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A Philosophical Exploration Of Happiness

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Scott

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A Philosophical Exploration Of Happiness

Post Number:#1  PostFebruary 13th, 2008, 9:35 pm

A Philosophical Exploration Of Happiness
by Scott Hughes

The general term happiness refers to the feeling of feeling good, which consists of the various forms of enjoyment or satisfaction. Most people think that they understand happiness, and it seems that they mostly do. Most people can probably tell you whether or not they feel happy. Nonetheless, the idea of happiness becomes very complex and interesting when we look at it from a philosophical perspective. Philosophically speaking, people have many questions about happiness.

Many people wonder why humans get happy and why the feeling exists. We feel happy when we achieve what we want to achieve or while we do what we want to do. Happiness acts as a motivation and reward. It seems like a necessary extension of desire. Without desire, and by extension happiness, we would not do anything. We would not have any will or intention. It would defeat the purpose of consciousness--if consciousness can even exist without desire and happiness. As a result, it seems that our species evolved to feel desire and happiness because those feelings motivate us to take actions that help us survive and reproduce.

In addition to wondering about why humans get happy, many people wonder how happy humans can get and if they can ever achieve a perfect state of happiness. Most people realize that happiness seems elusive, in that humans never seem fully satisfied. Humans can never seem to get all of what they want because they always seem to want more; they always think of something else they want.

The human desire to always want more goes back again to the evolutionary benefit of a motivated creature as opposed to a creature that would settle for less. In other words, the constant desire for improvement has lead to the success of the human species and other similarly conscious animals.

Because our ancestors developed in an environment where it benefited them to have a constant desire to improve and to always want more, we now have 'happiness' which only functions properly in the context of struggle. It would not make us happy to get everything we want. In fact, we could never get everything we want because we want to have a struggle; in a way, we want to NOT have all of what we want. For example, children like to play difficult video games because they want to have goals to achieve, and their happiness requires losing the game multiple times before beating it. And after they beat it, they want to play it on a more difficult level or play a different game. An easy game would make them bored and unhappy.

So happiness as we know it has an intrinsic conflict. And that intrinsic conflict causes the philosophical complexity of happiness. Additionally, I believe that the intrinsic conflict of happiness manifests as the pervasive inner-conflict of humans, which we often call the human condition. That inner-conflict explains why omnipotence would not make a human happy and why too much power and pleasures tend to drive a person insane. Similarly, it explains why technological advancements and increased control over our environment has not made us humans happy and has left us with a feeling of an underlying, emotional voidness. That feeling of emotional voidness motivates our spiritual endeavors. In a way, people have started replacing a defeated primitive struggle with a new spiritual one.

All in all, I think we can best find emotional fulfillment and happiness by finding a healthy way to struggle as individuals and as a society; and we can best do that through self-knowledge and by continuing to philosophically explore the idea of happiness.

Whatever you do, good luck and have fun!

About the author: Scott Hughes maintains an informative website about philosophy at OnlinePhilosophyClub.com. You can discuss philosophy at the Philosophy Forums.

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Post Number:#2  PostFebruary 14th, 2008, 2:47 am

A great post Scott. I agree entirely.
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Post Number:#3  PostFebruary 14th, 2008, 6:15 am

Hi Scott,

I like your post, here are my thoughts.

----

What most people see as happiness is an illusion of themselves in a better environment being satisfied on every wish. Its comparable to someone who havent eat for weeks and dreams about eating a whole horse, which is just his mind playing tricks, since his body wouldnt be able to process the whole horse at all, and a couple coups of soup would do the trick perfectly.

So for me thats the thing. Most people cant figure happiness because they arent doing much about it, instead they are doing what the "system" wants them to do, because of that, they have the idea of the big horse happiness, something fat, remote, which will someday be accomplished when they own certain things or reach a certain point at the race. The simple idea of it prevents it from being obtained.

It should be obvious, there are people all around the world, with all the variables on possesions, earnings, achievements, social status, love, etc, yet everyone is still trying to figure out happiness.

----

So to accomplish happiness you have to listen to the hunger of happiness, and obey the pain of being unhappy, in the same way we do something when we´re thirsty or hungry. Doing something about it.

Happiness is what happens when you get to do what you want and get to be what you are. Its the inner self rejoicing when you´re not forced to do anything nor are being pushed out of your inner direction.

That direction can be ultimately right or wrong, it can be harmful or peaceful, it can have consequences or not, and at the end it can be good for you, or not. Yet, happiness is that feeling of doing what you want, and being what you want to be.

