Study Questions for Happiness

From Alfino
Jump to: navigation, search

Contents

January 23

How do the diverse disciplines of economics, pscyhology, and philosophy contribute to the contemporary study of happines?

Economics is based on the theory of Rational Agents, where we are based on trying to maximize self-interest. The problem is that humans are emotional and we have biases, which is where psychology comes in. Cognitive psychology is where we, as humans believe we are perfectly aware of all the information, but in reality we are biased because we are not aware. For example, the world survey of well-being states that as GDP increases with time, our well being increases as well. Psychology, especially positive psychology is important for humanistic psychology. Philosophy is important was religious and cultural human wisdom.

- Amanda

Alfino 10:44, 9 March 2007 (PST) Good start. More detail could be included.

Humanistic psychology and positive psychology are two different theories of psychology, so I'm not sure that connection is very clear.
Psychology deals with our thoughts and cognitions; a lot of psychology (positive psych, esp.) deals with increasing happiness and helping to find happiness.
Economics is relevant in that we often equate money to happiness, but further studies demonstrate that at a certain point (after survival needs are met), money is divorced from happiness. Also, money can allow us to afford certain experiences/activities which will contribute to happiness.

What is the difference betweeen "state Happiness" and "life Happiness"? In what ways are these concepts in tension when thinking about happiness in general?

Happiness of state is the degree in quality of happiness at a particular time. It is for a short duration, it has a time signature and it is the overall state of an organism. Happiness of state can only be judged in the movement ?? because Gilbert states that our memory is likely to adjust itself to maximize our content ness even when our past does not necessarily implicate happiness. You can’t remember things the way they were. Happiness of life is the appreciation of happy states. It again depends on Gilbert’s idea of what you remember of it. Happiness of life is the assessment of a person’s entire life. Luck seems to be the issue here. It is a judgment one makes after death.

Two important principles is that it is hard to have Life Happiness without State Happiness. And the second principle is that the Life happiness is not the sum of all State Happiness. They are in tension because people make the assumption that H-l= sum of H-s, but in reality, it is one’s mind-set where one appreciates life that makes the difference. For example, one could have several bad H-s and one good H-s, but upon death, one could reflect the one good H-s and have a fulfilled life.

- Nick Lewis

State Happiness is a measurable moment of happiness or pleasure or gratification that is brief in duration, usually relating to a specific incident. Life Happiness is an overall satisfaction with the way one’s life has played out. While state happiness plays a part in life happiness, often if you meet the goals that you set throughout your life, you can have life happiness without frequent state happiness.

- Frankie McClure

Alfino 10:45, 9 March 2007 (PST)I don't think this distinction requires you to get into Gilbert. Raising issues of the relationship bt state/life happiness more directly.

Many state happiness experiences don't necessarily equal life happiness, but none would probably mean that your life happiness was also low.

How might an appeal to the "structure of a full life" help distinguish H-l from H-s?

We define a structure as where you are driven to achieve something, and when life changes, they are willing to let it happen. All these things add to the H-s, and a cumulative H-s leads to a H-l; however, the structure has to be something that allows for the changes to happen

- Greena George

Alfino 10:46, 9 March 2007 (PST)Good start. Identify specific things in a "full life"

What does it mean to say that "pleasure isn't linear"?

We are defining “pleasure” as state of gratification. This being said, your pleasure does not continually increase. If pleasure was linear, then the very next thing that was done will provide a higher pleasure. It would have to be more pleasurable than the previous and it would have to be immediately following. This proves that pleasure isn’t linear, since it is in the form of bursts or occurrences or events that cause different levels of pleasure. If pleasure was linear, then happy states equal a happy life and that isn’t true.

- Amanda

Pleasure is not a constant state; in order to be linear it would have to be continuous. To be continuous would require constant gratification and stimulations, but eventually there would come a moment lacking in pleasure, causing a break in linearity. --Frankie

Alfino 10:46, 9 March 2007 (PST)Good.

January 30

Briefly compare Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism regarding their views of happiness (add detail from general reference reading if necessary, but work primarily from the handout)?

In Hinduism, the union with Brahma defines happiness. It shows regard for diverse deities and understand your dharma and choose a path through yoga for achieving release (moksha). The explanation of happiness is given against an analysis of samsara. The complexity of attachmens is mirrored in the many Dharmas.

In Jainism, the realization of the soul’s true nature and attaining moksha or liberation is what happiness epitomizes. It is done through meditation and ascethic practice aimed at identification with Atma, the unchanging reality.

In Buddhism, the freedom from suffering that characterizes existence and the attainment of nirvana defines happiness. They follow the four Noble truths and Noble 8 fold path. Practice right thinking, speech, conduct, effort, mindfulness and concentration. Analysis of attachment and desire explains the origin of suffering and shows both the conditioned reality of normal existence. The practices of Buddhism are intended to help us understand reality and release ourselves from suffering.

- Nick Lewis

Alfino 10:49, 9 March 2007 (PST) OK!

How does the problem of suffering come into play in these traditions?

Hinduism "solves" the problem of the existence of suffering and evil in a fairly neat manner: all present suffering, it says, is exactly deserved, being the paying back of one's karma, the accumulation of deeds done in past lives--and all present evil will be exactly repaid in the form of suffering in future lives. As a result traditional Hinduism often has not paid much attention to relieving the suffering of people, although social reform movements have arisen in the last century. [http://wri.leaderu.com/wri-table2/hinduism.html]

In Jainism, Suffering is a result of past-life greed, hatred, and ignorance, which returns as suffering (karma). Suffering is also seen as illusory, in that it results from attachment to bodily pleasure and pain, while only the Absolute truly exists. Suffering is one way of actively ridding oneself of bad karma. ([http://www.beliefnet.com/story/80/story_8048_1.html]

Buddhism locates suffering at the heart of the world. According to Buddhism, existence is suffering (dukkha). And by removing the self from the material world, one tries to get past suffering. By being attached and desiring material goods, one can explain the origin of suffering. It shows both the conditioned reality of normal existence. The practices of Buddhism are intended to help us understand reality and release ourselves from suffering.

- Greena George

Alfino 10:50, 9 March 2007 (PST)Nice job!

What is the right relationship between thinking about suffering and happiness? How should we look at ancient cultures, east and west, which focus on alleviation of suffering as the focus of the pursuit of happiness. Have we eliminated suffering? What kinds? Do we experience the absence of suffering from the conditions of life in ancient times? Have we replaced (in the wealthy world) physical suffering with other kinds?

To know happiness, we need to know suffering, because it is in comparison, that we are happy. By overcoming suffering, we are happy. In ancient cultures, by eliminating suffering, they are reducing the height of happiness. For example, in a regular person’s life, there are natural ups and downs. By eliminating suffering, they are shrinking the downs, which naturally shrinks the ups because one tends to take less risks, thus reducing the benefits.

In comparison to our past, we have not eliminated suffering, the suffering we experience has evolved. For instance, before people suffered from the lack of food, early mortality, diseases and such. Now, we suffer from student loans, caffeine addictions and drama over your latest dating escapade.

- Amanda

Alfino 10:52, 9 March 2007 (PST) A start on a big question

Our current "sufferings" which are not usually (or as often) caused by mortality and illness and death, are based on our connection to the material world. If we still practised the Eastern practices (Jainism and Hinduism, for instance) we would see that we should separate ourselves from those physical/material dependencies and we would separate ourselves from that kind of (illusory) suffering.

What does a Daoist try to do to become happy, according to Zhang Zi (Chuang Tsu)?

Try to frame your local desire in reality. The way to attain happiness is to attain union with reality. It can be attained through virtue and self development. An example is to be mindful. It is through wu-wei, which is non-actions. It states that relative happiness is not uniform, but varies according to our natures as individuals. Absolute happiness involves coming to “mirror” reality as it really is and thereby, releasing one’s self from illusion. The recipe for happiness is the attentiveness to the creative and ceaseless processes of reality. Attachment and desire lead us to misperceive and misunderstand the world. We need to cultivate objectless desire, objectless knowledge and non-action to remedy this distortion.</p>

- Nick Lewis

In brief summary, a Daoist tries to see through the true nature of life and death and embrace happiness and unhappiness alike. --Frankie

Alfino 10:52, 9 March 2007 (PST) A gloss on inaction? Examples?

