Happiness Fall 2015 Class Notes

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Return to Happiness



McMahon, "Chapter 1: The Highest Good"

1. Classical Greek Models of Happiness

Key theme: Greek cultural break with accommodation to destiny. Recognition of possibility of control of circumstances determining happiness.

Implicit historical narrative: Classical Greek philosophy has a point of connection with Periclean Athens, but develops Athenian cultural values in a radically new way. This begins a distinctive kind of narrative about happiness in the West.

1. The Greek Cultural Model
  • Connection of the culture with tragedy, appreciation of fate, happiness as gift of gods.
  • Dionysian culture
  • Post-Socratic Schools -- Hellenism and Hellenistic culture
2. The Greek Philosophical Models in Greek Philosophical culture: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno.
A. Plato - Symposium gives us picture of Plato's view.
  • Contrast the Symposium with the cult of Dionysius
  • Reasoning our way to the Good (Happiness). Symposium as purification ritual (Summary including Alcibiades twist). bad desire/good desire
  • Object of desire is transcendent. (Reminder about Platonic metaphysics.) "intellectual orgasm" (36)
  • McMahon: "radical reappraisal of the standards of the world" 37
B. Aristotle (note McMahon pp. 41ff and Aristotle reading)
  • end, function, craft, techne. Hierarchy of arts.
  • end vs. final end -- the universal good is the final end, not relative. sec. 6-7.
  • happiness as activity of the soul in accordance with virture (def., but also consequence of reasoning from nature of human life)
  • Section 13: nature of the soul. two irrational elements: veg/appetitive and one rational. Note separation/relationship.
C. Hellenic Schools: Epicureans and Stoics
  • Main similarities and differences with Plato and Aristotle.
On the relationship between philosophical culture and the broader traditional culture.
Features of this cultural trajectory.

Cahn and Vitrano, "Living Well"

  • considers how various philosophers would evaluate the contrast between the fictional cases of Pat and Lee
  • Living well: tied to distinctions between
  • "successful lives" vs. "wasted lives"
  • lives pursuing "intrinsically valuable" goals
  • lives that are "works of art"
  • fame and achievement vs. mission and meaning vs. satisfaction with one's own activities
  • concern about the possibility of ideology or cultural bias.
  • Wolf's list: computer games and crossword puzzles not on the list, but why not, asks Haidt?
  • why disparage making money, swimming, driving cool cars?
  • why do philosopher's think they can put philosophy at the top of the list?
  • Example of Phil Saltman
  • Cahn and Vitrano's answer: p. 21.


Vitrano, The Subjectivity of Happiness

  • starts with statement of the "objectivist view" of happiness, especially from Aristotle: happiness is objectively related to moral and prudential goodness, "living well" and "doing well"
  • objectivists limit happiness to those who can develop their capacities and talents.
  • subjectivists: "satisfaction criterion" (note: an objectivist can still require that one also be satisfied with one's life)
  • modified objectivism:
  • Warner: satisfaction, but also of "important desires" that are thought "worthwhile". Simpson adds that the desires must actually be worthwhile.
  • Annas: strong still. We can assess our desires and goals objectively.
  • Kekes: we can assess whether someone's satisfaction is warranted.
  • Nozick: can't call someone happy if their emotions are unjustified and based on fase evoluations
  • Counterarguments to the objectivists:
  • Case of Jane, who is happy in part because of her marriage, which she considers a success, but wrong about that because her husband is having an affair.
  • might want to say that Jane would be "better off" knowing the truth, but then happiness and being "better off" are at odds, which is a problem for an objectivist who things happiness is the "best" state.
  • second, to the extent that happiness is an emotion, we will have to credit the experience of the emotion as a form of fulfillment of the state.
  • Other considerations supporting a subjectivist view:
  • satisfaction criterion compatible with improvement. Someone can be happy and satisfied and yet they might still be happy if they made better moral and prudential decisions.
  • therefore, subjectivism and appraisal are not incompatible.
  • subjectivists explain behavior better.
  • people actually behaves as though happiness were one among many goals.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book I

Aristotle on happiness (based on Book 1 of Nichomachean Ethics)

  • analogy of political arts and individual function: happiness comes up in each case
  • sec. 5: types of lives compared
  • Finality of happiness: Section 7: connected with search for "function of man"
  • Function of Man, Section 7: (connect with section 13): this is an important section.
  • read carefully, the paragraph beginning "Presumably, ..." for Aristotle's idea of the "life of the rational element", part of understanding virtue as the sorts of "excellences" that comes from our rational being. Need a complete life.
  • The need for external goods (end of section 8) and training in the pursuit of happiness

Group work: Evaluate Aristotle's theory? To what extent is happiness tied to our nature and what can we say about our nature?

Some criticisms

  • Problem of external goods.
  • Connection between end of man and finality of happiness.
  • Nobility vs. Happiness
  • The Moving Targets Problem
  • Do we even have a "function"? Just one?
  • Is there more than one kind of happiness? Why prefer H(L)?

SEP 10

Haidt, "Chapter 5: The Pursuit of Happiness"

(gloss on "elephant" vs. "rider")

  • Major theme -- happiness as internal or external pursuit.
  • About pleasure....
  • diminishes on repeat...
  • pre-goal attainment positive affect (Davidson)
  • Buddha and Epictetus take a relatively "internal" path. Haidt suggests research shows this to be somewhat extreme direction to go -- there are things to strive for outside of yourself,
  • Progress Principle: happiness in the journey -- "Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing."
  • Haidt's list of happiness makers and unmakers(correlates and major causes)
  • Adaptation (habituation, also relative sensitivity to change -- nb. bottom of p. 85), hedonic treadmill, set point theory,
  • Bob and Mary comparison (87): relationship, meaningfulness. Bob's list more susceptible to adaptation. (Note some initial complications: Does marriage make people happy or do happy people marry? wealth effects (good topic for research paper).
  • Note theoretical problem: 90's findings on happiness supported genetic connection (or set point phenomenon) but not so much an environmental one (we adapt).
  • Happiness Formula
  • H = Set point + Conditions + Voluntary action
  • understanding lack of adaptation for cosmetic surgery. what's shallow vs. what matters.
  • from 92f: Noise, Commuting, Lack of Control, Shame, Relationships,
  • "It is vain to say that human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it." (Charlotte Bronte, 1847) (he implies, but incorrectly, that the inward path to happiness involves a choice of inaction.)
  • Flow (experience sampling) and Seligman's "Pleasures" vs. "Gratifications"; Strengths test www.authentichappiness.org,

Working against your happiness

  • False hypotheses about material goods.
  • Comparisons and biases. Conspicuous consumption is a zero sum game.
  • Schwartz maximizers and satisficers.
    • Note concluding reflection: What are we to make of the Calcutta reports?

SEP 15

Schimmack, "The Structure of SWB"

  • Section 1: Structure of Cognitive Well-Being: Relationships among LS and DS and within Domains of DS
  • Review basic diagram on p. 98.
  • bottom up vs. top down -- see conclusion at 107.
  • 1. Sig effect of domain importance on DS-LS correlation. (LS more sig in imp. domains like family, AND DS-DS correlation stronger with imp. domains)
  • 2. Effect of objective domain characteristics (domain importance)
  • 3.
  • problems of measurement -- "shared method variance" (see wiki on "common method variance"
  • more sophisticated model -- domain importance
  • Research Question: What could explain variance in LS besides DS?
  • Positive illusions - self-evaluative bias. note method of study. strong correlation with LS. but weak support for top down.
  • Money - income moderate predictor of DS in financial area, Financial satisfaction strong predictor of LS.
  • "direct evidence" of bottom up theory -- if people are thinking of important domains while assessing LS, then. ... 107
  • Section 2: Structure of Affective Well-Being: What explains independence of PA and NA? Are they really independent?
  • structural - imp. research by Diener, Smith, and Fujita (p. 109) verify independence, crit. Bradburn.
  • causal - maybe neuroticism drives NA and extraversion drives PA? Note Conclusion at p. 114.
  • momentary - 114: "PA and NA can be independent over extended time periods, even if they are fully dependent at each moment. "It. For example, even if love and hate were mutually exclusive at one moment in time, some individuals could experience more love and more hate over extended periods of time than others (Bradbum, 1969; Schimmack & Diener, 1997).
  • Section 3: Relationship of Cognitive and Affective Well-Being
  • high correlation, but also highly variable in studies
  • explaining the correlation: people access information about PA/NA differently in making LS judgement, also cultural variation. Correlation stronger in West, dev. countries r=.57 than East r=.22).
  • other researchers (117) rely on external factors to explain PA and then an indirect influence on LS.

SEP 17

Haidt, "The Divided Self"

  • metaphors from Plato and Buddha. Training metaphor in both. Plato's horses: rational and irrational desire. H's: elephant and rider.
  • Freud: ego, id, superego.
  • discusses a number of preliminary distinctions:
  • Mind vs. Body - gut brain. neurons all over. GI and immune system illnesses intersect with psychological conditions such as stress and depression.
  • Left vs. Right -Michael Gazzaniga, collected evidence on split brain patients (severing corpus collasum to reduce seizures), controlled experiments with patients report of l/r brain function. split brains in everyday life... Why does this matter if you don't have a split brain??? "confabulation" - implications for our picture of csness.
  • New vs. Old -neo-cortex and frontal cortex recent - case of U VA schoolteacher in his forties who starts acting weird - massive tumor in frontal cortex. (Phineas Gage) -- moment of appreciation for the orbitofrontal cortex.
  • Controlled vs. Automatic - priming example, 13.
  • Two Big examples of phenomena that arise from these structures and features of the brain.
  • Failures of self control 18: Mischel and Impulse control [1] 19: Wegner on ironic processes (don't think of a white bear). point: shows automatic and controlled processes at odds.
  • Disgust 21: disgust - incest scenario -
  • 22 q. statement about rider and elephant. "We make pronouncements, vows, and resolutions, and then are surprised by our own powerlessness to carry them out. We sometimes fall into the view that we are fighting with our unconscious, our id, or our animal self. But really we are the whole thing. We are the rider, and we are the elephant. Both have their strengths and special skills."