Even when thats a changing little thing.

Cheers,
Yohami
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Happiness Article I wrote for Helium.com

Post Number:#4  PostFebruary 14th, 2008, 6:24 am

Does happiness exist, or is humanity simply fooling itself? -- Let us over-analyze shall we?
Could it be that happiness is simply overrated; Or has it perhaps been undermined by the negativity we as a society have been exposed to on a daily basis? Or could it be that happiness does in fact not even exist, but for the mindful misgivings of all humanity?
For the purposes of variability and differing states of reason, let us portend as we defer from, any singular notion we may ourselves possess of such conjecture as it pertains to the "true nature" of happiness?
For to make any assessment of something as complex as the mind of human dignity is about as fathomable as is the concept of unknown matter which warrants the need to do so. Therefore, we must begin at the beginning of who and what each one of us really is.
As many varying aspects as there are to each individual is as vast as is the culmination of all minds ever devised.
I propose that the psychology of man therefore has the same approximate propensity to be proven or dispelled as do we in knitting a sweater fashioned from quarks and gluons.
Throughout history, who could possibly determine each individual persona amid their own unmitigated circumstances? -- not to mention the varying perceptions of each individual mindset at a given juncture? -- Therefore, who's to say that happiness exists at all.
That I or anyone else is here to any degree matters little in that, who's to say that any outside denominator can determine who is relegated to be happy or unhappy in the end, but for the mindset of each individual life-force? Am I therefore rendered "happy because I am" or "Am I" because I am happy? -- or none of the above?
What is happiness, that no man, woman or child is able to grasp it within their hands, yet the very hands that cannot grasp it, realize they cannot do so? It is the hands themselves which cannot grasp it or the realization of said fact that is real here? For without consciousness the hands still exist, and without the hands consciousness still exists. However, without life the hands still indeed exist, yet the realization has now been expunged. Therefore, in lieu of the fact that life is needed in order to procure happiness, does this mean that where life is devoid there is unhappiness? Clearly unhappiness does in no way rebuke life, rather simply the state of being a life-force upholds at a given juncture.
You see as with any contrived notion of emotion, so too has man therefore incorporated his own value unto it. And so to seek to assess something that is nothing more than a state of being is as improbable as assessing the dark, scary places of our inner-most thought processes.
And if happiness truly exists, then why the variability of happiness depicted amid the varying personalities of all minds ever conceived of?
"I am happy" implies that I am my current state of consciousness, and any such notion is forlorn and obscure at best. "I" simply "am" -- as are we all.
There can be no such emotion as happiness, lest the whole of humanity experience its potentiality one and the same. This however is ne'er the case -- as it varies amid such waning existence. -- For if "I" were truly happy, then "happy" would truly be me, as well as all mankind. Yet how can I or anyone else become his or her state of current reason?
I believe that happiness, as well as all emotion is simply the unseen energy fields we draw upon by our own current frequency and state of consciousness at a given moment.
Being that mankind is nothing more or less than the lesser components of the entirety of creation, so too requires of mankind one and the same of that which compels and impels it along.
Physics tells us that everything is comprised of something; therefore, the forces that comprise the crux of the universe such as: electro-magnetic fields, gravity, strong and weak nuclear forces, as well as the yet to be discovered aspects of the universe are what we are in essence comprised of, as we comprise the very nature and substance of it as well.
Keep in mind that as we are indeed mere inhabitants of this current universe, so is it but a more vast completion of its inner-most makings. Therefore, does the universe indeed sustain us -- do we sustain it -- or are both indeed synonymously synergistic?
Let me ask you this question; Are you happy to be reading this article here and now? Are you sad to be reading this article right now? -- Or are you simply indifferent?
Whatever your current state of reason, based upon your circumstance and perception of all that is, as well as your perceived place within it, "all" are the only means by which you could deduce any outcomes whatsoever.
Therefore, does this not imply that happiness is nothing more than "you" and your current state of reason at this very moment? For what emotion of any sort could be derived if not for our own conscious being?
Conclusion:
Universal energy fields are in direct proportion to that which each individual emits -- drawing therefore unto the self all like frequencies. Happiness exists through those relative frequencies of like state of being at that particular moment of reason.

Just a thought, from the solitary mind of its own current reasoning.....
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Post Number:#5  PostFebruary 14th, 2008, 9:07 am

Happiness acts as a motivation and reward.?

Perhaps for some.
but so does money, lust, love, hate, anger, and a whole other range of emotions.

True happyness can be summed up in one word:

Nirvana

a place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world.

