This essay aims to analyze Happiness, what makes happiness special to people, the meaning of it and the essence of it. This essay will pose and attempt to answer the following questions; is happiness good just for what it is? Is a happy life the same thing as meaningful life? Are all things considered good because they bring happiness? What is well being? Happiness is a state that even if shared, the experience of it may be differently perceived and interpreted by the affected individuals (Ross, par, 1. futilitycloset.com).
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Meaning of Happiness
Happiness is a pleasant psychological state. States of joy, satisfaction, empowerment, fulfillment and pleasure can be described as happy state. Also having a positive outlook towards life can be happiness.
Happiness can also be described as a good condition of your emotional life as a whole while also taking into account how you feel about it. Happiness can also be described as pleasure. The various definitions of happiness are supported by various theories.
There are a few theories that seek to explain the state of happiness. The emotional state theory describes happiness as an overall fine state of your emotional life also taking into account how you feel about it. Happiness is pleasure according to the utilitarian moral theory and the modern economic theory. A morally good choice is defined by promoting happiness whereas a morally wrong produces the opposite effect.
There are some objective traits of happiness that mean more to us than just happiness in its totality (Arete, par, 2. philwiki.wetpaint.com/page/Nozick+On+Happiness).
The direction of happiness
Here we are asked to consider two separate lives with equal amounts of happiness with one, let’s call it life (a) constantly sliding up a gradient over a period of time to ever increasing happiness. On the other hand we have life (b); this life instead of sliding up into increasing amounts of happiness is sliding down a gradient away from it.
When asked to choose between the two most of us would choose life (a) over life (b). This simple example clearly illustrates that happiness alone is not all satisfactory for there is something other than happiness that matters to us (Arete, par, 2. philwiki.wetpaint.com/page/Nozick+On+Happiness; Nozick, p.100).
Everybody wants to grow, and life (a) is a growing life where hopes of something better flourish. This is better than the Hopelessness and sense of loss experienced in life (b).
Life (a) works its way up to happiness from the bottom; in essence this means that every day of every week seems better as opposed to life (b) where every day of every week seems to get worse (Arete, par, 2. philwiki.wetpaint.com/page/Nozick+On+Happiness).
Pleasure seems to play a big part in happiness and there are pleasures of the mind, emotion and body. Pleasure is something that is valued for the good feeling it brings/ felt quality, (Nozick, p. 103; Brandon, par, 2. degreesofclarity.com)
The experience machine
If a machine was created that could recreate ones own experiences in mind, when in the machine you would completely believe that the experiences are real. You could program the machine any way you wanted to make the experiences as realistic as possible. While in this case your life would be very good.
Would you spend the rest of your life inside the machine? Every experience would be the same as the one outside the machine. It is note worthy that such a machine would make a great toy but the reality is that no one would be willing to spend the rest of their life in a machine while missing out on the real world. Now the experience machine reveals that the feel of things does not determine the quality of life.
The reality Principle
No matter how real the experiences of the reality machine are, they are just fantasies
This therefore means that we seek not to only to feel like this and that but also want to be in a certain way. We seek to be defined by our reality (Nozick, p. 106).
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Lessons from the two thought experiments
From the two thought experiments it is easy to see that happiness isn’t something tangible that can be measured. In the first experiment, where two people are given happiness in equal measure, with one walking steadily away from his happiness while the other is steadily moving towards it. What matters isn’t the amount of happiness here it’s the duration of it.
Nobody wants to lose a good thing and since happiness is good it doesn’t matter how much of it you had what matters is its longevity, and from the experience machine the lesson we learn is that although we want lasting happiness, it should also be of substance. Day dreams don’t make memorable memories.
A good example of this can be taken from a good dream, when dreaming every thing you experience is as real as can be and you more often than not cant even tell if it’s a dream, on waking up most of us would rather that dream be a reality than go back to sleep and dream again.
Simply put; we love good things “happiness” and we want to stay perpetually happy, in a reality that we understand and appreciate, one not of our creation where things, experiences, can be manipulated by us and thus have no real value.
What is happiness?
Happiness is born of emotion, a feeling of positive goodness whose cause is indefinable as the cause of happiness varies among individuals.
Happiness is also an experience that triggers a pleasurable emotional response in an individual. Happiness cannot be stage managed or extracted so to speak from an individual i.e. there is no universal recipe for happiness, happiness is subjective. Seeking pleasure is a means of seeking happiness but that doesn’t necessarily mean that pleasure is happiness and the experience machine is a pleasure machine.
Is a happy life a meaningful life?
There are various definitions of happiness and as such happiness is subjective/user defined so to speak. The theories that exist and the experiments trying to show us something about ourselves all have something in common, they all show that in one way or another, happiness is very important to us. Bearing this in mind, it is safe to say that a happy life is actually a meaningful life to the person concerned.
The three forms of happiness
There are three forms of happiness. The first is where you become happy because something that you care about has happened. It doesn’t matter whether these good things are happening to us directly so the happiness it brings is not complete happiness (Nozick, p. 108). The second happiness is a general consensus about the goodness of your life at that moment (Nozick, p. 111).The third form of happiness involves happiness as regards your life in general.
These theories on happiness are very well explained and with good examples that are thought provoking and practical. Happiness however is not something that can be measured by any other than the individual that experiences it. It is a good thing and that is why it is so important us.
The example of the direction of happiness where happiness is supposedly equal isn’t exactly accurate. A million dollars might mean different things to different persons and the experience and joy/happiness it brings will not be measured the same way by both persons. It is true of course that the one who worked his way to the million dollars will be more appreciative of it than the one who won it in a lottery.
In the experience machine example; it is true that most of us want to remain firmly in the scope of reality. But if practical reasons hinder the path to universal happiness then this machine would open a door for us to escape our reality and immerse ourselves in fantasy, for it is pleasure that we seek.
Arete.Nozick on happiness, N.p., n.d. Web. <PhilWiki.wetpaint.com/page/Nozick+On+Happiness>
Brandon, Oto. Nozick, Happiness, and the Experience Machine. N.p., n.d. Web.
Nozick, Robert. The examined life: philosophical meditations. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Print.
Ross, Marin An idler’s miscellany of compendious amusements. N.P. 4th March, 2011. Web. < Futility Closet.com>