Inaction is probably related to the primacy of observation over action. We need to find what the world truly is, rather than seek to make the world what we want.

How does the parable of Chuang Tzu's widowhood illustrate a daoist understanding of the right attitude toward reality?

 

By having a party after his wife’s death, he celebrated her life, instead of mourning her life. The Daoist reality is that death occurs and one must move on. By trying to frame his local desire in reality, he gained perspective of life.

- Greena George

Death is a reality, it is natural and unfailing/unchanging; seeing and understanding that fact allows one to embrace the true nature of reality. Chuang Tzu realizes this and celebrates his wife’s life and her death. --Frankie

 

 

Alfino 10:52, 9 March 2007 (PST)OK!

Drawing on both your class reading from Chaung Tzu and the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Daoism, explain, in very general terms (one paragraph) the daoist conception on "inaction". Evaluate.

 

Taoist philosophy recognizes that the universe already works harmoniously according to its own ways; as man exerts his will against the world he disrupts the harmony that already exists. This is not to say that man should not exert will. Rather, it is how he acts in relation to the natural processes already extant that is critical. Wu Wei has also been translated as "creative quietude," or the art of letting-be. This does not mean a dulling of the mind; rather, it is an activity undertaken to perceive the Tao within all things, and to conform oneself to its "way". As one diminishes doing—here 'doing' means those intentional actions taken to benefit us or actions taken to change the world from its natural state and evolution—one diminishes all those actions committed against the Tao, the already present natural harmony.

In our western view of the world, this view seems absolutely ludicrous as imbibed in us are ideas of wanting to do better. Relationships, work, and education, we are supposed to continually work to be keep yourself sharp and on top of things, so the idea of being “inactive” and letting the forces of nature take its toll seems silly.

- Amanda

Alfino 10:54, 9 March 2007 (PST)Good!

The universe is in harmony - therefore man should not disrupt the natural processes of the universe through the exertion of his will. Rather, he should try to conform to the “way” and not try to change the world from its natural state. --Frankie

Select and summarize some of the evidence Gilbert cites to demonstrate our "cognitive bias" regarding our awareness of the present and future. Evaluate.

 

“Cognitive bias” is when we can imagine something easily, then we give it a higher probability of it happening. We are so optimistic that we “tilt the norm.” Gilberts says that you over estimate your future self because of this, so one is likely to be depressed since it is not attained when one gets to that state. And when you look backward, you only remember the things that support that ‘cognitive bias’ by either blocking out or forgetting the realist events. “They are shades of rose colored glasses.” Two examples: Young people overestimate future-selfs. They believe they will be happier in the future. Second example: Idea of depressed realism, where depressed people have a more accurate outlook on life, because they don’t see through the “rose colored glasses.”

- Nick Lewis

 

 

Alfino 10:55, 9 March 2007 (PST)This could be a lot more specific in its examples. Your overall def. of cognitive bias couls use a little more work.

Cognitive bias is about our awareness of future events and our illusion that control will lead to certain (better) results. Gilbert's overall thesis is that we imagine the future to be better than it will be. We want to control our own lives because we have an idea of where we're going; we can't predict the future, however. We think the future is brighter than it really is. We like control; we are steering in vain.
People feel more confident that they'll win the lottery if they get to pick the numbers; people wager more in craps if they're throwing the dice. Control gives us the illusion that we will be successful. We would prefer to believe this, and happy people tend to have this attitude. -other Amanda, Maddy, and Eleanor

What is "skeptical perspectivism" (the view of Gilbert's we christened at the end of Chapter 2)? Do you agree that he holds this position? What are some consequences for a theory of happiness holding this view? (the problem of counterfactual judgment, for instance, in our discussion of Gilbert's enjoyment of "cigars")

“Skeptical perspectivism” is the idea that one can say that one can’t disprove that they are happier or not with or without a certain experience. For instance, cigars make him happy, and his wife is happier without one. He could have been happier w/out cigars (not necessarily) had he not experienced their pharmacological effect as well, thus the idea is one can’t dismiss or counter prove counterfactual situations. The consequences is that we never really know what makes us happy because we never had the experience better, and we never know what that would make us feel.

- Greena George

Alfino 10:56, 9 March 2007 (PST)Good.

SP says we can't know whether we'd be happy with or without something. Since our experience is one way, we can't determine how it would be the opposite way. Gilbert's example is the cigar as Greena explained above.

What is Gilbert's "language squishing" and "experience stretching" hypotheses? How does this help us think about the subjectivity of report of happiness?

 

Language squishing is when you feel the same, but discuss it differently because there is a language barrier. Experience stretching is when you have different feeling, but discuss it in the same way. This proves that happiness is relative and we can’t rely on the experience or how one relates the experience. The law of large numbers states that the experiences cancel each other out.

- Amanda Language Squishing is when two or more people experience the same emotions but disagree on a description for those emotions or for their level of intensity. Experience Stretching is when they use the same descriptions to describe different emotions or different levels of intensity of emotion. --Frankie Alfino 10:56, 9 March 2007 (PST) Ok, but more detail would be good.

How does Gilbert suggest, in Chapter 3, that we may not be completely aware of our experience?

<p> 

We are not completely aware of our experiences as Gilbert shows through the experiments. We find that our brain actually fills in our memory by taking snap shots of the events that occurred and filling in the gaps. This is seen in the Stop sign-Yield car experiment where the views filled in the yield sign with the stop sign. Our brain is not like a recorder, but much like a camera in that regard, where the memory between snap shots is filled.

- Greena George

 

Alfino 10:57, 9 March 2007 (PST)Good. Other studies?

Sometimes we experience multiple things at the same time. The experience that is more stimulating at the time distracts us so that we don’t necessarily recall any other experiences during that moment. Examples are reading the paper while experiencing the scent of baking bread and the chirping of birds and not recalling reading the text, blindsight (eyes function but the brain does not register an act of vision) and numbfeel (emotions function but the memory does not recall having the emotions). Experience can be equated to participation while awareness can be equated to seeing. --Frankie

What is the "bridge study"? Summarize and evaluate.

The bridge study was where men were forced to cross a rope bridge suspended over a river. The men were confronted by a woman at mid-bridge or at the end. The woman gave out her phone number letting them know if they were interested in learning more about the experiment, they should call. The results show that the men called the woman if they were confronted at mid-bridge. This was supposedly from their fear that was converted to sexual attraction by the men’s brain. While evaluating this study, we were concerned by certain factors – for instance, we are not aware if the same woman was used, the men’s opinion on what they were thinking when they saw the woman at mid-bridge, and what they were feeling when they called the woman. The study is meant for us to realize and be skeptical about how actually aware we are of our situation – past, present, or future – and the external factors that influence us.

- Amanda
If your mind is agitated, it can color the way you judge an event. Experiencing things while in a scared/agitated state necessarily alters that experience (as seen in the above question/answer).

=== How does the "law of large numbers" affect the problem of the measurement and objectivity of happiness, by the end of Chapter 3 of Gilbert? === The solution to the idea that happiness is relative is the “law of large numbers” because it solves the idea of measurement as biases will cancel each other out and the answers will cluster like in a bell curve. When this comes to the idea of happiness, what it means is on an average, large groups of people tend to be “right” about what makes them happy. (See page 67 in Gilbert book)

-Greena

February 6

Who was Diogenes of Sinope and what did he believe?