But first you must awake from the dream your in.

How? well this takes time and study, there are lots of places to study this.


A person asked Buddha:
“Are you a God?”
Buddha’s reply was
“No.”
“Are you an Angel?”
“No.”
“Then what are you?”
“I am Awake.”

What Buddha ment by being awake is:

When speaking of being awake, When one speaks of the awakening, it meens de-hypnotization, that is, coming to your sences; but to do that you have to go out of your mind.

Blessed be.
Till now,
Sam
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Post Number:#6  PostFebruary 14th, 2008, 10:10 am

Hi Scott,
Great post.

I think other emotions can also lead people to action but I think the underlying goal is happiness.
But I think we differ about the methods to achieving happiness my relationship with God gives me happiness. I just think that we should be open to methods to self-fulfillment. I also think that one can have the same conscienciousness of the world around them while holding to any belief system. I think conscienciousness comes from an awareness of your surroundings which I believe is seperate from any religious or non-religious dogma. One can be "awake" in any method of thinking as one can have many degrees of "awakeness". This conscienceness comes from focusing on what truly gratifies you.

Happiness is an ever fleeting motivator for everything we do and it gives us purpose in our lives.
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Post Number:#7  PostFebruary 14th, 2008, 1:45 pm

yohami, I like your example of the hungry man dreaming of eating a horse, which would be more than he could eat and more than he would actually want to eat. I agree that our mind plays tricks on us when we try to imagine what would make us happy. I like the way you connect happiness with personal freedom, in that you say that happiness is the inner self rejoicing when it is not forced to do anything and not pushed from its inner direction.

Symmetry44, you point out that happiness is an individual experience, and that we have no idea if other people feel happiness in the same ways as us. You also seem to suggest that happiness is something inherent to life and part of life and that unhappiness refers to the lack of life. (For example, you say, "I am happy implies that I am my current state of consciousness.") In a way, that seems to concur with yohami's suggestion that happiness comes from freedom.

Samhains, you say that happiness only acts as a motivation and reward for some people, and you say that true happiness comes from nirvana. I agree mostly with the Buddhists who teach us to give up petty, temporal indulgences for a life of inner-study and a search for a more selfless type of happiness. However, you seem to define 'happiness' in a more religious and spiritual way than I would. How can being "awake" (in the spiritual sense) make us happy? Why would it? And where does that happiness come from?

djazzy456, I think many people who believe in God would also believe that their happiness comes from God and the relationship they have with God. But I would have thought they would think happiness is a perfect quality given by God, though you suggest that it is seperate from any religious or non-religious dogma. I suppose if you believe god is perfect and humans cannot be perfect, then there would always be more happiness that a living person could gain in their life by becoming better. (To the religious person, I suppose 'better' would mean 'more god-like'.) Anyway, I generally agree with your statement that happiness is an ever-fleeting motivator.

Thanks everyone for your comments and replies! I hope to see more. :D
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Post Number:#8  PostFebruary 14th, 2008, 3:17 pm

Hi Scott, excellent postt.

Man the thinker has become man the go-getter. He is the driven slave of time! Clocks, calendars, days, weeks, years, minutes, even seconds are allocated to either working your tail off, or, while not pursuing the golden carrot dangled before our noses, numbing the brain with useless entertainment gadgets, gossip, and juvenile amusements which are accepted favorably as the modern day aesthetics that supersede standards of taste, art, and beauty.

True happinrss comes from within not from without.
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Post Number:#9  PostFebruary 17th, 2008, 12:24 pm

True happinrss comes from within not from without.

I challenge the idea of 'true happiness'. Just because you experience an intense happiness doesn't make it more true than anyone else's. How do you know what others feel?
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Post Number:#10  PostFebruary 17th, 2008, 3:24 pm

You're exactly right. There are multiple paths to happiness and one certainly does not qualify to render the others useless. I stand corrected.
Thank you.
Peace
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A Philosophical Exploration of Happiness

Post Number:#11  PostFebruary 18th, 2008, 7:45 pm

Drawn by Scott's graceful introduction to the subject, I pulled out the books to see what has been said about happiness. I particularly needed, I thought, its definition. I wanted to be sure that my thinking would start from the same base as that of my peers. Too many of my posts had turned out to be wholly or partly irrelevant. The terms used by the originators of threads had meant something different to me than they had to them. This time would be different. We would discuss the same thing.