SEP 22

Arglyle, "Causes and Correlates of Happiness"

  • Age
  • Education
  • Social Status
  • Income
  • Marriage
  • Ethnicity
  • Employment
  • Leisure
  • Religion
  • Life Events

Synopsis by major factor:

  • Age
  • The older are slightly happier, notably in positive affect. Some evidence that women become less happy with age. In assessing causality, we might need to acknowledge a cohort effect (older people are those who survive, hence not nec. representative of a sampling of all age groups). Older people are less satisfied than others with their future prospects.
  • Old people could have lower expectations, and hence their greater self-reported happiness might not be comparable to a younger person's self-reported happiness. (Consider Cantril's study that found older people more satisfied with past and current lives (less with future).)
  • Puzzle: objective conditions are worse for old people (health, depression and loneliness!), yet they are more satisfied. (Neural degeneration has got to be on the table as a hypothesis.) Actually, declining aspirations, "environmental mastery", and autonomy increases might help explain this. Also, old people participate in their religion more. A boost.
  • Education
  • The educated are slightly happier (on PA, not reduced NA). Effect weak in US. Data suggest the education effect is greater in poorer countries. Control for income and job status effects and there is still a slight effect from education. [From personal achievement?] But income and job status account for most of the education effect.
  • Social Status
  • About twice the effect of education or age (could be seeing combined effect of both), but half of the effect is from job status. Greater effect for stratified societies. [Comment on being a professor in Italy, for example.]
  • Note 356: social class predicts a big bundle of goods that also have measureable happiness effects: housing, relationships, and leisure. Also, diff classes DO different things.

  • Income
  • Average correlation of .17 across studies. See chart on p. 356 -- curvilinear, with slight upward tail at highest incomes. (intriguing)
  • Steep relation of income from poverty to material sufficiency.
  • Diener found a stronger correlation when using multiple income measures (such and GNP, purcasing power indexes, etc.)
  • Bradburn pay raise studies in '69. Inglehart studies in 90's: people who say their $ situation improved also report high satisfaction.
  • Famous Myers and Diener 1996 study: "In the United States, average personal income has risen from $4,000 in 1970 to $16,000 in 1990 (in 1990 dollars), but there has been no change in average happiness or satisfaction." Some evidence that happiness is sensitive to economic downturns (Belgium), some evidence of variation in strength of effect across culture.
  • Lottery winner studies may not be a good way to test income effects since you get lots of disruptions with winning the lottery.
  • Cluster effect with income: Income comes with host of other goods: p. 358.
  • Comparison groups and relative changes may be stronger than absolute income levels. (Note "pay fairness" increases income satisfaction. Gonzaga note.) Women's pay (358).
  • Michalo's "goal achievement gap model" p. 358: "whereby happiness is said to be due to the gap between aspirations and achievements and this gap is due to comparisons with both "average folks" and one's own past life (see figure 18.3).
Other Resources:
  • Kahneman and Deaton, "High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being"
  • Graham, et. al, "The Easterlin Paradox and Other Paradoxes: Why both sides of the Debate May be Correct"
  • Marriage
  • Average effect from meta-analysis of .14. Stronger effects for young. Does more for women than men, though stronger effect on male health.
  • Causal model: Married people have higher social well being indicators (mental and physical health). These indicators are independent factors for happiness. Marriage is a source of emotional and material support. Married people just take better care of themselves. Men might benefit from emotional support more since women provide that to male spouses more than males? (differently?)
  • Effects of marriage has a life-stage dimension to them. (figure 18.4) Having children has a small effect.
  • Reverse causation is a consideration, but hard to support since 90% of people get married.
  • Good example in this section of distinguishing between correlational data and causal discussion.
  • Construct for marriage: strong social and emotional support, material help, companionship.
  • Might be interesting to look at research comparing marriage to other types of social support systems.
  • Ethnicity
  • Widely confirmed studies show that average happiness for US African Americans is lower than for US whites.
  • Mostly accounted for by income, education, and job status.
  • Interestingly, African American children enjoy higher self-esteem than white kids.
  • Employment
  • Studies of unemployed and retired help isolate effects.
  • Unemployed sig less happy: "The unemployed in nearly all countries are much less happy than those at work. Inglehart (1990) found that 61 percent of the unemployed were satisfied, compared with 78 percent of manual workers."
  • Strong effects when unemployment is low; different ways of looking at employment effects (363).
  • Causal model: income and self-esteem account for most of effect.
  • Leisure
  • Relatively strong correlation: .2 in meta-studies.
  • Leisure effects observed in lots of contexts (social relations from work, adolescent leisure habits, even a short walk. Sport and exercise include both social effects and release of endorphins.
  • Flow is a factor. Comparisons of high engagement and high apathy (tv) leisure activities.
  • TV watching as a leisure activity. Predicted low SWB, but has some positive effects. Soap opera watchers!
  • Volunteer and charity work were found to generate high levels of joy, exceeded only by dancing!
  • Religion
  • The strength of religion on happiness is positive, sensitive to church attendance, strength of commitment, related to meaningfulness and sense of purpose (an independent variable). Overall modest effect, but stronger for those more involved in their church. note demographic factors: single, old, sick benefit most from religious participation. US effect stronger.
  • Reverse causation: Are happier people more likely to be religious?
  • Causal model: Religion works through social support, increasing esteem and meaningfulness.
  • Kirpatrick 1992 study: self-reported relationship with God has similar effects as other relationships.
  • Life events and activities (especially on affect)
  • "' A study in five Eu European countries found that the main causes of joy were said to be relationships with friends, the basic pleasures of food, drink, and sex, and success experiences (Scherer etal. 1986)."..."Frequency of sexual intercourse also correlates with happiness, as does satisfaction with sex life, being in love, and frequency of interaction with spouse, but having liberal sexual attitudes has a negative relationship." "...alcohol, in modest doses, has the greatest effects on positive mood."
  • Competencies -- Some other factors or attributes that might be causal. For young women, attractiveness. Height in men. health (with causation in both directions).
  • Note policy point: This article is from early days in the policy discussion. But the basic point has been the same: Why do we put so much emphasis on increasing GDP is happiness is affected by so many other things?

SEP 24

Peerceptiv Assignment

Prompt: Suppose someone were to say to you that happiness is too subjective a phenomenon to have knowledge about. How would you reply? Write a two page (double spaced) reply. Be sure to include some analysis of "subjective" and a clear position.

Turn in on Peerceptive by Sunday night, the 27th, 11:30 pm.

Diener and Suh, "National Differences in SWB"

  • With this article, income is once again highlighted as a factor, but now in the context of cross nation comparisons. The major issue here is, "How does culture and national grouping interact with perceptions and judgements of happiness? (Note problem of relation of national borders to tribe, ethnicity, and region.)
  • Methodological Difficulties:

1. Measurement Issues

  • Wealth is clustered with other factors that predict H, such as rights, equality, fulfillment of needs, and individualism.
  • Transnational similarities (p. 435, in all nations most people are happy) might reflect some tendency to for judgements to be group-relative.
  • General validity concerns about self reports are offset by research using multiple measures.
  • Example of Russian / US student comparison, 437, west/east berliners -- memory bias effects?

2. Are nations meaningful units of analysis? Nationality predicts SWB in general and in sub groups (gender/age).

3. Scale structure invariance -- non-technical version: what if the terms used in happiness surveys have different "weights" or relationships with each other and with happiness? Some evidence of scale invariance. (Note that a validated construct, such as LS/PA+NA, might be the basis for showing scale invariance.

  • After accounting for measurement and methodological issues, there are real and substantive differences in well-being across nations. While wealthier nations are generally happier, there are complexities to the causal model. National income correlates with non-economic goods such as rights, equality, fulfillment of basic needs, and individualism (list at 439). These factors have effects on both SWB and income that have not been isolated. (at 441: real ambiguity about causal paths in this analysis: is it wealth or the correlates of wealth that are causal for happiness.
  • Some details: .69 correlate between purchasing power and LS-SWB, lower, but sig. correlations with affect.
  • Individualism correlates with higher reported SWB, but also higher suicide rates. Collectivists may be working with a different model of happiness or just a different attitude about its importance. (Carol Graham, Happiness Around the World, is the main successor research that I'm aware of. 1999 vs. 2009). Individualism is linked with wealth, so hard to separate effects. Note specific differences in valuation between individualist vs. collectivist culture. (442)
  • Some non-correlates: homogeneity, population density.
Different models for explaining cultural differences are presented:
  1. innate needs approach, Veenhoven, explains lack of growth in SWB in rich countries.
  2. theory of goal striving, SWB relative to goal pursuits, which are different between rich and poor nations.
  3. models of emotional socialization, different cultures/nations social young to affect in different ways.
  4. genetic explanations.

SEP 29

Some Dates

"The Stoic Worldview"

Theology & Ontology -
  • pantheism -- theos - (pneuma) - matter.
  • ontology - All is corporeal, yet pneuma distinguishes life and force from dead matter.
Determinism and Freedom - Ench #1
Pneuma, Psyche, and Hegimonikon: Importance of Hegemonikon
Model of Growth and Development toward Sagehood & Wisdom - Soul-training

Late Stoicism: Epictetus

Key Idea: To realize our rational nature (and the freedom, joy and, really, connection to the divine, that only rational being can know), we need to adjust our thinking about our lives to what we know about reality.

Some passages that define the practical philosophy which follows from the metaphysics and this principle:

  • Notice the "re-orientation" which is recommended in #1 and #2. "confine your aversions"
  • "Some things are in our control and others are not."
  • "Confine your aversion" and understand the limits of things. (Sounds like an “aversion” retraining program based on knowledge claims.)
  • Infamous #3. Read with #7, #8, and #14, in case we’re being too subtle. "confine your attractions"
  • Something like mindfulness, #4
  • Limits of pride. Catching the mind exaggerating.
  • Desire: #15,
  • Comportment and advice in later points of the enchiridion.
  • alignment: 8
  • awareness of change: 11
  • observing asymmetries: 26
  • importance of commitment
  • note specific advice in 33, 34, 35. "measure" in 39, read 41. 43

Small Group Prompt

  • Revisit the most difficult parts of stoic moral psychology. For example, consider Stoic teaching on attachment to loved ones. What is the best way to make a criticism of Stoic teaching in this area. How might a stoic defend him/herself?

Hypotheses on Stoic Happiness

1. A Happiness you deserve ---
2. Happiness is a further goal from virtue.
3. Virtue is a means to happiness. (in common with Epicurus) (#12 and #13 - If you want to improve...)
4. Stoic joy is real happiness.
5. Stoicism is a council of wisdom, not happiness.


Hellenistic Hedonism: Epicurus -- Letter to Menoeceus and Principal Doctrine

  • Key Idea: Pleasure is the Good ("Alpha and Omega of a happy life." - Letter)
  • accepts reality of gods, but thinks it's human error to think that the gods bestow blessings and punishments.
  • "For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid to rest"
  • "They have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it."
  • "Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet."
  • tetrapharmakos:
  • 1. Don't fear gods.
  • 2. Death is nothing. - note his arguments here and the similar in method to stoicism - need to live the awareness.
  • 3. What is good is easy to get.
  • 4. What is evil is easy to endure.
  • Why not worry about the Gods?
  • Why not worry about death?
  • Classification of desire: p. 2 - natural/groundless, necessary/not necessary. tranquility, reduction in NA primary goals.
  • Plain fare (Letter); PD 8ff: analysis of pleasure -- What is Epicurus psychology of desire? What psychology of desire would be compatible with Epicurus?
  • PD 5: Relation of virtue to pleasure
  • PD 18: close to adaptation.
  • PD 25: something akin to mindfulness.
  • PD 27-8: priority of friendship.