Diogenes of Sinope is the most illustrious of the Cynic philosophers. He serves as the template for the Cynic sage in antiquity. He is an alleged student of Antisthenes, Diogenes maintains his teacher’s asceticism and emphasis on ethics, but brings to these philosophical positions a dynamism and sense of humor unrivalled in the history of philosophy. The Cynic conception of ethics is that virtue is a life lived in accord with nature. The Cynics advocate ask_sis, or practice, over theory as the means to free oneself from convention, promote self-sufficiency, and live in accord with nature. Such ask_sis leads the Cynic to live in poverty, embrace hardship and toil, and permits the Cynic to speak freely about the silly, and often vicious, way life is lived by his or her contemporaries. The Cynics consistently undermine the most hallowed principles of Athenian culture, but they do so for the sake of replacing them with those in accord with reason, nature, and virtue.

-Amanda

Diogenes is a cynic. He believed in simple life, loss of pretense, and imperturbability.
He's the one who saw the child drinking out of his hands and threw away his cup (having realized that he could make his own life even simpler, based on the child's example).

Evaluate Diogenes' recommendation that we should be suspicious of anything that isn't necessary to living. Specifically, assess the value of the following cynic-inspired values about happiness: 1) simple living; 2) loss of pretence; and 3) imperturbability. How important are these to achieving or increasing happiness?

1. simple living - Cynics had the idea of living simply as illustrated by Diogenes when he gave up his cup as he saw a child drinking water from the fountain using his hands. He wanted people to be suspicious of anything that added to the basics of life. The reason it was important is because if you don’t need those things to make you happy, then no one can take it away from you and therefore take away your happiness.
Additionally, this means that your happiness should not be dependent on external, material things.
2. loss of pretence – idea of being a completely genuine person. By being a completely genuine person, one has no need to lie, or feel a need to be shameful of who you are, and let go of other people’s expectations of you.
This freedom to be one's self is vital to happiness; pretending to be someone you are not is always more complicated than being yourself. The loss of shame helps happiness a lot, clearly.
3. imperturbability – when one is unaffected by the people and their opinion, or the things surrounding you.
Not allowing the bad moods around you ruin your good day can really contribute to happiness; too much focus on the suffering of others can ruin your own ability to experience happiness. In class, we decided that a certain amount of empathy is a good trait, but that allowing other people and their moods ruin our own is not good for happiness. In a Stoic way of thinking, these were the corner stones to happiness, but in real life, it is helpful, but not the only ingredients to happiness. For instance, being completely imperturbable is not realistic especially in the case of relationships because in order to have connection, one must be willing to remove one’s self- imposed emotional body armor.

-Greena edited by Eleanor

What is the "separation strategy" for achieving happiness? How is it a separation from your own "illusions"? Give examples and discuss.

The Stoic/ Epicurean separation strategy is where one separates self from world. In this case, there is no transcendent world to go to. We only have the world in which we are in. They believe one must separate things from how things should be and see how things really are. Examples of this is shown in the Gilbert book when they mention the Stop/Yield sign experiment where one’s memory is modified and they cannot really remember what one saw. Another experiment that shows this is when the interviewer changed and the person being interviewed did not notice. - Amanda

This is related to the Daoist philosophy we talked about earlier; we need to see reality rather than live based on illusions of reality. We need to separate ourselves from what we want or hope the world is like, in favor of how the world really is. The world is all that exists--Epicureans are materialists (everything is present in the material world; there is no higher world to escape to).

How does Platonism and Christianity pose a different separation strategy than Stoicism and Epicureanism?

In the Platonic/ Christian version, unlike the Stoicism/ Epicurean version, one puts one’s faith and hope in another world. God’s world is the world of forms, in which everything is ideally perfect. The world we live in is imperfect and therefore unimportant. Our desire is to reach the perfect world, leaving the imperfect behind. -Greena

The two versions are:
Platonic/Christian, which states that there is a transcendent world of ideals which is where our souls will find true happiness after death. Separation occurs between our experiences of this world and what we can look forward to in the next.
Stoic/Epicurean, which states that the Theos is present and physical, or in other words says that there is no other world to escape to, and we must therefore find happiness in this world. Epicureans are materialists.

How does Csikszentmihalyi propose to analyze experience in terms of structures and content?

Csikszentmihalyi proposes to analyze experience in terms of Productive activities, Maintenance Activities and Leisure Activities. It is not just the activities that we participate in, but who we are with when we do them. He analyzes experience in terms of content by dividing it into emotions, goals, and cognitive content. - Amanda

What is the ESM research method? Do you think it can suggest interesting patterns in our affect (Happiness, Motivation, Concentration, and Flow)? Consider some of the examples cited by Csikszentmihalyi.

The Experience Sampling Method is a method of recording the state of flow of a random group of people throughout the day. By using a pager that will tell them when to record it, the experimenters get a up to date record of what the experimenters states of happiness throughout the day is. - Greena

This can definitely demonstrate interesting patterns of happiness. Recording happiness forces the people to actually register how great they're feeling sometimes, which can yield some unexpected results.
One of the examples Czickszentmihalyi gives is that of a woman in the Netherlands who was in a mental health facility; she was asked to randomly report her happiness and the reasearchers noted that both times she reported high levels of happiness were while she was working on her nails. The facility invited a manicurist to teach her the skills of the trade, after which the woman began working on the other patients and her self-reported happiness dramatically increased to the extent that she was released from the mental health facility.
We can therefore see that one potential effect of reporting happiness in this way reveals to us passions or interests we were not previously aware of.

What is Flow, according to Csikszentmihalyi?

Flow, according to Csikszentmihalyi is when we are in the “zone.” It involves the right amount of concentration, where the activity involved is not too challenging, but at the same time results in unconsciously loosing track of time and a strong than normal arousal and control over things. - Amanda


A state of concentration during which our higher skills are challenged and our sense of time duration is altered, resulting in skill development and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. -- Frankie

How is Flow related to happiness?

Csikszentmihalyi does not equate flow to happiness, but feels life is what happens between happiness of life and happiness off life. With flow, life becomes easier. -Greena

As Greena said, Flow is not Happiness, but it can contribute to happiness, as when we get a lot of work done while experiencing flow; flow activities provide for us immediate feedback (because they involve specific, attainable goals), which shows how much we're accomplishing and how well we're doing. This contributes to the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Flow also leads to personal growth as we develop new skills and enjoy what we are doing at the same time. Personal development contributes to happiness in most cases.

February 13

What are the two loves that de Botton thinks we strive for?

A)intimacy and love from status! Intimacy in a platonic or non-platonic sense wherein closeness with another person is experienced and enjoyed. B) Love from the world or love of status> material goods + power may be intermediary goods. Answered by a collaboration with Nick Lewis and Amanda Van De Leest

1. Intimacy 2. Love from the world/status

What is "Platonic Love" and how does it connect with Plato's Pythagorean view of sex?

The traditional “platonic love” is more from the perspective enlightenment, love of knowledge, non-physical intimacy but close appreciation for another. Pythagorean love is sex where you move as little as possible for fear that if wild sex is made then a wild child will be born of it. Plato’s view is that ideal love can replace erotic love. Platonic love relates with Pythagorean love in that sex is not the “most desirable thing in the world” i.e. sexual love is meant for procreation and NOT for pleasure. Answered by a collaboration with Nick Lewis and Amanda Van De Leest


Ideal love, love of knowledge, enlightenment, non-physical intimacy. The Pythagorean view of sex is that robust enjoyment of sex is inherently wrong, that you must be still in order to create a still (well mannered, controlled) child. Plato believes you can replace physical love with ideal love. --Frankie

Pythagoreans believe that during sex, the child's soul is created. Moving a lot interferes with creating a fully developed soul (because it damages the process of creating it; it gets jostled around or something). Thus, a platonic love would better contribute to this goal, because lust does not distract from the goal at hand (creating an undisturbed soul).

What is Montaigne's goal in discussing the body, according to de Botton? How might we think of Montaigne as a modern Diogenes?