The books were no help. They not only failed to provide a common definition, they provided so many contradictory definitions as to constitute no definition. Depending on which philosopher was being quoted, happiness was contentment or self-gratification or an emotion or not an emotion or heaven or working to get to heaven or a good in itself or a sum of goods or a self-defined trait or a morality-defined trait or a defeat of adversity or an absence of adversity, etc.

A lot of people seem to be as confused as I. Most of them appear to have gone along with the notion that happiness is best defined by the individual as the satisfaction derived from attaining his/her life (or after-life) goals. That's OK but the goals differ so much that we have little in common and little to say to each other about happiness. Dr. Phil might be our best recourse.

Despite these doubts, I have given the subject my best shot. As a result, I believe I have discovered the true definition of happiness. The above list, representing 2,500 years of thought by our greatest minds, demonstrates that defining happiness is an unattainable pursuit. It follows. as night does the day, that happiness itself is an unattainable pursuit.

Isn't that nifty!
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Post Number:#12  PostFebruary 22nd, 2008, 1:45 pm

Anything apart from actuality is speculative, period. We cannot assume our current states of reason.
The receptors which are our brains can merely, in a reciprocating fashion, summon forth that which already exists.
Happiness is an "acquiescent essence" or "eternal aura" if you will, projected via universal propagation and simply a revelatory-expunged frequency of universal absolution.
We therefore are not happy insomuch as happy is what is. We concurrently and momentarily exhume from its
constancy the underlying aspect the brain is in tune to at a particular juncture.
Happy Happy Joy Joy? Or simply constant continuum of universal synchronization? lol
:D
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A Philosophical Explanation of Happiness

Post Number:#13  PostFebruary 22nd, 2008, 5:23 pm

Hi Symmetry44,

Your posts are increasing my inferiority complex. I'm unsure as to whether my inability to understand them is due to my intellectual inferiority or, less likely, my lack of humor. Either way its hard on the ego.

I would appreciate it a lot if you wouldn't mind explaining, in simpler words and greater detail, just
one of your statements. How about this:

"Happiness is an 'acquiescent essence' or 'eternal aura' if you will, projected via universal propogation and simply a revelatory-expunged frequency of universal absolution."

Thanks for mentioning Helium.com. It's an interesting site.
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Post Number:#14  PostFebruary 22nd, 2008, 11:21 pm

I apologize Dewey. Hey listen man don't sell yourself short, you're a smart guy in any forum.
The "acquiescent essence" is referring to the mobility of universal substance or cold dark matter if you will. It is frequencies which are constantly emanated in and around us.
What is, already is, and therefore we in order to incur any of its underlying capabilities must simply learn to tap into its frequency.
It's sort of like the old adage "As a man thinkth in his heart so shall he be."
All emotive semblances are there for the taking if we understand the principals of due diligence.
Summon forth by thoughts, words and actions those things we require and it shall come to pass.
Therefore as we acquiesce (succumb to) the devices of the universe, so too it to that of our own.
Acquiescent essence refers to the universal adaptation incurred by reciprocating means, which is our thought patterns, vociferous propagation(speaking) and active participation in and of its device.
Sorry, I have trouble explaining it in real simplistic terms.
If you've ever seen Oprah Winfrey's show on what's referred to as "The Secret", it's along those lines.
Call into fruition that which you desire and the universe will abide.
I hope this explanation helped bro.
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Post Number:#15  PostFebruary 25th, 2008, 3:00 am

I apologize Dewey. Hey listen man don't sell yourself short, you're a smart guy in any forum.
The "acquiescent essence" is referring to the mobility of universal substance or cold dark matter if you will. It is frequencies which are constantly emanated in and around us.
What is, already is, and therefore we in order to incur any of its underlying capabilities must simply learn to tap into its frequency.
It's sort of like the old adage "As a man thinkth in his heart so shall he be."
All emotive semblances are there for the taking if we understand the principals of due diligence.
Summon forth by thoughts, words and actions those things we require and it shall come to pass.
Therefore as we acquiesce (succumb to) the devices of the universe, so too it to that of our own.
Acquiescent essence refers to the universal adaptation incurred by reciprocating means, which is our thought patterns, vociferous propagation(speaking) and active participation in and of its device.
Sorry, I have trouble explaining it in real simplistic terms.
If you've ever seen Oprah Winfrey's show on what's referred to as "The Secret", it's along those lines.
Call into fruition that which you desire and the universe will abide.
I hope this explanation helped bro.

This is not philosophy Symmetry44.

It's mysticism or spiritualism or just baseless speculation, who knows, but it isn't philosophy.


[Moderation note: The off-topic discussion has been split and moved into a new thread which you can see here.]
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