Small group exercise on Hedonism

  • Evaluate Epicurus' theory of desire/pleasure.
  • What heightens pleasure?
  • What ruins pleasure?
  • What pleasures are most worth pursuing?

Article on Epicurus' concept of pleasure Epicurus_on_Pleasure_and_the_Complete_Life


Note on Method

Irivne's work gives a good example of mixing two techniques: critiquing and "saving" a theory. When you "save" a theory from a criticism, you try to figure out, among other things, what the theory is really committed to and which parts of the theory are optional or could be revised.

William Irvine, Chapter 4, "Negative Visualization"

  • from p. 82: "To practice negative visualization is to contemplate the impermanence of the world around you."
  • Reasons for contemplating bad things: prevention, diminish effect, reverse adaptation.
  • Adaptation: wants to reverse it. "creating a desire in us for the things we already have" 67-68. Two fathers thought experiment. (also gratitude.)
  • Contemplation of our own death: stimulus to robust hedonism or thoughtful appreciation?
  • Sources of evidence: children (whose experience is too new to have adapted deeply), people who survive disasters (catastrophe-induced transformation). Negative visualization doesn't have the drawbacks of catastrophe induced transformation.
  • 77: connects neg. vis. to giving thanks: example of saying grace. (Note that Fortune and God play similar roles here.)
  • Objections: recall that neg. vis. is not a persistent meditation. p. 81: Doesn't this heighten loss? response: the two fathers again (81)

William Irvine, Chapter 5, "The Trichotomy of Control"

  • Some things up us, some things aren't.
  • Internal strategy: changing ourselves. Desire not to be frustrated by future desires. [Problem: Stoicism seems to counsel a withdrawl or low goal setting.]
  • Irvine's critique of dichotomy: ambiguity -- total or partial control. [Note on philosophical method.]
  • Critique of stoic claim that we have complete control of desires, and aversions. Tennis match example (88). Casino example: Epictetus wrong to include desire as something completely internal.
  • Claims: We do have complete control over goals, opinion, and character.
  • 94: response to "Stoicism is a 'withdrawl from life' philosophy" and that a Stoic would avoid attachment (96)
  • Should you want to win the tennis match, as a Stoic? internal/externally expressed goals. 96-97.
  • Problem of Stoic cosmopolitanism: Why would a stoic set goals that would threaten his/her tranquility? Small group question: Does the trichotomy of control and internal goal setting solve the problem?


Different ways of thinking about subjectivity in happiness

  • Vitrano's satisfaction critierion.
  • Phenomenon of self-reflection. We are affected by our own ideas of things, not just by the things themselves. Some of this "auto-affection" is researchable as distortion and bias, some of it as identity and culture.

Darrin McMahon, Chapter 2, Perpetual Felicity

  • Note time period being covered: 0-500 ad Roman - Christian culture
  • Roman culture of happiness: propsperity, fertility, power, luck. Also images of simplicity.
  • "Horatian" images of happiness: Carpe Diem, read p. 72, note M's hypothesis: idyllic imagery a response to urban decadence and disorder. also contains an element of fantasy of plenty, of a "cornucopia". note critical element in Horace: p. 74: finds that the wealth of Roman culture may have undermined happiness.
  • Early Christian Model of Happiness: 76-77: "worship of sorrow", major symbol about execution, but...blessed, beatitude, makarios (Greek). -- radical inversion of classical and Roman thought. To be happy is to walk in the way of the Lord.
  • Judaic culture of happiness/blessedness term: Asher -- note how terms and concepts from Hellenic/Judaic/Roman cultures are being mixed. Happiness model as a path or program of formation. (cf. East/West) Beatitudes from Matthew, p. 82. change in role of suffering Judaic to Christian...
  • Story of Perpetua and Felicitas (150ad). Martyrdom and Happiness.
  • Transitions in Christian thought on happiness after Early Christianity: Augustine, Pseudo-Dyonisius, Aquinas
  • Augustine, 96: personal history, symbol of Christian critique of pagan conception, yet also assimilation of Hellenic culture. "To be happy is to be suffused with truth, to 'have God within the soul," to "enjoy God". Note the big development here: positive happiness as a state of Christian joy. Also, Augustine makes the argument that the classical model fails to deliver this sort of happiness. City of God: explaining sacking of Rome, but also a model. Also, an articulation of the doctrine of original sin. need for grace in salvation. Pelagian controversy. Note summary at 105.
  • John the Scot (Eriugena) 847 ad, problem: how do we return to God from our exile? new articulation of free will (note importance to later history of happiness). rediscovers Pseudo-Dionysius, falsely thought to be contemporary of Paul (who mentions a Dionysius): Erugena's Dionysius was really a 6th century Syrian influenced by neoplatonism. mystical traditions both pagan (Plotinus) and christian (desert fathers)113. Great example of the fusion of classical and Christian thought. Platonic, Neo-Platonic, and Christian. Mystical bliss as a higher form of happiness.
  • Aquinas distinction between perfect and imperfect happiness. Idea of order of creation, ladder of being. (Ladders everywhere. Also a version in Plato's divided line.) Humans on top among mortal creatures. (need to appreciate how "hot" Aristotle was in 13th century Paris, among university students! some concerns for the church: condemnation of theses including the idea of happiness here.) Fusion with Aristotlean conception of nature, to an extent. note p. 126. connects Aristotle's ideal of contemplation to Christian spirituality.

OCT 13

Methodological Moment: Multiples frames for studying happiness

  • This is a good moment to notice how many distinct frames of reference we have going now for thinking about happiness: ::*philosophical traditions,
  • religion,
  • historical development of cultural ideas of happiness,
  • cross cultural comparison of meaning and levels of happiness, and of course
  • individual psychological constructs (Hs / Hl; PA/NA)
  • Important to see how these frames of reference each have critical theoretical questions, but also practical questions associated with them. (give examples)

McMahon, Chapter 3: From Heaven to Earth (Renaissance & Reformation)

  • Contemptus Mundi: 13th-15th century: characteristics.
  • Contrast with Renaissance Humanism:
  • Pico: 1463. Oration on Dignity of Man. key ideas: protean character of man. read quote on 144. 146: still traditional model (in line with Aquinas' dist.)
  • Renaissance Neo-platonism 151: vertical path to happiness.
  • Bronzino's Allegory of Happiness -- connection to earthly happiness evident.
  • Lorenzo Valla's On Pleasure -- connecting epicureanism to a Christian life. Note biographical detail.
  • Emerging Images and Ideas: 15th-16th centuries
  • Felicitas
  • Smiles -- also, Mona Lisa, early 1500's
  • Melancholy as disease: expressed in theory of humours;
  • Lorenzo Valla: unmasks claims about Dionysius the Areopagite from Acts, with it, undermining authority of mystical otherworldly current of thought.
  • Thomas More and the concept of "utopia" - new idea. "eu" from "eudaimonia" (flourishing, happiness for Aristotle)
  • Reformation
  • Martin Luther and happiness: letter, ok to be happy, salvation by faith, Short work in groups: summarize to each other the key model of faith and happiness in Luther's thought. pp. 164-175.
  • Calvin
  • Locke, late 17th century. tabula rasa, nb. 180. Mind is impressed upon by experience and nature. Has its own imperatives. Note what is left out: original sin. Reassertion of happiness as driver of desire. Note enlightenment model of reasonableness of christianity here. Roughly: Reason discovers our happiness and God, as its author, wants this for us. Letter on Toleration very important for construction of modern model of self. Note context of religious wars. [European Wars of Religion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_wars_of_religion]
  • Hobbes: we are governed by desire continuously.

Discussion of the period

1. Does knowing this history help inform our conception of the modern "european" pursuit of happiness?

2. Does knowing this history is any way undermine our sense of the naturalness of the modern pursuit of happiness?

OCT 15

Some General Points on Yoga

  • samadhi - the goal of the spiritual practice of yoga; ecstasy, union; a mystical experience of enlightenment. mention connection to wisdom.
  • Yoga, defined in various ways, also in relation to Vedanta narrative. dualism and monism in yogic thought.
  • 3 periods pre-classical (or Vedanta), classical (Patanjali 2nd cent. CE), and post-classical (ex. Shankara, 8th cent). Important that Patanjali's period represents a dualist approach. Purusa / Prakrati. Spirit / Nature, roughly.
  • Teacher/disciple model.
  • Yoga is infused in multiple traditions: Hindu, Buddhist, and its own. Meditative figures on coins from 3,000 bc. Rig Veda has image of a yogi who, by achieving physical control through asanas (poses) and physical austerities (fasting, meditation, etc.) achieves access to a "deeper realm" of insights about reality.
  • Yoga in Bhagvad Gita (Miller 10): Arjuna, warrior, locked in battle with his own kin. Important conversation with Krishna. (Pre-classical) Like Homeric, Yoga has a history in warrior culture and warrior ethos (duty). (mention Antigone)

Miller, Yoga: Discipline of Freedom, Introduction

  • This is an introduction to her edition / translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
  • "The aim of yoga is to eliminate the control that material nature exerts over the human spirit, to rediscover through introspective practice what the poet T. S. Eliot called the "still point of the turning world." " This is a state of perfect equilibrium and absolute spiritual calm, an interior refuge in the chaos of worldly existence. In the view of Patanjali, yogic practice can break habitual ways of thinking and acting that bind one to the corruptions of everyday life."
  • basic analysis found in the "paradoxical nnature of memory and thought itself" -- Our minds get us into trouble.
  • solitude and turning away from the world are only stages and strategies. not a renunciation philosophy.
  • Yoga is, fundamentally, an individual spiritual program. q. p 4 (ties in with meaning of "yoga" - spiritual yoke; discipline, but also integration of forces, like a yoke.
  • From Samkhya dualism: everything is a mix of prakrati and purusa.
  • The Three Gunas (13): Lucidity (sattva), Passion (rajas), and inertia (tamas).
  • The psychology of Patanjali's yoga: follow Miller's discussion of thought proces (17) (citta), "tyranny of uncontrollable thought," reducing thought "traces" or "seeds". goal to make thought "invulnerable" to the chaos of mental and physical stimuli. to do that, we need to attend to how the mind produces desire, anger and delusion.
  • In Patanjali:
  • First, there's a process of "unenlightenment" -- Purusa becomes bound to prakrati. Enlightenment is about undoing the this entanglement. (Note again connection with Buddhism). q. p. 19: Ignorance...
  • 1st Small group discussion activity:
  • Look for and share experiences you have had that might be examples of the kind of untanglement and amplification of thought and emotion that Patanjali was thinking about when he suggested we pursue "seedless" thought. In what circumstances do you find that thought "feeds on itself" or becomes persistent. How does social psychology and phenomena such as gossip create such situations?