We are supposed to lose our pretenses of our body because they are constructed by us and we cause ourselves suffering because of them. He criticizes how we try to rationalize our bodily functions by denying ourselves. I.E. Nick’s friend with the sock in his pants. Diogenes spoke against pretense as well. He embraced the body, it’s functions, and how it is in reality without impossible ideals. Answered by Amanda Van De Leest

For those who don't remember, we talked about Dr. Alfino's son, Nick, whose friend stuffed his pants with a sock because he was embarrassed by his body. This relates to this discussion because the social pressure to have a certain type of body is unnatural and damages our self-image and thus happiness in social contexts.
Diogenes says we shouldn't pretend to be anything we are not; we should not pretend our body is something it is not, we should not deny inherent functions of our bodies, we should not try to force our bodies (or ourselves) to be a certain way when we aren't.

How do Schopenhauer and Goethe provide us with images of love from the romantic period of Western European culture? What are some of the challenges of this view? What are some of the attractions? Alternatives?

The romantic period stressed the idea of a soul-mate, expression and incitation of emotion, and embraced the will. The will is the life force that drives all decisions. It drives you to your soul mate, but there are so many people that it is only by chance that you actually get to your soul mate. If you do not find said soul mate then suicide is an acceptable solution because life isn’t worth living without the one you love… the other half of your soul. The challenge to this view is that the people that hold this view are typically young and if all the young people who didn’t find this love in the timeframe they think they should find this love they’d just all kill themselves and we wouldn’t have a decent population base. ALSO intimacy is not necessarily unique; there are many people in the world that a person can be content or happy with so how could you know that any person is the absolute perfect “other half” for you. Don’t kill yourself if you haven’t found s/he yet. A life of contentment is a better alternative than a life of pain and disappointment. (this seems bland like rice without soy sauce… the romantic view is to get the preverbal soy sauce to the preverbal rice) Answered by a collaboration with Nick Lewis and Amanda Van De Leest


They believe in all or nothing when it comes to love – one true soulmate, and if you don’t find them or if your love is unrequited, then you should commit suicide. Some challenges to this view are knowing how long to wait to find your one true love, and in recognizing them when you do find them. One way in which this is attractive to many people is that many religions advocate this type of soulmate (although they do not usually approve of the suicide portion) – one love and only one love forever, there is no changing your mind. Some of the alternatives are to be happy by yourself, finding a less passionate or even non-sexual love, or simply knowing that you can love anyone that you choose to love. --Frankie

If we look at love within a naturalistic framework (in the spirit of Diogenese, Epicurus, Montaigne, contemporary natural science, etc.), what contrasts do we find with romantic conceptions?

Diogenes’ notion is naturalistic so therefore relationships are extra “stuff” that we don’t need. We are not supposed to have dependent relationships with others because they can affect our happiness level. On the other hand, romantic conceptions argue for dependency on others. Not a dependency where your happiness is contingent on others but where you have deep social relationship as a part of the intrinsic social nature of humans. Answered by a collaboration with Nick Lewis and Amanda Van De Leest

What is Gilbert's analysis of our reactions to Fisher & Eastman, in Chapter 4? Do you agree?

We are appalled by their actions, but that is because we have differing views on why they would either choose to kill themselves or be happy at the moment of death because our modern ideals pride themselves on the extension of life. Gilbert’s critique is what each individual keys into a situation meaning the unique experiences they bring to that situation. We tend to see the things that are absent instead of seeing what is truly there; so if we are used to A and B but C isn’t that important to us and we end up with B and C then all we do is mourn the loss of A instead of priding ourselves with the fact that we still have B and C. We mismanage our perceptions because we imagine based on our own ideas and experiences and so therefore color the event that is occurring to our own bias. Answered by Amanda Van De Leest

Fisher was the man who organized the labor union, which challenged Chicago's industries/sweatshops etc. He was tried in order to teach a lesson, and was thus executed for a crime that he did not commit. His last words were "This is the happiest moment of my life."
Eastman was revolutionary in giving his employees shorter hours and benefits, which was great for them and the business, but he himself was so unhappy that he killed himself.
Gilbert says that if we were in their places, our reactions would have been the exact opposite. This means, he says, that we might be wrong. "We make a systematic set of errors when we tried to imagine what it would feel like if..." We fail when we try to imagine ourselves in other situations. It has to do with the shortcomings of our perceptions. Our brain doesn't take in everything; we only register/take in certain aspects. We therefore cannot see the entire picture, and see what we want to. "The elaborate tapestry of our experience is not stored in memory." (77-78)

How do we undervalue aspects of our experience that are outside our attention? How do go wrong (what bias do reasearches find) in predicting our future happiness (ch. 5)?

We take for granted everyday actions. We just don’t see “everything.” Gilbert says our brain is not a video recorder and that it only takes snapshots and that our brain, when called upon puts them together as best it can with what it has and fills in the blanks what it wants thus making our experience, or memory thereof, not faithful. The biases we find are that happy people are over-optimistic and it may or may not pan out that way, but pessimistic people generally predict a more accurate reception of a future experience. Answered by a collaboration with Nick Lewis and Amanda Van De Leest


Because we cannot “see” everything during an experience, our mind takes a “snap shot” and remembers the highlights, but fills in the gaps with assumptions. We undervalue the aspects that we have “filled in”. We go wrong in our predictions by idealizing and over-predicting the future, which causes disappointment. --Frankie

Gilbert opens the chapter by talking about Sherlock Holmes, who solved a mystery by saying "the dog didn't bark;" we don't notice things that are absent, because absent things are outside of our attention. These details are sometimes important to an experience, but we under-value them because they are not the highlight/main thing. Our predictions focus on those same highlights and ignore the big details that can make a big difference--i.e. how we would feel if we were Fisher or Eastman.
We fail to consider how much imagination fills in but we also fail to consider how much it leaves out. When Gilbert asks people how they will feel two years after the death of their oldest child, people cannot accurately predict how they'll feel; their imaginations leave out a lot of what really happens in those situations but also fill in a lot of details that might not be accurate.

Can we get better at predicting our future happiness by connecting ourselves to our present experience in a richer way, by "pre-feeling" it (ch. 6)?

Yes. We can better predict our experiences by relating similar experiences had in the past. It’s like the common practice of the “pre-funk” or preparing for an experience by subjecting yourself to a similar environment before the desired affair. It’s important because our future wants and needs are not as predictable as we think they are and so therefore we need to be ready for what they turn out to be by being more mindful of our experiences today and using them to evaluate our experiences in the future; we will make better predictions be less disappointed and possibly be more happy. Answered by a collaboration with Nick Lewis and Amanda Van De Leest


If we pay more attention to similar experiences and put ourselves into similar experiences in order to predict our future happiness, we may be more accurate. By appreciating all of the details throughout the course of an experience, rather than focusing on just the outcome, we are more likely to remember the experience in a positive way, which will increase our ability to predict our future happiness. --Frankie

If we do not experience fully our present emotions, we are temporarily unable to predict the future. People who "go with their gut instinct" about choosing a poster, for instance, are basing their decision on immediate feelings--their prefeelings. People who are asked to stop and consider more carefully, end up less happy with their selection because they were discouraged from really feeling how the poster made them feel/would make them feel at home.
We have to make sure that we are thinking about prefeelings, however, and aren't just affected by the present environment. You can't pick a poster for your house based on how it looks next to the other ones in the display case. You have to base it on your prefeelings of how it will look on your own wall.

February 20

Summarize the evidence (esp. from Layard and Easterbrook) for the claim the money has limited ability to raise well-being. What inferences about happiness does this data support?

1- there is the graph that displays how the hedonic treadmill entraps people with habituation. A good example of said hedonic habituation is a man/woman who had a room in a 2 star hotel and was upgraded a hotel room in a 10 star hotel but a) has no companion and b) would have difficulty going back to the roach-filled 2 star hotel. Easterbrook talks about the guy named Diener who concludes a) lacking money causes unhappiness but having money doesn’t cause happiness and b) millionaires as a group are no happier than people with average income.

The graph can also be described as showing that for every person whose happiness is increased by money, there is at least another person whose happiness is not. The average still demonstrates that happiness and money are divorced after a certain point (a certain income level). Money ceases to be a certain way to increase personal satisfaction. (1 May)

How does Veenhoven's research on well-being contribute to social comparison theory? What kind of evidence do we have on social comparision from other studies?

