts like work, laughter, language, and, yes, indeed, happiness itself. And, again, typical philosopher, the more I think about something often the more confused and complicated they seem to get.
Happiness is a special interest for me, because it matters so much (despite being a philosopher I am after all a standard-issue human with the typical self-interested interest in feeling good and being happy, being around happy people, and being responsible for some of their happiness too!) But this has proved elusive in my life and the lives of many of the people I have most loved and valued . If I don't even know what happiness is then how can I hope to have it and keep it or contribute to the happiness of others?
There is too much I want to say about all this for one blog so I am going to divide it up into a few. I hope the connection to drugs will be fairly obvious; this is something I've blogged about before - in a way it has already been the topic of all my blog posts so far here on DF. Time to get on my bike an put some words down!
Gradient's comment on my Love People, Use Things. Then What? entry has been rumbling around in my mind on and off since i read it. He says,
These seem pretty plausible suggestions to me; particularly the idea that there are a variety of positive affective states that differ along a few dimensions, the most explosive and intense of these possibly accessible only briefly and as the result of using certain drugs or experiencing some of the infrequent but deeply meaningful human moments available in a good human life. I assume the idea here is that events like becoming a parent, falling in love, achieving some difficult and profoundly desired goal of a personal, professional or physical kind are the kinds that can bring with them the kind of euphoria that can also be felt from the use of certain drugs.
The danger of course is that conceiving of happiness on the model of intense euphoria puts us at risk of ruining our lives chasing that experience. Such risk and its victims surround us every day here on DF. The mistake that sees the high a drug can give us as repeatedly available day in and day out is of course the one that sets many of us off on the path of addiction. But that isnt the only danger, there is a more general one Gradient wisely points out:
This raises a number of interconnected questions about happiness, all to my mind connected to the overarching idea that how we think about happiness can have profound effects on how much and what kind of happiness we can expect to experience. For example, is aiming to maximize happiness a recipe for a happy life or a gamble that for many results in the opposite? What is the role and importance of the stability and sustainability of what we conceive of as happiness in these things?
About these I will blog again soon, as well as in particular Aristotle's idea that happiness shouldn't be thought of as a feeling really at all, but a property of a life lived well. But now I shall seek some fleeting and nicely blissful chemically induced happiness-like-state.