Donna Farhi, "Cleaning up Our Act: The Four Brahmavihara

  • Five Kleshas in Patanjali:
  • 1. Avidha: Ignorance of our eternal nature
  • 2. Asmita: Seeing oneself as separate and divided from the rest ofthe world
  • 3. Raga: Attraction and attachment to impermanent things
  • 4. Dvesha: Aversion to the unpleasant
  • 5. Abhinivesha: Clinging to life because we fail to perceive the seamless continuity of consciousness, which cannot be broken by death (Yoga-Sutra 13)
  • Note that the first two have to do with identity and the last three with desire. Maybe there's a connection between how I'm thinking about myself (as a self) and my ability to manage desire?
  • Ashtanga Yoga -- eight fold program (from wikipedia):
Sanskrit English
Yama moral codes
Niyama self-purification and study
Asana posture
Pranayama breath control
Pratyahara sense control
Dharana intention
Dhyana meditation
Samadhi contemplation

  • The Brahmavihara are four attitudes Patanjali recommends developing:
  • 1. Friendliness toward the joyful
  • 2. Compassion for those who are suffering
  • 3. Celebrating the good in others
  • 4. Remaining impartial to the faults and imperfections of others(Yoga-Sutra 1.33)
  • Notes on Brahmivihara:
  • Note Fahri's more "social" focus. The first three Brahmavihara take us outside of ourselves.
  • Compassion might involve the obvious, but also note leaving people "invisible" - reaching out. also "loving-kindness" meditation.
  • 3: cultivating a habit of spontaneous appreciate, noticing (and working on) any jealousy effects.
  • 4: note the "costs" of having an enemy. overcoming the need to fix situations.

Additional Quote on Goal of Yoga

from T. S. Rumani, " Samkhya-Yoga," Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

  • 2nd small group discussion question
  • Does making yourself calm and lucid in the way that yogics advocate entail being less active in your life? What sorts of activity

Introduction to Yoga Practicum

We'll save 10 minutes at the end of class for those interested in hearing about the yoga practicum.

OCT 20

Introduction to Buddhism (from wikipedia)

  • The Four Noble Truths
1 There is suffering.
2 There is the origination of suffering: suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes.
3 There is the cessation of suffering: all future suffering can be prevented by becoming aware of our ignorance and undoing the effects of it.
4 There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
8 fold path. (see above and in Feuerstein.)

Division Eightfold Path factors
Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā) 1. Right view
2. Right intention
Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: sīla) 3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
Concentration (Sanskrit and Pāli: samādhi) 6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration
- from wikipedia.

Introduction to Buddhism (Siderits, Chapter 2, "Early Buddhism: Basic Teachings")

  • Background on Buddha
  • note heterodoxy, intro/dev karmic theory (and theory of liberation from rebirth), moral teaching ind. of focus on ritual and deities.
  • consensus on "moksa" as goal of enlightenment. Buddha's teaching one of many.
  • Siderits presents sramanas as critical and questioning of heterodoxy.
Two background concepts (not directly in this text)
  • Distinction between conventional and ultimate reality -- as relates to the doctrine of "no-self"
  • Nature of "moral causation" -- fundamental to thinking about karma
  • The Four Noble Truths
1 There is suffering.
1. Normal pain. Decay, disease, death. (Flip to Pali Canon, p. 51)
2. Suffering from ignorance of impermanence. Including ignorance of no-self. Suffering from getting what you want or don't want.
3. Suffering from conditions. "Existential Suffering" Rebirth itself is a form of suffering. (So belief in rebirth doesn't solve the problem of suffering in one life. 21: Rebirth entails re-death.)
2 There is the origination of suffering: suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes.
Theory of Dependent Origination: Note the chain of causal connection ("Engine of Reincarnation") advanced on p. 22 of Siderits: ignorance ultimately causes suffering, but the intermediate steps are important. Let's give a psychological reading of this metaphysical chain of causation. (compare to Pali Canon, p. 52)
3 There is the cessation of suffering: all future suffering can be prevented by becoming aware of our ignorance and undoing the effects of it. "It is the utter cessation and extinction of that craving, its renunciation, its forsaking, release from it, and non-attachment to it." (from Pali Canon reading)
4 There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
8 fold path. importance of meditation (p. 24) -- negative states of mind have causal consequences. philosophy needed to work with the ideas and moments of self-reflectiveness that meditation generates. (25)

  • Cessation of suffering: meditation, (non)self-discovery.
  • Need to assess this recommended "training program" more in light of Discourse on Mindfulness and the Eight Fold path (See wiki page Noble Eight Fold Path)
  • Note discussion of meditation, p. 25. Basic theory for mindfulness meditation exercise.
  • Liberation
  • rejection of presentism (claim that key to insight to get used to impermanence) and annihilationism as models for liberation.
  • paradox of liberation: how can you desire liberation if liberation requires relinguishment of desire. Possible solution: to desire the end of suffering.
  • Problem following the consequences of "non-self": Buddhist maxim: "Act always as if the future of the Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference."

Pali Canon, Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness

  • "Mindfulness is also the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. By developing mindfulness, a person first observes the various aspects of one's being,then learns to control the mind and its reactions to external and internal stimuli."
  • Basic goals of meditation: cultivation of awareness and "control" of sense and feeling. (Control: quieting, not being at the mercy of psychological processes and processes of desire.) How does meditation do that? notes 44-
  • Four foundations of mindfulness, five aggregates of attachement, six bases of sense, seven factors of enlightenment, four noble truths (51),
  • Some Points:
  • Mindfulness not disconnection from environment, but intense connection.
  • Note use of lists and repetition. inventories.
  • Note "joy and happiness born of detachment" 57

Introduction to self-guided mindfulness meditation

  • Read wiki page: [Meditation Exercises]
  • Goal is to experience a psychological "meditation effect," often in 3rd week. Characteristics. Psychological process.
  • Time, Place, Seating and Environment
  • Initial challenges
  • Maintaining comfortable alertness
  • Working with mental content: problem of thought suppression.
  • Techniques for dissipating mental content: visualizations, returning to breath, optical effects
  • 2nd to 4th week goals. Noticing changes in mental state (if any) pre post meditation. Noticing differences between different meditation experiences. Noticing changes in interaction with others, mood, or affect within hours of meditation.

OCT 22

  • Midterm Exam

OCT 27

Matthieu Ricard, Chs. 6&7: Alchemy of Suffering and Veils of the Ego

Chapter Six: Alchemy of Suffering (Modern version of 4 noble truths)

  • Shortest history of the kingdom: "They Suffer"
  • Pervasive suffering -- from growth and development
  • Suffering of Change -- from illusion of permanence.
  • Multiplicity of Suffering -- suffering from awareness of the many ways things can go wrong.
  • Hidden Suffering -- anxiousness about hidden dangers
  • Sources of Suffering -- self-centeredness, our unhappiness is caused, 4 Noble Truths.
  • Buddhist story of woman distraught over loss, sent by Buddha to gather dirt from all houses without loss.
  • Note 67: parallel story as in stoicism.
  • brings in a dash of attachment theory 69-71.
  • Methods for responding to suffering -- meditation, use of mental imagery.
  • Some themes of a modern (scientifically oriented) Buddhist explication of the 4 Noble Truths:
  • Causal attitude toward suffering at the psychological more than metaphysical level. 65, 67; use of neurology to understand pain and related phen. 73
  • Positive aspects of suffering 71 -- suffering can be productive for spiritual dev.
  • Mental imagery in ancient and modern Buddhist practice; use of meditation in management of tendencies of ego. (Note to meditators. Use visualization to re-center and avoid the dynamics of conscious thought suppression.)
  • Use in stimulating positive and prosocial emotions: compassion, empathy. (anecdotal story)
  • Note the emphasis on conscious use of methods that get at pre-conscious expression of emotion. The emotions are the "scene" for progress, not just a matter of rational control of emotions. more of a training model.

Chapter Seven: Veils of the Ego (modern version of "no self" doctrine)

  • Ego as a fear reaction to the world. reread 80. (Is it? Is this too strong? or wrong? note subclaim 83, note dispositions) consider evidence from everyday life: Children, social situations with peers. Needs to maintain the self in equilibrium with social reality, not just physical reality.
  • Observing the ego at work: example of physical and moral pain, 84. example of the vase, the asymmetry of our response is a clue.
  • Problem: How can I live without an ego? R's response: true self-confidence is ego-less.
  • Cites Paul Ekman's studies of emotionally exceptional people. ego-less and joyful
  • psychopaths, on the other hand, have huge egos.
  • The Deceptive Ego: Gives brief account of the illusion of self. What is the best way think about our experience of "self" from a scientific and Buddhist point of view? Between a past and future that don't exist? 90: self a name we give to a continuum.
  • Attitude toward ultimate reality of things. 93

Short Critical Response Assignment

  • Optional one paragraph assignment. Responding to Ricard, write a short paragraph (200 words or less), addressing the question, "Is egolessness a good strategy for happiness? Use the google form, "Short Critical Response" and your grade pseudonym. If you are unsure of your grade pseudonym or want to change it, just submit another one using "Report your pseudonym." Due by midnight tonight. Guaranteed 5 points, maximum of 8.

OCT 29

Random Food Discovery and Food News

  • Along the way, Spence has found that a strawberry-flavored mousse tastes ten per cent sweeter when served from a white container rather than a black one; that coffee tastes nearly twice as intense but only two-thirds as sweet when it is drunk from a white mug rather than a clear glass one; that adding two and a half ounces to the weight of a plastic yogurt container makes the yogurt seem about twenty-five per cent more filling, and that bittersweet toffee tastes ten per cent more bitter if it is eaten while you’re listening to low-pitched music. This year alone, Spence has submitted papers showing that a cookie seems harder and crunchier when served from a surface that has been sandpapered to a rough finish, and that Colombian and British shoppers are twice as willing to choose a juice whose label features a concave, smile-like line rather than a convex, frown-like one. (From an article in this week's Food Issue of NYer.)

Fred Bryant, Savoring, Chapter 1, Concepts of Savoring: An Introduction

  • Savoring: capacity to attend to, appreciate and enhance positive experiences. (Note newness of research.)
  • Important distinction between the process of coping/savoring and the outcome lower NA/higher PA.
  • Relating to coping research.
  • Defining at p. 3. appreciating enjoyment of any experience (note the reflexive construction here and relation to mindfulness)
  • Distinguishing pleasure of savoring from other pleasures -- reflective dimension to savoring. Includes anticipation. "Appreciative awareness."
  • Alternation between process of attending to joy and joy itself. (3)
  • Pleasure not well understood: perhaps sensory, aesthetic, accomplishment.
  • Cultural dimension to savoring -- how and how much savoring is culturally sanctioned. Italians vs. scots
  • Need to suppress "social and esteem needs" for savoring. (A nice connection with our discussion of egos.)
  • Technical definition, p. 13 "Totality of ... when mindfully attending to and appreciating positive stimulus" follow this a bit to note process and strategy of savoring.
  • Savoring distinguished from other processes. In relation to:
  • Mindfulness -- savoring narrower, 8 & 15 (read). meditation itself may not include the self-reflective moment, but a good meditation can be savored.
  • Meditation, p 16
  • Emotional Intelligence -- "ability to monitor own/other's emotions, use info to guide responses"
  • Flow
  • Group exercise: Consider times when you have wide variance in the pleasure you experienced from a particular type of pleasurable experience (food, socializing, solitude, study, intimacy). What sorts of things explain the variation in your opinion? Does this confirm Bryants general claims?