2- Veenhoven contributes to social comparison theory by describing interpersonal comparisons of wellbeing between “my” own wellbeing and someone else’s wellbeing from whom I have knowledge and who “judges” me. He specifically looks at the difference between socialist and capitalist countries and finds that in socialist countries a decrease in the amount of money you make is acceptable if there is a general decrease in the amount of impoverished people. This is thought to be attributed to the fact that the people are not as different from each other income-wise so they have less gaps between classes to compare. Also, because people work less they have a fuller personal lives and is thought that this contributes to the high sense of well being. Norway is the example given but applies all socialist countries.

Evaluate Seligman's explanation for the flat trend in well-being in affluent countries.

Well being comes from an appreciation of the attachments and relationships you have. It is important to have those relationships because it gives you another dimension of an experience that you otherwise wouldn’t have. This positive force makes life more “worth living.” It is also important to continually work on the attachments that you have and to be able to determine whether or not you should be able to continue them if they have negative results. This would explain the flattening of the economic graph because relationships, as a substitute for money, would cause the slope to increase while money without relationships would cause a continuation of status quo.

This is also related to the fact, which we discussed earlier, that after your survival needs are met, money has a limited ability to increase happiness (at least on average). Affluent countries, where most people have more money than necessary to survive, no longer demonstrate an upswing in average happiness because money and happiness become separated after a certain point (the amount of money you need to survive).

What's the difference between being a Maximizer and a Satisficer? Assess the evidence for the claim that Maximizers might not be maximizing well-being?

4- A Maximizer and a satisficer two extreme ends of the spectrum where a total maximizer would spend an eternity searching for, as the example in class indicated, “the perfect sweater” a satisficer would find the sweater that may not be the perfect deal or even the perfect sweater but good enough. Where the satisficer could be considered a slacker the Maximizer would be considered a work-a-holic; either being considered extreme and negative. To put it in perspective a Maximizer might try to maximize a certain experience or situation but my not take into account that maximizing (finding the perfect…whatever) isn’t the most efficient use of time which could be spent enjoying a product/experience etc.

Maximizers don't end up maximizing well being because they always wonder "is there a better deal/better fit/better experience out there somewhere?" They are thus never really satisfied. The runner who always strives for a personal record, for instance, may never be satisfied with a great run that isn't a PR; this really limits happiness.

From Chapter 2 of McMahon: Compare and contrast the Roman image of happiness found in Horace and in the context of Roman life in the 1st century B.C. with the image of happiness in the story of Perpetua and Felicitas in the 2nd century A.D. Follow also Christian thought about Happiness in Augustine and Aquinas.

5- The rural Roman ideal of happiness is exemplified by Horace because he has a materialist point of view where he derives an almost romantic idea of the autonomous man as a sovereign wayfarer. This stands in stark contrast to the views of Perpetua and Felicitas where their happiness is derived from the transcendental and as Christians they embraced the suffering of this Earth because they are being true to their beliefs which are more important than declaring allegiance to a Roman God. Aquinas moves Christianity closer to earth and declares that we can thus have perfect and imperfect happiness.

How does the contrast between Roman and early Christian conceptions of happiness raise questions about asceticism and transcendentalism? How is sensual pleasure treated in each historical model?

6- It is more Roman vs. early Christian. Christianity raises the question of atheticism as a denial of sensual pleasure to achieve it in a later life (transcendental). The adverse would be the Roman ideal which is an appreciation for worldly pleasure; I.e. the Romans thought the God’s gave you pleasure in this life rather than the next.

Could you improve your happiness by re-evaluating your approach to the sensual and ascetic aspects of your life? Are there areas of your life where a more ascetic attitude would be warranted? Are there other areas of your life in which more attention to savoring sensual pleasure would be appropriate?

7- This is a very personal question wherein the answer would vary from person to person without necessarily being wrong, HOWEVER it seems to us that all people could benefit from some sort of evaluation of their sensual and ascetic views on happiness whether those views change or not as a result of the evaluation.


There is always room for improvement in life, but it is hard to say if re-evaluating your approach would make a difference. It would require the urge to change. It would certainly help you understand your own happiness better. I believe that there are always instances where a more ascetic or more savoring attitude would be beneficial. Sometimes to accomplish goals, you must use a more ascetic approach and deny yourself certain things. And sometimes you need to reward yourself or appreciate life with a more savoring attitude. --Frankie

February 27th

What is the general Stoic view of the person, our telos, and the path to happiness? What is your hegemonikon?

The general Stoic view of the person is to not assign more value to a person than it really is. One should not deify a person, and one should not degrade a person as well. The right value should be given to the person. The “telos of man” is to live well. This means to have the same (homo) logos. The key to living in agreement is to pay attention to your guiding principal (hegemonikan). The beginning of this tradition is invented by Zeno in 323 bc and basically ends with Epictetus and later stoicism is absorbed by Christianity. This concept is also called your virtue (hegemonikan). The virtue was considered a kind of guide or spirit to help with. Hegemonikos is the “guiding light” or the principle that guides you generally through personal philosophy.

- Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena

How do we "make progress" toward becoming a Sage?

We can “make progress” toward becoming a Sage once we understand that some things are up to us and some things are not. The sage anticipates what happens and discounts surprise. The sage also lives life under the guiding principle of the hegemonikan and thus lives virtuously. One should approach life with equanimity. - Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena


By understanding the idea that some things are in our control (internals) and some are not (externals) and by applying this knowledge to our actions. --Frankie

Can we alter our "natural" responses to bring them in line with correct understanding of nature? ( Can we "live in agreement"?)

We can alter our “natural” responses to bring them in line with a correct understanding of nature. It is a very Aristotelian view on the world. It is the idea that one pretends to be “correct” with the world until it becomes so. In a modern way of saying it, it is also the idea of conditioning until one achieves the desired behavior.


According to Stoicism, we can alter our “natural responses” because our responses are often not actually “natural”, they are leaned by observation and social mores and controlled by our will, they are voluntary. --Frankie

Can we alter our responses in this way?

 Yes.  See above. 

- Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena

How can we alter our responses in this way? By valuing inner godliness (hegemonikon – guiding principles) over all things. --Frankie

Should we adjust our responses in this way, assuming we can? Consider several points of view.

  We should adjust them if it is what the “guiding principle” of the hegemonikon tells us to.  

Ex 1- man with a sick kid. The man leaves his sick child since he could not bear being with the child. (pg 77, book 1, section 11) The idea is that he acted “naturally,” but Epictetus tells him that it was in accordance to nature, but not rightly done. The basis is that if “whatever therefore, we find to be at the same time both affectionate and reasonable, this we confidently assert to be both right and good.” So according to Epictetus, if it is both affectionate and reasonable, then it is right and good. Ex 2 – the athlete who had a disease that required his wiener to be chopped off or die. He chose to die. In this case, one must choose what one’s hoegmonikon is required of you and do it. It depends on how he thought of his condition. If he thought of how it affects his manhood and chose to die because to it, then it is not right. Or if he thought of it as how it would affect him as a wrestler – as it affects his livelihood and his identity – then it was the right choice. - Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena


Depending on the situation, yes and no. If we make ourselves happier and more balanced without causing harm or undue distress to others, then yes. If we make ourselves unhappy, or harm ourselves or others, then no. We must do what our hegemonikon requires of us, based on our goals. The sick child example tells us that doing what we believe is natural is not always the same as doing what is right. The example with the wrestler/athlete tells us that we must make our choices based upon who and what we are according to our hegemonikon. --Frankie

Is it possible to avoid suffering from negative emotions and increase positive emotions, such as joy?

Negative emotions are inevitable, but it is not possible to avoid suffering from negative emotions entirely, However, it is possible to reduce suffering. It is not about increasing positive emotions, but about embracing them, just as you would embrace and accept negative emotions. To overly react to either would be equally as bad. - Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena


To some extent, yes, by realizing that negative emotions will pass and by actively appreciating and savoring the positive emotions. --Frankie

What are some of the paradoxes in our attitudes toward work, according to Csiksentmihalyi?