Robert Emmons, Gratitude, Subjective Well-Being, and the Brain

  • importance of exchange of gifts, symbolic and material. Note at 471, anthropological explanation. (Consider complexity of gift giving.)
  • Broad range of gratitude: from specific feeling about a particular event or circumstance to a general attitude toward life. From satisfying "civic courtesy" to Life as a gift.
  • Definitions: "positive recognition of benefits received". "undeserved merit" Note that it is dependent upon the recognition of the benefit. From Fitzgerald (470): appreciation, goodwill, disposition that follows from appreciation and goodwill.
  • Gratitude can be a "virtue" if understood as a cultivated disposition to recognize undeserved merit.
  • Gratitude response is stronger if the beneficiary intends the benefit.
  • Gratitude as Affective Trait
  • grateful people experience more positive emotion. 473 (direction of causation? If you're happy and you don't know it...)
  • other correlates.
  • Evolutionary Perspective
  • "as a cognitive—emotional supplement serving to sustain reciprocal obligations. -Simmel (471) "Thus, during exchange of benefits, gratitude prompts one person (a beneficiary) to be bound to another (a benefactor) during "exchange of benefits, thereby reminding beneficiaries of their reciprocity obligations."
  • "Trivers viewed gratitude as an evolutionary adaptation that regulates people's responses to altruistic acts. Gratitude for altruistic acts is a reward for adherence to the universal norm of reciprocity and is a mediating mechanism that links the receipt of a favor to the giving of a return favor." Gratitude enacts/promotes reciprocal altruism. "places us" in social hierarchy defined by benefactor/beneficiary.
  • Correlates of gratitude: greater LS, hope, less depression, anxiety, envy, prosociality, empathy, forgivingness, less focused on material goods, more spiritual and religious.
  • Core Emmons and McCullough gratitude research. Three studies: Gratitude Journals with pre/post testing. gratitutde, hassles, and events conditions, 1. 1xwk 10 weeks, 2. daily 3wks, 3. in adults with neumuscular disease. results: higher LS, optimism, lower health complaints, more excercise. results held up 6 months later. anecdote.
  • Some evidence in kids.
  • Benefits:
  • 1. strengthen social relationships
  • 2. counters NA and depression (increases positive memory bias -- a form of positive illusion!)
  • 3. promotes resiliency (study of responses to disaster)
  • Gratitude and the Brain
  • Cognitive-affective neuroscience construct (What's happening to your brain when you experience gratitude?)
  • General hypothesis: we have structures for both perceiving gratitude in others and expressing it.
  • Specific hypothesis: Limbic prefontal networks involved: "; (1) the fusiform face-processing areas near the temporal—occipital junctions, (2) the amygdala and Limbic emotional processing systems that support emotional states, and (3) interactions between these two subcortical centers with the prefrontal regions that control executive and evaluative processes." 483. Like other prosocial emotions.
Specific hypothesis tested with studies of gratitude and mood induction in Parkinson's Disease patients. (Read at 483)
  • Psychological attitudes at odds with gratitude: "' A number of personal burdens and external obstacles block grateful thoughts. A number of attitudes are incompatible with a grateful outlook on life, including perceptions of victimhood, an in ability to admit one's shortcomings, a sense of entitlement, and an inability to admit that one is not self-sufficient. In a culture that celebrates self-aggrandizement and perceptions of deservingness, gratitude can be crowded out." 485 (Note again, a potential connection to the discussion of egoism.)

  • Gratitude and SWB
  • Strong claim for long term effects of gratitude as a trait: p. 476 -- participants show SWB boost 6 months later.
  • Psychological attitudes at odds with gratitude: "' A number of personal burdens and external obstacles block grateful thoughts. A number of attitudes are incompatible with a grateful outlook on life, including perceptions of victimhood, an in ability to admit one's shortcomings, a sense of entitlement, and an inability to admit that one is not self-sufficient. In a culture that celebrates self-aggrandizement and perceptions of deservingness, gratitude can be crowded out.


Bryant, Chapter 8: Enhancing Savoring

  • Theoretical Issues:
  • How much can savoring do given set point theory? (Lykken 2000 - "trying to be happier...") "range"
  • Similar efforts: Fordyce's happiness intervention study: savoring a common feature
  • Savoring in a construct relationship with Coping
  • Factors Enhancing both Coping and Savoring:
  • Social Support (sharing feelings with others) -- note imp. of having people with whom to share good news. being such a person, as well. building elements of happy community.
  • Writing about life experiences, (gratitude journals would be a positive example, or log)
  • Downward hedonic contrast (neg. vis.), (odd effect of volunteering)
  • Humor,
  • Spirituality & Religion --
  • Awareness of Fleetingness of Experience -- note connection with buddhism.
  • Essential Pre-conditions for Savoring
  • Freedom from Social and Esteem Concerns: explicated largely in terms of mindfulness... (more advice here, 206)
  • Present Focus: goes back to what might seem odd about mindfulness as preparatory to savoring.
  • non-judgmental orietnation
  • openness to seeing something new or as if for the first time.
  • Attentional Focus: avoid multi-tasking, imagine it's the last time (it usually is -- consider the perfect day), notice positive feelings.
  • Exercises
  • Vacation in Daily Life -- (in food studies, "slow culture" (from the slow food movement).
  • Life Review -- "chaining"
  • Camera Exercise

Additional Issues:

  • The connection between savoring and gratitude (handout from Chapter 5 on ereserves)
  • Savoring and Connoisseurship: Does Savoring require (or is it enhanced by) connoisseurship? How does that square with Epicurean simplicity?

Watkins, Chapter 9: Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being

  • CS Lewis on praise: completes enjoyment.
  • Focus on emotional benefits of expressing gratitude.
  • Distinguishes gratitude as a practice vs. trait. Traits are relatively fixed aspects of personality.
  • Wants to see if disposition to gratitude predicts SWB. GRAT --> SWLS. Also interested in contribution of G to affective H or "state happiness".
  • Findings:
  • Grateful people have positive memory bias.
  • Grateful people have postivie intrusive memory bias
  • Researching the direction of causation -- p. 172ff: if it's possible to manipulate gratitude conditions and see a quasi-functional relationship on mood. (study showing greater satisfaction with summer in gratitude rather than envy group.) Seems to have been weakly confirmed. Still possible to have bidirectional causation. Are happy people grateful or grateful people happier? (Note that practically it might not matter. E.g. if G and SWB are in a feedback loop)
  • Series of studies on emotional benefits, gratefulness as a cause p. 174ff -- "Participants in the grateful condition felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the future than students in both of the other comparison conditions." 174. Second study tested specific technique of downward comparison and compared it to control and "hassles" condition.
  • How does gratitude contribute to happiness?
  • 1: emotional boost from "gift" character of gratitude experiences.
  • 2: counteracting hedonic habituation
  • 3: focusing attention away from upward comparisons toward downward comparisons. might help with delayed gratification.
  • 4: coping -- evidence from p. 178ff, less PTSD in grateful people.
  • 5: increasing accessibility and recollection of pleasant life events -- note, this follows from memory bias studies (p. 179)
  • 6: increasing actual number or positive events -- esp. through social network. social benefits.
  • 7: decrease depressed mood
  • Feedback loop in gratitude effects.
  • Important tip for gratitude: listing less effective than writing things out, explicating.

Gilbert, Chapter 1. Journey to Elsewhen

  • the difference, to the problem of happiness, from our ability to imagine a future.
  • Calls "Nexting" predicting immediate future for me; "predicting" both conscious and unconscious. surprise. measurable in the very young and primates. Notice the levels of "nexting" from simple to entirely imagined futures.
  • nexting happens in the frontal lobe; Phinneas Gage; lobotomies; tradeoffs between planning (being able to think about the future) and anxiety. N.N. - cognitive awareness of time without ability to imagine the future.
  • Prospection and Emotion: 12% of time we think about the future. ways that we enjoy anticipation of a future (18), even as substitute, American optimism and distorted sense of the future. imagining the future changes our predictions about the likelihood of our imaginings coming true.
  • Control. study at 21ff. [Reflection on control in a technological, right-based, liability culture. Opposite practice from control is acceptance. Stoic accepatance, for example, is based on understanding of reality. Note that often progress in happiness studies depends upon understanding some dynamic in our psychology and either working with it or resisting it. We need to work with our desire for control while resisting it's extension over everything.]


Gilbert, Chapter 2: The View from in Here

  • Twins: Lroi and Reba. How to assess their preference?
  • Objectivity Issues: emotional, moral, judgement happiness.
  • How can the twins be happy? What is the role of "objective conditions"?
  • Subjectivity of Yellow, 32. Nozick's experience machine, 35. Happy Frank, p. 37. (Perhaps goal of this analysis is to see that normal understanding of happiness includes life happiness, virtues, and perfective activities.)
  • 40: How similar are two people's experience of happiness? How would you know?
  • problem: we don't compare experiences, we compare memories of experiences.
  • Describer's study on memory of color swatch, 41. What do we access when we make happiness judgements?
  • How reliable is our judgement from one minute to the next?
  • Interviewer substitution studies Daniel Simon's Lab: [2]. Other perceptual aspects, 43-44.
  • Conclusion: 44-45: read. Not so much about how bad we are at noticing change, but how, if we aren't paying attention, memory kicks in.
  • Happiness scales
  • Language squishing and Experience stretching: Addresses the question: Does the range of my experience of happiness lead me to talk differently about an identical experience (of the cake) as someone else, or does it cause me to experience things differently? (Point about guitar experience (52) -- moving targets problem.)
  • Language squishing hyp: We "squeeze" our happiness scale (language) to fit the range of our objective exp.
  • R&L feel exactly like you do (about a birthday cake, for example) but talk about it differently.
  • consistent with the idea that the same feeling or state could receive a higher assessment by someone with limited experience.
  • Experience stretching hyp: We take the range of our objective experience and stretch it to fit our scale.
  • R&L talk about experiences the same as you do but feel something different.
  • consistent with the idea that we might be "ruined" by 4 star hotels, but that absence of peak experiences is not a problem.
  • Drawing a conclusion: Our relationship to our judgements about happiness is changed by our experience of happiness and vice versa, creating a kind of ambiguity in intersubjective assessments of happiness. (Small group prompt: Finding examples of this claim in our experience, critically evaluating the claim itself.)

Gilbert, Chapter 3: Outside Looking In

  • How well do we know what we're feeling?
  • Determining that something is scary comes before understanding it. (That's scary.) Recall's Haidt's Divided Self: automatic processes.
  • Capilano Bridge Study -- fear and arousal. reading without awareness.
  • Blindsight - visual experience and awareness of that experience are generated by distinct parts of the brain. 62.
  • Alexithymia - mismatch of experience and awareness of experience or lack of introspective awareness, leading to impoverished vocab of phen. experience. You could be happy and not know it. (That's scary, too.) But another claim being made here is about variation in people's aptitude for emotional self-description. This seems related to "emotional intelligence." (Discussion: Do people vary in this way? What, if any, intervention might alter one's capacity for emotional self-decription?)
  • Objectivity issue summarized: 64.
  • Addressing Measurement Issues
  • physical correlates, multiple measures, avoid priming,
  • Law of Large Numbers -- resolves some issues of objectivity.
  • "problem of subjective experience" -- relation between knowledge of patterns and individual. point, bottom of p. 69. "law of larger numbers" to the rescue.

Gilbert, Chapter 4: In the Blind Spot of the Mind's Eye

  • Comparions of Adolph Fisher & George Eastman. Point: Need to 2nd guess how we impose seemingly objective criteria on others' lives.
  • Brain reweaves experience: study with cars and stop signs/yield signs. Information acquired after the event alters memory of the event.
  • Two highly confirmed results: Memory fills in. We don't typically notice it happening.
  • Model of Mind (84) Prior to 19th century:
"philosophers had thought of the senses as conduits that allowed information about the properties of objects in the world to travel from the object and into the mind. The mind was like a movie screen in which the object was rebroadcast. The operation broke down on occasion, hence people occasionally saw things as they were not. But when the senses were working properly, they showed what was there. This theory of realism was described in 1690 by the philosopher John Locke: brains "believe" they don't "make believe" .
  • Model of Mind brought in with Kant at beginning of 1800's:
Kant's idealism: "Kant's new theory of idealism claimed that our perceptions are not the result of a physiological process by which our eyes somehow transmit an image of the world into our brains but rather, they are the result of a psychological process that combines what our eyes see with what we already think, feel, know, want, and believe, and then uses this combination of sensory information and preexisting knowledge to construct our perception of reality. "
  • Still, we act like realists: truck moving study-- we are first realists, but we learn to adopt an idealist perspective in social communication.
  • We fill in details: imagine a plate of spaghetti. Very important for thinking about how we fill in the future.
  • point for happiness theories: p. 89.

NOV 11

  • side note: US mortality trends for non-hispanic whites 45-54 years old [3]

Csiksentmihalyi, Finding Flow, Chapters 1-3

Structures of Everyday Life

  • Note how C establishes his humanistic psych presuppositions and commitments in the first few pages. human capacities, potential, development. What's possible?
  • Focus on how we spend our time and the state of mind/affect we experience from diff. activities in daily life: production, maintenance, leisure.
  • Note cultural and historical differences in the way we spend time and think about the value of productive time. C's ideas here are once again in fashion with "slow culture" writing.
  • Experience Sampling Method -- p. 14ff

The Content of Experience

  • Theoretical position, p. 21: In story of woman with two jobs: looking for patterns of human commitment to a life. Wants to ask less for self-reports of happiness and more about the moods and affect that might be functionally related to happiness. Two big points: Happiness is positive emotion that might be driven by behavior. And, view of "psychic entropy.
  • Discussion of emotions, goals, and thoughts in terms of the organization of "psychic entropy", 22 roughly, the cognitive / emotive state of order in my mind at a particular moment or during an activity. read 24-25. Intentions and goals inform and order our psychic energy. Most prefer intrinsic motivation, next extrinsic, finally least productive of positive affect is no goal state. Interesting point about self-esteem being independent of accomplishment -- possibly a problem of goal setting.
  • three contents of consciousness: emotions, intentions, and thoughts. their integration allows for flow.
  • FLOW, p. 29ff. (What a quiet mind is getting ready for.)
  • effortless action, being in the zone, altered time consciousness.
  • clear set of goals, focusing attention.
  • often at limits of skill and challenge level.
  • absorption in task, dynamic feedback.
  • "It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life. When we are in flow, we are not happy, because to experience happiness we must focus on our inner states, and that would take away attention from the task at hand." [Theoretical note: choice of "rather than happiness". Also could be "causes LS" or savoring model.].
  • Data on frequency of flow experiences, p. 33.
  • Small Group prompt: Report experiences of flow. What are the limits to what can count as a flow experience? What are the obstacles? What is its relationship to happiness in your view? Does a happy life have to have flow?

How We Feel When Doing Different Things

  • Table 2: Quality of Experience in Everyday Activities. review. Where are opportunities for +affect at work, in maint. activities, and leisure.
  • Note comments on solitude, 41-42. hypothesis: interaction makes us happy because it structures psychic energy by external demands.
  • Schizophrenic patient and ESM
  • Implicit hypothesis: People have different strategies and degrees of awareness of how to manage their affect (a form of self-care). Happiness might be improved by developing these capacities for self-care and by critical assessment of one's assumptions about how different activities are supposed to make one feel.

NOV 12

Csiksentmihalyi, Chapter Six, Relationships and the Quality of Life

  • Concept of individual as product of social world, social world scripts transitions to adult relationship.
  • samskara - Hindu codes of conduct by age. (Does social life actually produce the individual in an important sense?)
  • "A relationship that leads to order in consciousness instead of psychic entropy has to meet at least two conditions.
  • The first is to find some compatibility between our goals and that of the other person or persons. This is always difficult in principle, given that each participant in the interaction is bound to pursue his or her self-interest." 81
  • The second condition for a successful interaction is that one be willing to invest attention in the other person's goals not an easy task either, considering that psychic energy is the most essential and scarce resource we own.
  • Claims friendships don't habituate because people are always changing. If you continue to share goals and investment of energy, the pleasure never dies (until you do). [Note that in this case the "moving target" is not a problem.]
  • Big research result: ESM study confirms profile of happiness for time spent with friends. Fig. 3 p. 83.
  • Notes some changes from traditional social life: Americans tend to be friends with their parents more -- a novel and recent change. Changes in the coupling of sociability and relationship: marriages not formerly assumed to be about friendship or social intimacy.
  • Summary of good family life, read p. 88. Note the focus on the "work" families do in our lives.
  • [Discussion Point: Evaluate C's criteria of friendship. How flexible are we with regard to relationship and how big a threat does a (non-traditional) highly competitive achievement oriented culture pose to relationships?]
  • Balance of solitude and social experience. German study by Noelle-Newman on overestimation of desirability of solitude -- (related to recurring historical motif of the "blessed isle" - Rousseau and in classical Roman period Hesiod)
  • Discusses cities as places of historical challenge to our ability to manage difference and close interaction. Connects to globalism and contrasts to efforts to "restore" communities' traditional social bonds.
  • Possible discussion: Should we cultivate capacities for happiness in solitude or "follow the data"? More on this later.
  • Closes with claims about the social character of creativity and knowledge-seeking.
  • Summarize C's overall view of the role of culture in structuring our "psychic energy" Small group: Test his view at a general and specific level. What are the challenges for individualistic culture for meeting his criteria for relationship?

Diener and Diener, Happiness, Chapter 4: Happiness and Social Relationships: You Can't Do Without Them

  • opening thought experiment, point: People are our reference points in some fundamental way. 49. Cf. to Csiksentmihalyi.
  • Major claim: Necessity of relationship to happiness. evidence of causality in both directions.
  • Introvert / Extrovert study: (note also the small gap between extroverts socially and alone). Looks like a scale shift.
  • Inducing moods in test subjects alters perception/desirability/expectation of social situations.
  • Duchenne smile study p. 53.
  • great statement of value of relationship, p. 54. Note, again, the "work" relationships do for us.
  • Strong correlation of social/happy, but what direction is the causation? High LS prior to marriage predicts satisfaction/longevity of marriage. Marriage might be enable higher sustained happiness under the right conditions (57)
  • Return to the Marriage/Happiness debate: Lucas study, note point about averages. Big example of question of "locating yourself" in relation to the average. Also, in setting expectations.
  • Love: in light of life span: hot, then companionate
  • Children: confirmation of earlier studies.
  • Small group discussion: Assess the Lucas study on happiness and marriage. What is the meaning of being single today? How do you assess the general belief that being married and having children makes one happier, in light of the research here?

Haidt Chapter 9: Divinity with or without God

Elevation as a vertical axis in relationship.

  • Flatland
  • Major speculative hypothesis: 183: In addition to relationship and status, we perceive/experience "divinity" as a kind of "moral purity".
  • But this is puzzling, given that we are also ANIMALS
  • Research on disgust. Why do we experience disgust? 186. Purity opposite impulse from disgust. Disgust brings us "down".
  • Psychological anthropologist Richard Shweder, U Chicago: Haidt worked with him on research in morality in India: "Shweder's research on morality in Bhubaneswar and elsewhere shows that when people think about morality, their moral concepts cluster into three groups, which he calls the ethic of autonomy, the ethic of community, and the ethic of divinity." 188 -- evidence on diff. distribution of these ethics by class. Note observations on research in India. Link bt. purity/divine.
  • Cites approvingly: Eliade, The Sacred and Profane -- perceiving sacredness universal among humans. 189: Interesting examples: handedness, space in houses.

Elevation and Agape

  • Looking for a name for the emotions that we experience when we observe morally outstanding deeds. "Elevation"
  • Jefferson: Experience of aesthetic value triggers physical changes in the body and recognizable feeling of elevated sentiments.
  • 196: wants to see if elevation is a kind of happiness. research with student Sara Algoe, (three conditions: doing something good for someone, saw someone tell a joke, saw extraordinary non-moral performance) results seem to separate out different responses: moral elevation vs. response to non-moral excellence like basketball player.
  • initial research documents elevation as response. Unclear how moral/non-moral triggers work.
  • Vagus Nerve theory -- operation of vagus nerve, relationship to oxytocin. Since oxcytocin causes bonding rather than action, this theory might explain the lack of evidence in an earlier study that elevation leads to action.
  • Puzzle about moral elevation and lack of action -- in two studies no sig increase in "signing up" to volunteer after elevation.
  • Lactating moms study 198 -- (answers puzzle: oxcytocin is about bonding, not acting. we've managed to make moral conduct a trigger for oxcytocin.)
  • Letter from religious person distinguishing two kinds of tears in church. compassion/celebration
  • Latter like agape : objectless love

Awe and Transcendence

  • cites Darwin / Emerson, idea of elevation from exp of nature.
  • Drugs - -entheogens. reports old experiment with mushrooms and religion.
  • Emerson's "transparent eyeball" experience. Awe and transcendence of the ego. (also in flow)
  • Awe: "As we traced the word "awe" back in history, we discovered that it has always had a link to fear and submission in the presence of something much greater than the self." 202
  • Emotion of awe: "Keltner and I concluded that the emotion of awe happens when two conditions are met: a person perceives something vast (usually physically vast, but sometimes conceptually vast, such as a grand theory, or socially vast, such as great fame or power); and the vast thing cannot be accommodated by the person's existing mental structures." 203
  • Story of Arjuna Pandava from Gita. Gets a cosmic eye. Extreme case, but Haidt implies this is a model for how we describe spiritual transformation.
  • Maslow's work on peak experiences. Side note on clash about the nature of science in psychology. Maslow is considered a founder of humanistic psych.
  • Mark Leary, Curse of the Self: Self as obstacle to -- mental chatter -- self as obstacle to vertical development . Read p. 207.