According to Csiksentmihalyi, one of the paradoxes is that most people dislike work, but invariably find the most flow at work (not necessarily in their occupation). Work is a necessary “evil,” and it is necessary to eat and enjoy leisure. Without work, one would live in squalor and it was shown earlier that squalor reduces happiness. - Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena

I don't think it's true that most people don't like to work. Csikszentmihalyi says that 84% of men and 77% of women would continue to work if they no longer needed to financially. Research by German researchers showed both (A) that people dislike work overall, but those who dislike work are happy overall and, conversely, (B) that people like their work and those same people lead richer lives. It is possible to see both sides. Some of the reasons people seem to dislike work is the ideal that it is "virtuous" to be idle (Aristotle) and that work means you are forced to spend a third of your time one way, with the option more or less taken away.


I believe that often it isnot the work itself that people dislike, but rather their schedules or the amount of time they have to spend at work, when they actually want or need to be somewhere else. --Frankie

Is it realistic to think that we can rethink some of the cultural values we associate with work? Is this only possible for "sweet" jobs? Reflect on the Argentine customer service example.

Yes it is. The American view is concentrated on work, or not working, whereas the Mediterranean view is that work is secondary and everything revolves around family, culture, and leisure. No, it is not possible only for sweet jobs. One can enjoy work even if it isn’t “sweet.” For instance, the Argentine customer service agent wasn’t happy that he/she had the shitty job, but he/she could control how good he/she could do his/her job. (maybe he or she just got a raise and we don’t know the reason for the happiness. We can only assume.) - Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena

How does de Botton think that the enlightenment conception of happiness has altered the environment within which we make social comparison?

The enlightenment conception of happiness is the idea that everyone is on equal standing and thus can control your own destiny. The idea that we can control our destiny sprang from the scientific advances of that time and idea that religion no longer dictates everything. It has altered the environment within which we make social comparison because there is no more class distinction. People see themselves on the same level as the richest. - Collaboration of Amanda, Nick & Greena


deBotton believes that the lack of class distinction causes us to compare ourselves to a larger demographic, causing more status anxiety. --Frankie

March 6

What is the ascetic and robust hedonist view of pleasure? What is habituation, the hedonic treadmill?

Ascetic view- negative account of desire. Desire is a lack (says Socrates). The ascetic’s best bet is not developing them to begin with to extinguish it by means other than satisfying the desire. This could be called “de-habituation” which could be in the form of discipline in quantity and or discipline in the rate of consumption. “dink water instead of wine” as rate of consumption increases more variety is needed.

The hedonist is the ultimate consumer; one who, in order to maximize pleasure, would seek out the source of said pleasure as much as possible perhaps varying sources in order to maximize.


- Amanda

The hedonic treadmill is the continual search for more pleasure--which can interfere in actually enjoying pleasure at the moment. You're constantly trying to get ahead and you feel like you cannot stop (if you're a hedonist), thus the treadmill metaphor.
Also, I thought a definition of "ascetic" might be helpful (got it off dictionary.com):
1. a person who dedicates his or her life to a pursuit of contemplative ideals and practices extreme self-denial or self-mortification for religious reasons.
2. a person who leads an austerely simple life, esp. one who abstains from the normal pleasures of life or denies himself or herself material satisfaction. -Eleanor

Is there a middle ground between asceticism and robust hedonism? What are some of the strategies and principles of this middle ground?

Yes. Increasing quality and decreasing quantity in order to dehabituate; Savoring – fully appreciating the experience; also having a long term plan for happiness is ideal; spontaneity and rituals…

- Nick

Dehabituation is actually NOT increasing quality and decreasing quantity. Rather, dehabituation is going back to the lesser quality of things for a while (the 2 star hotel, the $7 bottle of wine) so that the nicer things seem like a treat again, rather than something we're used to and don't really appreciate. Nice, good-quality experiences should be treated as such, rather than as the base standard. -Eleanor

How does consumption rate affect pleasure yield, according to Gilbert?

When the rate of consumption is faster the pleasure yield slows because if you consume really really fast your pleasure highs are not nearly as high. The trick is to have variety whereby you vary pleasure. - Greena


Once the rate exceeds a certain point, it is too fast, too similar to consecutive consumption, causing the pleasure yield to lower. Too fast and too much, and your pleasure levels do not reach as high. Pacing your rate can prevent pleasure from dropping. --Frankie

What are some of the bias (indicate with studies) in our ability to predict future pleasure satisfication or future happiness?

Cognitive bias (blind spot to what you actually want) and bias of incongruence. The specific studies indicated are the “snack study”, and the “partridge and gumbo study”. The snack study involves a group being offered snacks. In the beginning they chose to have a variety of snacks but at the end of the study people regretted not getting a bunch of what they really wanted. The reason they got the variety is due to the fact that they thought they would get tired of the one thing or that they weren’t sure what they really wanted. This proves that we have to judge what we really want as compared to what we will want in the future.

- Amanda


In the snack study, people are offered snacks of their choice – they choose to have a variety of snacks, and then regret that they didn’t just get the one thing that they really wanted. In the “partridge and gumbo” study, a person is allowed to choose from a restaurant menu for one meal a month, but must choose them all in advance. Because they think they will want variety, they choose variety, rather than choosing the two dishes that they actually like best. They are thinking of the monthly meals as if they were going to be consuming them all at the same time, therefore they want variety. But because there is elapsed time between the meals, they would have been happier just choosing the two items they liked, the partridge and gumbo. We think that we should prefer variety, but don't take into consideration the frequency of the meals, and the fact that we would have had a large variety of meals in between our menu choices at the restaurant. --Frankie

What is Gilbert's theory of our "psychological immune system"?

The psychological immune system is the resilience of the human being and the human constitution. People who have been in terrible situations have thought that they would be unhappy in those situations and even though they are sad in the situation they are happier afterward. The example is the cancer survivor who appreciates the life they have and looks forward to the little things that they used to overlook. This further proves how we don’t really know what we want.

- Nick


His theory is that our psychological immune system is more resilient than we think it is, that it allows us to focus on the benefits and pleasures we have in our lives after something terrible has happened to us, rather than focusing on how bad things have become. --Frankie

How do different forms of leisure promote different affective states, according to Csikzentmihalyi

Flow is about something that is highly challenging and requires skill. Relaxation has low challenge, yet high skill. Apathy has low challenge and corresponding low skill. Anxiety has high challenge and low skill. Each is important in its function for leisure.

- Greena


Less challenging and less skill in leisure promotes apathy and relaxation, but lowers stress and lowers flow levels. High challenges with high skills have lower levels of apathy and relaxation, but higher levels of stress and flow. --Frankie

Listening to music and watching television are low in challenge but high in skill and therefore create relaxation (and low anxiety). Different leisure activities (playing games and sports, watching TV, socializing, etc) give different psychological effects in each of the four major areas: flow, relaxation, apathy, and anxiety. For instance, playing games gives lots of flow and anxiety, but low relaxation and apathy. Passive leisure activities don't demand as much skill or concentration. Active leisure activities would receive markedly different scores on an assesment like Csikszentmihalyi does (his chart on page 67) from the passive activities.
These are all affected by skill and challenge levels. Flow is high in both, apathy is low in both; anxiety is high in challenge and low in skill; relaxation is low on challenge and high in skill.

Does leisure require concentration and skill, according to Csikzentmihalyi?

Yes, it depends on the activity. For instance, in some cases leisure requires concentration and skill since it is necessary in order to find flow. See previous question for details.