NOV 17

Love and Happiness

de Botton, "Lovelessness"

  • reminds us of need for "social love"
  • Also, and a more ambitious interpretive claim: That we can view many of the things people pursue in psychological terms as seeking love in various forms (read p. 6)
  • Does de Botton overstate things? Are we really seeking "love from the world" through so many of the things we pursue?

Haidt, Chapter 6: Love and Attachments

  • Attachment Theory - bad science of germ theory in thinking about orphanage moratality, isolation of orphans. Bad advice of early behaviorism for child rearing. Lack of weight on affection and bonding.
  • Harlow's monkeys -- "cloth mother studies" Images for Harlow's Monkeys [4]. How did Harlow disconfirm early behaviorist and freudian thought on atttachment? "contact comfort"
  • Bowlby's children and orphans. hears about Harlow's work. duck bonding is news. Aberrant psychoanalyst.
  • Keys to attachment: The central construct of attachment theory is that we have a self-regulating psychological system that uses bonding and attachment as a basis for exploration and growth. Attachment system responds along several axes: example: safety and exploration. postulates a "design system" to negotiate this tension and others which define the maturational challenges of a child and the relationship of its primary caregiver.
  • Attachment Theory as Explanation for love
  • Details: Ainsworth "Strange Situation" experiments. Secure (moves easily between security and exploration) and insecure (avoidant/resistant) attachment styles. Genes may not play a large role in attachment style. (maybe epigenetic). Roughly 2/3 "secure" attachment. read p. 116. 1/6 "insecure avoidant" 1/6 "insecure resistant"
  • Haidt's update/critique: attachment styles vary apart from genes, but personality doesn't so much. questions Ainsworth's emphasis on causal role of mother, styles more flexible than early research hypothesized. Somewhat open question in research.
  • At 117, article turns to apply attachment theory to theory of romantic love. Thesis: adult romantic love grows out of the same psychological system that attaches children to their mothers? Developmental psych. evidence from Harzan p. 119. Romantic love might be a repurposed "care giving" system based on maternal/paternal care. But why is human love so different: hidden ovulation, long gestation/maturation of young...? Hypothesis: evolutionary advantage, in humans, for strong pair bonding.

Love and Culture

  • Romantic Love: Love is for a species with big heads. We re-purpose our early parental attachment for romantic love. Oxytocin.
  • Addresses the question of romantic love as "just" attachment theory plus mating. 118 and 120-121. Love isn't an end in itself. It's part of nature's business with us.
  • Image of Aristophanes speech from Symposium: image of attachment.
  • Proposes distinction between: passionate and companionate love. distinct processes.
  • Aside: Philosophers on love. Buddha (the problem is that love is attachment) and Plato (rejection of the body)
  • Image from Symposium: best love is of the Forms. Beautiful bodies just point us in that direction.
  • Caritas(benevolence/good will) and Agape (selfless spiritual love) as extensions. Claims (and this could be viewed as a criticism, but not necessarily) that Christian loves strips love of its particularity (p. 131). (Most of the positive value of agape is found, for Haidt in "elevation". So his critical point here more more that Christian love is vertical, not part of the repurposed maternal system.
  • Haidt on love and "culture of love" : Why does human love make philosophers (and religionists) uncomfortable? 131. irrational, hypocritical suppression of pleasure, fear of death.
  • Goldenburg research, p. 132:
  • Major claims about happiness-making effects of relationships. p. 133. Follow twists: not just that we need from others, but we benefit from being needed and offering benevolent aid.

Brooks, "Social Animal," New Yorker

  • Brooks should help us explore the problem of the relationship between "love and the 'culture of love'"
  • goal is to heighten awareness of the relationship between the cultural dimension of courtship and the biological. Think about love in light of the split between automatic and controlled processes, attachment theory,
  • Look at some of the details together: dress codes, body regimens (mens and womens),
  • Harold and Erika. two levels (good example of social cognition). looks, early assessments of trust and reliability, nonverbal cues about how things are going, smell, map-meld, "Things that Would Have to Change", .
  • Related link: Listen to the Michael Levitan segment on This Amercican Life's episode #552: Need to Know.

Small Group Discussion

  • In a discussion of the relationship between the "culture of love" and love, try to determine some of the attitudes and beliefs about love that you would endorse (either from the readings or apart from them) as ways of making it more likely that love is a happiness maker in your life.

NOV 19

Johnson, Fenton, "Going It Alone"=

  • Trend toward solitary living -- 25% solo in US, over 60% in Scand. countries
  • Thesis: There are unique values and opportuntities from solitary living that make it a kind of calling (and path to subjective well-being) for some. This is in contrast to the overwhelming message of society, that failure to pair bond is abnormal.
  • Theme: culture send us messages about the abnormality of solitariness, normality of not wanting to be alone.
  • Resources for his thesis:
  • Spirituality of Thomas Merton and monks in general; family interaction with
  • Creative lives of solitary authors and painters.
  • Conceptual issues:
  • Solitary and celibate (34); solitary and in/not in relationship;
  • Vows, disciplined living. (37)
  • Secondary thesis: A kind of "secular monasticism" might make the capacity for solitude a basis other social relationships.

McMahon, Chapter 6: Liberalism and Its Discontents

Enlightenment model of liberalism
  • Franklin, tract, The Path to Riches and Happiness.
  • Dec. of Independence and discussion of whether "pursuit of happiness" covers up from "life, liberty and property"
  • Clearly a diversity of view about that. Enlightenement values consistent with Christianity (example of Locke's view that reason takes us to God), but many in Enlightenment are not religious. Jefferson, McMahon takes us back to the some of the characters of the Scottish Enlightenment to reinforce this idea of diversity.
  • 324: Lbertarian vs. Classical Republican - go over.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville's contribution: Democracy in America 1835 1840: Sociological insight into sadness in the American experiment.
  • Of Toq's thesis: Macmahon writes: "perhaps, the cynic, or at least the skeptic, may be on firmer ground. For in a society in which the unhindered pursuit of happiness (to say nothing of its attainment) is treated as a natural, Godgiven right, the inability to make steady progress along the way will inevitably be seen as an aberration, a suspension of the natural order of things." big passage: 333-334
  • really about the dynamics of equality, freedom, and democracy vs. community and social values. U.S. a big experiment.
  • And that, Tocqueville concluded in a famous line, "is the reason for the strange melancholy often haunting inhabitants of democracies in the midst of abundance, and of that disgust with life sometimes gripping them in calm and easy circumstances." praised ënlightened self-interest of americans.
  • Mill's contribution: Autonomy and Liberal Hope
  • 343: image of John Stuart Mill reviewing Toq's essays and longing for democracy in Europe.
  • If. "Let the idea take hold," Mill warned, "that the most serious danger to the future prospects of mankind is in the unbalanced influence of the commercial spirit. .. ."^^
  • 347: section on Mill's depression -- famous -- finds solace in romatic poetry. why? evocative, imaginative against starker imagination of rationalist enlightenment.
  • also in Mill (and Butler), the problem of indirect happiness. Mill's passage 348 breaking with simple Benthamism.
  • Mill, On Liberty passage 350 - can't violate someone's liberty to make them happier...
  • McM: Is there a romanticism in Mill's position on Liberty?
  • Weber's contribution: Socio-religious insight into the dynamic between capitalism and Protestant Christianity.
  • Weber Section: review. 3n. In the Protestant anxiety over the fate of individual salvation, he argued, lay the motive force behind an impetus to capital accumulation, regarded as a sign and partial assurance of God's blessing. ( g. Combining ascetic renunciation, a notion of work as divine calling, and a critically rational disposition, the Protestant faith, Weber argued, brought together nascent capitalism's essential qualities: the restriction of consumption in favor of the accrual of capital, and a religiously consecrated ethic of discipline, delayed gratification, industry, and thrift.
  • 358: "Indeed, it was during the very period when Weber was writing that America, and the West more generally, began to undergo what the sociologist Daniel Bell has described as a monumental transformation, "the shift from production to consumption as the fulcrum of capitalism." Bringing "silk stockings to shop girls" and "luxury to the masses," this transformation made of "marketing and hedonism" the "motor forces of capitalism," driving over all restraints that stood in the way of the enjoyment of material pleasures with a momentum that would have surprised even Tocqueville." (Note: Galbraith, "The Dependency Effect; reliance on raising GDP; sustainability of economy and population)
  • "Material goods," he observed at the end of The Protestant Ethic, "have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history."
  • Discussion topic: Is liberal capitalist culture on a non-sustainable trajectory in terms of improving people's happiness?

NOV 24


Gilbert, Chapter 5: The Hound of Silence

  • We don't train on what's not there: pigeons, detecting pattern change in trigrams. "Blindspot" in our inference machinery. explains tendency to see coincidences -- we don't keep track of non-coincidences.
  • UVA sports fan study (102): Why do non-describer sports fans overestimate impact of losing a big game? 102 They don't think about the whole picture -- what's going to happen after the game, etc. Details the describers fill in. (Interesting practical lesson here.) Likewise, with California happiness studies.
  • Analogy of loss of detail of visual objects at a distance and loss of detail in objects of thought at a temporal "distance". "Near future is pretty detailed, but the distant future is blurry and smooth." 105
  • Future value. We're horrible at calculating it. View Dan Gilbert's Ted talk on this subject [5]
  • Time frame matters: example of agreeing to baby sit in a month vs. tomorrow night.

Gilbert, Chapter 6, The Future is Now

  • Being wrong about the future: possibility of heavy planes flying. 112
  • "When brains plug holes in the conceptualizations of yesterday and tomorrow, they tend to use a material called today"
  • 113: Long list of examples of current experience displacing past experience: dating couples, worries about exams, memories of Perot supporters.
  • Examples of how we fail to predict how future selves will feel. 115: Volunteers choosing candy bars or knowing answers.
  • We fail to account for the way future experience will change future preferences.
  • Sneak Prefeel -- evidence suggests brain can have emotional responses to imaginings of the future. We simulate future events, we don't just experience them reflectively. visual experience vs. imagination.
  • How to Select Posters: In poster selection study, the "thinkers" are less satisfied with their choices. 121 "Prefeeling allowed nonthinkers to predict their future satisfaction more accurately than thinkers did." 121
  • Limits of Prefeeling: "We can't see or feel two things at once, and the brain has strict priorities about what it will see, hear, and feel and what it will ignore. ... For instance, if we try to imagine a penguin while we are looking at an ostrich, the brain's policy won't allow it."122 2 other research studies on unconscious bias in future predictions. 123
  • Note from the gym/thirst study: emotional contagion from one experience to another. practical advice.
  • Read cartoon on bottom of p. 125 "Imagination cannot easily transcend the boundaries of the present, and one reason for this is that it must borrow machinery that is owned by perception. The fact that these two processes must run on the same platform means that we are sometimes confused about which one is running. We assume that what we feel as we imagine the future is what we'll feel when we get there, but in fact, what we feel as we imagine the future is often response to what's happening in the present."

Gilbert, Chapter 7, Time Bombs

  • We spatialize time because it's an abstract thing and thinking of its spatially helps make it concrete. But that makes some things easier to imagine in the future than other things.
  • Hedonic adaptation -- factors affecting the habituation rate -- time/variety (connect with satisficer/maximizer)
  • False prediction of future pleasure -- p. 130 study on snack predictions.
  • Gilbert's partial point -- variety has a cost… As you slow down the consumption rate, variety becomes less of a happiness maker because your rank preference becomes more prominent. [But it doesn't follow that it's not in your happiness-interest to pay it sometimes. Sampler plates still make sense because you're going to be consuming them quickly.]
  • Starting Now: mental images are atemporal.....we imagine a future event as if it took place now and then discount (recall video)
  • Spaghetti satisfaction predictions under condition of multi-tasking, p. 136.
Lots of other biases:
  • Anchoring Bias (135)-- how many african countries?, Sensitivity to changes, (accounts for preferences for steady income increases, even it net payout is lower).
  • Preference for the marked down vacation, even if more costly than a marked up one.
  • Famous Khaneman and Tversky "mental accounting" study -- (140)
  • We compare the present to the past instead of to the possible. (coffee example)
  • But we also make mistakes when we compare the present to the possible. (tv purchase example, wine example, dictionary comparison, chips/chocolate vs. chips/sardines) digress on Economist pricing example.
  • Loss aversion (145)


Major Philosophical Options on the "Metaphysics of Death"

  • One Life + eternity (note variation on eternities)
  • Repeat + release
  • One Life
  • Note commonalities and differences in the problem of death depending upon the model you are working from. St. Jerome.
  • How do we treat death differently because of our metaphysics of death?

Major happiness hypotheses

  • Reflecting deeply on mortality will improve the quality of your life (general).
  • Culture (movies, fiction, etc) and contemplative practices can help with this reflection.
  • Death teaches us how to live. "to not discover that when I die I had failed to live." (Thoreau) (also Roman soldier story in Montaigne)
  • Hedonists in particular, should contemplate death (Montaigne)
  • Virtue allows a contempt of death (Montaigne)

Montaigne, That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die

  • Montaigne gives us a hedonist/stoic view of death. One would think that death is a problem for a hedonist, since it appears to be the end of sensation, but Montaigne argues for a strategy of using the contemplation of death to enhance the pleasure of life.
  • "Cicero says—[Tusc, i. 31.]—"that to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die." The reason of which is, because study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw from us our soul, and employ it separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a resemblance of death; or, else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die."
  • M. affirms his commitment to hedonism: "Let the philosophers say what they will, the thing at which we all aim, even in virtue is pleasure."
  • And that virtue (broadly the perfection of reason and emotion in action - something close to a Stoic conception) allows us to conquer death:
  • "Now, of all the benefits that virtue confers upon us, the contempt of death is one of the greatest, as the means that accommodates human life with a soft and easy tranquility, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct."
  • Makes fun of people (folk) who are bothered by the mention of death.
  • We all think we have more time. Cognitive bias. (mentions, p. 4, weird, untimely deaths -- follow) In light of this, how can we avoid thinking about death? M: You could try not thinking about it, but it will surface if you don't deal with it.
  • ["Let him hide beneath iron or brass in his fear, death will pull his head out of his armour. "—Propertious Hi. 18]
  • "Where death waits for us is uncertain; let us look for him everywhere. The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has learned to die has unlearned to serve. There is nothing evil in life for him who rightly comprehends that the privation of life is no evil: to know, how to die delivers us from all subjection and constraint."
  • "I am at all hours as well prepared as I am ever like to be, and death, whenever he shall come, can bring nothing along with him I did not expect long before. We should always, as near as we can, be booted and spurred, and ready to go, and, above all things, take care, at that time, to have no business with any one but one's self"
  • "Why for so short a life tease ourselves with so many projects?" (Horace) -- Makes fun of people who complain that they are dying before they can do x, y, or z....
  • We have a bias to ignoring our own deterioration. "Let us but observe in the ordinary changes and declinations we daily suffer, how nature deprives us of the light and. sense of our bodily decay. What remains to an old man of the vigor of his youth and better days? ["Alas, to old men what portion of life remains!"—Maximian, vel Pseudo-Gallus, i. 16f -- Note Hecht's point about how we insulate ourselves from death, less common experience, also, the beauty culture.
  • Religion is founded on the contempt of death. 10.
  • "Why not depart from life as a sated guest from a feast? "Lucretius, Hi. 95

Montaigne's precepts on death:

1. Death is not a problem for the hedonist, rather, the contemplation of death improves the pleasure of life.

2. Conversely, the fear of death ruins life. (The premeditation on death is the premeditation of liberty.)

3. We need to bring death into our awareness more, defeating social norms about talking about it.

4. Don't expect to live longer than normal.

5. You need to think about death to make sure you aren't already. (Roman soldier example)

6. We should be ready.

Tibetan Book of the Dead

Primary understanding of death: great opportunity for learning.

Six Bardos:

  1. the chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death"
  2. the chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality"
  3. the sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth".
  4. the bardo of ordinary waking consciousness
  5. dhyana, meditation
  6. dream state

Discuss practice associated with the Great Liberation by Hearing

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Segments on Guillermo Arriaga, Lorne Ladner, et al

  • "Mexican writer Guillermo Arriaga is best known in the States for his screenplays. He wrote "Amores Perros" and the critically acclaimed "21 Grams." From his home in Mexico City, Arriaga tells Steve Paulson where the story idea for "21 Grams" came from, and why it was so interesting to have a religious man direct a film written by an atheist that deals with topics like the meaning of life and the afterlife. "
  • back story about driving home, on his birthday, and coming across a fatal accident. (35:00) cuts to scene in movie. Sister's story about pool accident, son asks, "If I die, will you ever smile again?"
  • "Also, Lorne Ladner (44:00) is a psychologist, a practicing Buddhist and the author of The Lost Art of Compassion . He tells Jim Fleming that accepting the inevitability of one's own death leads a person to truly appreciate living while you can."
  • Meditation on one's own death, charnel grounds. Example about the guy who took down the trophies and put up pictures of his kids. sky burial.
  • Closes with famous Thoreau quote.

Momento Mori

  • Images St. Jerome --- purpose of momento mori
  • Momento Mori Wiki page [6]
  • The Philosophy Bird


Gilbert, Chapter 8: Paradise Glossed

  • Opening examples of people "re-narrating" horrible events in their lives, including wrongdoing and public humiliation. Asymmetry between people's estimates of misfortune (loss of ability) and estimates of people in those situations.
  • "If negative events don't hit us as hard as we expect them to, then why do we expect them to?" [Interested in discrepancy between cs forecast and actual experience. Could the discrepancy be selective? an accident of our psychology?]
  • Suggests that the process of creating and attending to meanings is crucial (154-155). We respond, in part, to our own representations of reality.
  • Importance of context, frequency, and recency in identifying information and salience. Necker cube. Definers and self-rating study (159). importance of relative complexity of experience (over visual illusions). Complexity creates ambiguity which we exploit with narrative Kale and ice cream study, 159.
  • major thesis on 160. Once our experience becomes actual, our uncs goes to work renarrating the story with positive bias. a kind of "psychological immune system" (psychological investment system). (recall the poster study.) (notice this also goes with loss aversion.)
  • We Cook the Facts (164): The mind needs some like a fact for belief, (but facts are not always readily available), so... it cooks the evidence. By selecting sampling (attending to ads for the cars we bought), by conversational practices. downward comparison, for example.
  • Evidence that we cook the facts comes from situations in which there are symmetrical and predictable inconsistencies in a group's interpretation (sports fans 168), or studies that show that we select evidence that fits our views (169). (This is also the evidence that is moving some faculty to blind grading.)

Gilbert, Chapter 9: Immune to Reality (Openness to Investment in Reality)

  • Clever Hans
  • Confabulation: People are unaware of many influences on them, but when asked will create a story or reason that provides a plausible explanation other than the actual influence. Priming studies. Negative words flashed on screen produces more negative judgments. (note about being "strangers to ourselves" -- connects with Leary, Curse of Self)
  • Some evidence (174) to suggest that deliberate methods to induce good feeling fail.
  • thesis on 174: not only do we cook the facts, but we need to consume them in a way that doesn't reveal the fabrication or alteration. (Separate, but important, issue: we become strangers to ourselves because we need to conceal the fact that we're cooking the facts.)
  • Looking forward/backward (recall examples from 153): asymmetry in judgments of events when looked at prospectively and retrospectively. (read thesis 175)
  • Judge/Jury Rejection study: prospectively we aren't aware that we'll more easily write off the judge's decision than the jury's. (176) -- key issue: if the explanation for the result is so obvious, why can't the test subjects anticipate it?
  • great example of confabulation too.
  • Regret: when we blame ourselves for outcomes we might have anticipated. A kind of "personal liability" emotion. Sometimes useful. Problem of the number of things you didn't do. (Possible explanation for research on p. 179 suggesting that we regret omissions more than commissions, though we predict that we'll regret commissions more.) follow point on p. 179.
  • Psychological Immune System: triggers: very bad things more than slightly bad things. Concept of "psychological investment" in initiation rites study (181). Triggers at work in the negative feedback study (182).
  • Claims that we experience "sunk costs" in relationships. Trade offs between changing our experience and changing our view of our experience. Photo selection satisfaction study involving "escape" and "no escape" conditions. (184). (notice prospection/retrospection asymmetry)
  • Speculative Theory about how we use explanations: beneficial effect of writing about trauma, simulated student study involving identified vs. unidentified admirers. Happiness buzz lasts longer on unidentified. Suggested as support for theory. Unexplained events have bigger impact. Other studies suggest explanations can get in the way of emotional impact.

DEC 10