- Amanda


If your main goal is to reduce stress and relax, then few skills are necessary. Leisures such as watching television orlistening to music require fewer skills than games and sports, while socializing falls in the middle. If your goal is enjoyment, laughter and relaxation, then socializing is a good choice because it only requires inter-personal and communication skills. If your goal is to be challenged, to have adventure, then higher skills are required. --Frankie

March 20

How does Gilbert feel that practice and coaching might help us avoid some of the biases he discusses early in Chapter 10? Be prepared to mention some of the particular bias he claims to document with studies.

we remember the best times and the worst times because of which our wealth of experience is skewed and does not always provide a good basis for future context. Experience is no unique it is also not random there is a pattern and that pattern allows us to blend experience with other people. Through that you can analogize experience and learn from it in recognizing that your experience is not unique you can work to actively change. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

We make the same mistakes over and over because we don't remember them correctly - we only remember key elements (often only the ending or outcome). If we were to compare them to other peoples experiences (which in fact are very similar to our own), we might have better outcomes. When you are being coached, you have to have faith that the coach knows what he or she is doing. It is the same with experiences - you have to trust that the other person's experience really is like yours and that their outcomes are parallel to what yours would be if you followed their advice/actions. He mentions a study of words that begin with the letter k (k1's) and have k as the 3rd letter (k3's) - we remember more k1's than k3's because it is easier to recall k1's since we remember beginnings better than we remember middles. He also talks about standing in line at the grocery store - if the line is slow we recall that we "always get the slow line". We think this because we are more likely to recall something unusual than something ordinary, and a line moving at normal speed is ordinary. --Frankie

Explain and evaluate the statement, "We remember feeling as we believe we must have felt." What are some of the implications of this statement for happiness?

In the case of the Gore vs. Bush experiment voters recall how they predicted they would feel not how they really felt. It means we believe our expectations instead of reality. For implications for this with happiness please refer to question 1. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda


When we are asked how we felt about a particular incident, we immediately think of that incident. Because we don't take into consideration all the other things that were happening to or around us at the time, we focus solely on the on thing we are asked about. Our answer is based solely on how we imagine we must have felt about that incident. We don't realize that we ignored the other things going on at the time, such as that sliver in our finger or the fact that we were grumpy from lack of sleep or that we spent the morning chasing the dog through the neighborhood. There are so many things happening all the time that our minds don't keep track of how we felt every moment and so we are left to guess at what our feelings must have been. --Frankie

Summarize Glibert's discussion of "super-replicating" ideas in Chapter 11. Explain, in particular, how this perspective might help explain some puzzles about our attitudes toward raising children and continuing to work more than we need to for promoting our happiness.

Meme theory is based on evolutionary biology. It is an analogy of genes and ideas, they both need people to transmit them in the context of cultural and intercultural interaction. Ideas about happiness can be replicaters whether the ideas actually lead to happiness or not. This can be seen in the example of the imperfects (pg 216). One belief is false and is strongly believed but it helps one that is true and not strongly believed. When seen collectively our happiness is still well taken care of. Kids are a tone of friggin’ work, a pain in the ass, they reduce state happiness, they destroy out bodies, they are expensive, time consuming, and yet for some stupid reason in our brain want’s us to make babies. We psych ourselves up for having children because we falsely believe that having a family is great. Because of the psych-up the end experience is remembered as really good; fantastic and we remember all the negatives as “little bumps in the road.” Working is a super-replicating idea. People believe that when one works more they can get more money which will help them do the things they want to do increasing happiness.In reality working more than we need only detracts from happiness because people don’t have time to do the things they want to do with the money they get. Collaboration by Greena, Amanda

Please note that the studies on child rearing are not about overall happiness, but about marital happiness. I don't think that these studies can be counted as valid when it comes to our ideas about raising children, they should instead be applied to our ideas about marriage. The studies do not show that children cause unhappiness, but rather that they put a strain on the marital relationship. Maybe the super-replicating idea that children bring happiness causes people to assume that it will improve their marriage also, but in actuality it brings an internal happiness that is completely unrelated to the marriage. Gilbert also says that work happiness is a self-replicating idea, that it is propagated by the general happiness of a wealthy society. He does not take into consideration that some people actually work because they enjoy it, or because it puts them into a state of flow, as Csikszentmihalyi would attest to. --Frankie

Explain the research on "surrogation" and the practical implications of this for predicting the effect of future experiences on our happiness.

There are two surrogacy experiments. The first study wanted to know how we would feel about eating ice cream and then doing a boring task. The first group was simulators who imagined how they would feel. The second group was surrogates who used experience from someone else. Both of these groups predicted how they would feel; the results show surrogates predicted their experiences much better than the simulators who imagined their experience. It has a tendency to project the present onto the future. It also fails to recognize that things will look differently after the event has occurred. Lastly, it has a tendency to fill in and leave out things. Our general bias is to imagine our own experience because we thing we are unique; we are not and when we realize this we can experience other people’s experiences aka surrogacy to predict better and be more happy (to be more accurate). Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

In the second experiment, one group were given potato chips and asked to report on the experience. The next group was give a bunch of salty snacks and then asked to report how they thought they would feel about a snack they would be given the next day. Some were told the snack would be chips, and because they had just eaten salty snacks, they erroneously reported that they didn't think they would enjoy the chips the next day. Others were not told that they would receive chips, but were given a report from the first group of surrogates, and more accurately reported that they would enjoy the experience the next day. Because they didn't use their imaginations, but instead used surrogation, their predictions were more accurate. This method would be very helpful when making major decisions, such as a move to another city or state, or a job change; it would even be helpful in making lesser decisions, such as which brand of cell phone to buy, or what kind of pet to get. --Frankie

Summarize key developments in the history of happiness from the renaissance and enlightenment.

In the renaissance there is a renewed awareness and justification of natural felicity from otherworldly aestheticism and union with God and the belief that happiness can happen in this world and in nature. It coincides with the increase in wealth in Florence. They had time and money to study comfortably the ideas of happiness from the ancients… thus a rebirth in Roman and Greek thought. Luther emphasized health and happiness. His view of marriage was that it is natural and allows sensual and transcendent pleasure. The enlightenment was characterized by more modern thought. Enlightenment is the first modern experiment in the limits of wealth and material pleasure. It is a revival of hedonism started by Locke’s “tabula rasa” in which pleasure and plain is etched from the world. It also proposed that we have an equal claim on happiness (promotion of democracy and liberty). It is also here where the idea of modern skepticism about relationship of reason to happiness. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

How does hedonism, or an openness to natural felicity return to Western thought through art, politics and religious culture?

An openness to natural felicity leading to hedonism returns to Renaissance Western thought through art in Reuben, Virgil and Horace; philosophy through Locke; and religion through Aquinas. In Reuben’s “The Felicity of Regency,” we see the potentiality for earthly happiness. It’s a good example because it’s full of naked people as an expression of sensuality. We can also say that through religion, the novel idea is one can achieve happiness. There was an increase in the belief that we generated momentum for our own happiness. Poems of Horace and Virgil urged themes of simplicity and acceptance, harmony and peace.

Locke refers to political happiness and equal opportunity within society and government regardless of class, wealth or status. A necessary element to human dignity is the ability to determine pleasure and pain for ourselves.

St. Thomas Aquinas believed “that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs Divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. He, like Locke believes truth through reason and faith. The goal of human existence is union and eternal fellowship with God. This goal can be achieved through the beatific vision, an event where a person experiences perfect, unending happiness by comprehending the very essence of God. The way to happiness is through charity, peace and holiness. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

April 3

How does Klimt's Beethoven Frieze offer a commentary on romantic visions of happiness?

Happiness is called on to fill the void to fill the inner realm. The journey begins with the longing for happiness, the second one is the transcendence of human vice…, the third is where we find happiness in the poetry of arts where we are taken to an ideal realm where we can find pure happiness, joy, and love.

Beethoven Frieze: Poetry The yearning for happiness finds appeasement in poetry (the female figure with the lyre). An empty segment in the frieze follows. This is where broad openings in the wall revealed a view of the Beethoven stature in the 1902 exhibition. Beethoven Frieze: The Arts The second panel represents with the vices of humanity. The arts lead us into an ideal realm, the only place where we can find pure joy, pure happiness, pure love (the five women, of which the upper three point to the last scene illustrating Schiller's Ode to Joy). However the wish for happiness transcend hostile forces such as human vice – lust, greed, etc. Beethoven Frieze: Choir of Angels Choir of angels in paradise. "Joy, thou gleaming spark divine. This kiss to the whole world!" (concluding scene with women's choir and embracing couple). We find happiness in poetry and art. Takes us to ideal realm of joy happiness and love.

Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

2. Evaluate the discussion of the "pursuit of happiness" in McMahon. How do liberatarian and classical republican philosophical ideas affect our social philosophy as a new country and today? What are the implications for happiness of these alternatives?

The libertarian believes we are given the possibility for happiness. The conditions for happiness are available; it is our job to pursue those possibilities. Classical republicanism is where happiness is realized or actualized via the state. The implication for our government is in the declaration; it is key to social contract theory. Franklin represents libertarianism and Sam Addams who represents Republicanism. An example of Libertarianism is the American Dream… work hard = success. Republicanism is a welfare based state such as universal welfare, social security…etc. Our government is more libertarian and Canada is more classical Republican. It’s the difference between the community and the individualistic drive of capitalism.

Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda


The implication of Libertarianism is that the government will not interfere and that if you work hard you can achieve success and be happy. The implication of Republicanism is that you will always be provided for, that you are entitled to support from your government. One is driven by the desires of the individual while the other is driven by the welfare of the community. --Frankie

Was de Tocqueville right? What are the implications of this social critique for our social philosophy of happiness?

There is a sadness in the culture because there is no longer a social structure making it easy for another person compare to other people… anyone can compare him/herself to Bill Gates. This was his critique of American culture i.e. it can lead to the hedonic treadmill because we are always fighting to be recognized and Americans are endlessly pursuing as maximizer and as they get close to their goal. Yes, he was right; to an extent we can see the implications from the happiness levels in charts presented earlier in class. The implications are that we need to be less individualistic and more community oriented or that we need to be more aware/realize where happiness can be achieved through work, money, and pursuit and reorient some of that energy toward finding our flow, being happy in relationships, leisure. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

Was Weber right? What are the implications of this social critique for our social philosophy of happiness?

Weber was a German sociologist who’s philosophy took place after the reformation in absence of the assurance of the catholic church, one looks for assurance of God’s favor on their success aka fate. This blends much better with our capitalist society. It follows protestant ethics such as aesthetic renunciation (“being cheap”: restrict consumption to accumulate capital), work as a divine calling (ethic of discipline), critical rationalism (delayed gratification, thrift, industry). Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda


While there is nothing wrong with any of these ethics in themselves, it does imply that one can buy salvation, hence implying that one can buy happiness. Better to pursue these ethics for their own sake than to pursue them for salvation. --Frankie

April 17

What is a "momento mori" and why might someone argue that it is valuable to have one around?

Memento mori is a Latin phrase that may be freely translated as "Remember that you are mortal," "Remember you will die," or "Remember your death". It names a genre of artistic creations that vary widely from one another, but which all share the same purpose, which is to remind people of their own mortality. It makes one appreciate life more; thinking about death allows one to value life. Awareness is key to acceptance. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

Is there a relationship between some insight and understanding about death and subjective well-being?

Because understanding leads to a level of acceptance it becomes part of nature to die. It’s not a question of whether you die of old age or a good death as a hero. Death will come. It’s important to your subjective wellbeing to accept that, and fight the bias to deny death.

Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda


Having this insight will allow you to live your life more fully, without obsessing on death and worrying about it. Decreased worry = increased subjective well-being. --Frankie

What insights about death are offered in the audio segments on "21 grams" and the Lorne Ladner section on compassion and death?

What is offered is the journey of the acceptance of death. Fighting the reality of death only creates more pain as it feeds on its self. The ultimate expression of acceptance is when the director’s son asks if he would smile again if he died and the reality is that it would be painful at first but life goes on and joy would be found in the life that is living. The Lorne Ladner section discusses death meditations. He uses them as a tool to have individuals accept their own death. Once an individual realizes the inevitability of their own death, then they truly live.

Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

Can life be appreciated on its own terms, without reference to an eternal destiny, or would knowledge and acceptance of the finitude of death rob life of meaning? Consider Montaigne & de Sade.

Montaigne says we must accept death, the hard part about it is death’s uncertainty. We can justify it if you are old or if it is a good death. He expresses contempt for death because he sees how senseless it is once you sort it out. Marquis de Sade’s dialogue of the dying man and the priest discusses a materialist who does not believe in an afterlife. Sade argues that people should become hedonists living life all the way to death. He does not approve of the hedonist who only lives the last of his life in an orgy to go out with a bang because it is fake. One can live a life when it is acknowledged that it is finite. You must make every moment count no matter what you do. However, you must also keep religion close to your heart because if you are wrong and life is eternal in the presence of God then you are screwed. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

Life should always be appreciated, whether one believes in an eternal destiny or not. If you do believe, you should appreciate everything about life because it is one of the steps to attaining your eternal destiny. If you don't believe, then you should appreciate life because you believe that is all there is. Without a belief system, you would want to try and appreciate every moment, so that your life would have meaning. With a belief system, it is emphasized that every moment does count, that you will be judged for every moment, therefore you must live the best life that you can. Either way life should be appreciated. --Frankie

April 24

Who are the Fates?

Clotho, who spins the yarn, Lachesis who measures the yarn Atropos, who does the snip > they are minor goddesses. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

How does Csiksentmihalyi connect amor fati, flow, and entropy-reducing life goals together in his personal philosophy?

Amor Fati- psychological embrace of the situation of fate. It will bring subjective well being and deep insight into reality. Flow is a source of psychic energy as it focuses attention and motivates action. It is a neutral energy that can be used for both constructive or destructive purposes. Making energy available for human use is an important accomplishment but learning to use it well is essential. Thus in creating a good life it is not enough to strive for enjoyable goals but also choose goals that will reduce the sum total of entropy in the world. Entropy-reducing life goals are beneficial because entropy is synonymous with measurement of disorder. Thus reducing disorder as a life goal would be beneficial however the term entropy can also be applied to things like eating wherein the act of eating increases entropy in the “food” but decreases entropy in the person eating.

Basically, embrace amor fati, which means it leads to personal growth, which means you will eventually find your entropy reducing life goal through flow. Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda

What is "compatibilism"?

“Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are in fact compatible and capable of co-existence (people who hold this belief are known as compatibilists). A compatibilist, or soft determinist, in contrast, will define a free act in a way that does not hinge on causal necessitation. For them, an act is free unless it involves compulsion by another person. Since the physical universe and the laws of nature are not persons, they argue that it is a category error to speak of our actions being forced on us by the laws of nature, and therefore it is wrong to conclude that universal determinism would mean we are never free.”-Wikipedia Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda


This is the idea that free will and determinism (fate) are not mutually exclusive, that they are compatible. According to compatabilists, a decision is made in free will if no other person is forcing the decision. Compatibilists also argue that not only is determinism compatible with free will, but it is also necessary for it. Actions are determined by beliefs, desires, and character, otherwise they woudln't be real actions. --Frankie

They believe that free will is the experience of agency in the absence of constraint. We can have some constraints however--like science, cause and effect, etc.--while still having free will to an extent. Obviously we can't do anything we want to; we can't fly across the room, but we can choose whether to walk or stand still.

Does an appreciation of fate produce any insights that promote subjective well being?

(Two Answers) 

No. Fate contradicts moral responsibility, and reduces motivation and desire.

Yes, an appreciation of fate does promote subjective well-being. According to the Buddhists, we are to ‘acts as if the future of the Universe depended on it, while laughing at yourself for thinking anything you do makes a difference.” By appreciating the idea of fate, one is indeed liberating oneself because accepting that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in life without any regrets or worries. Additionally, although we may not know the outcome, each person ahs agency and one can get more subjective well-being by understanding Collaboration by Nick, Greena, Amanda [[Cat egory:Happiness Study Question Page]]

Acceptance of fate correlates to an acceptance of self, and acceptance of self promotes subjective well-being. Appreciating fate adds meaningfulness through participating in something larger than self-interests, encouraging a sense of community. It enables us to realize that we are part of a greater whole, which can increase subjective well-being. --Frankie