Happiness: If You’re Not Feeling it You’re Committing a Crime Against Yourself

In these secular days most of us accept we haven’t got an afterlife to look forward too, and most of us don’t hold the belief that we are going to come back in another form. In short this is the only chance we have to be happy, and since this is the only shot we’ve got we owe it to ourselves to make sure we are happy, and so we feel that any time spent suffering is time we have failed to utilise. This is the conclusion the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner came to in his book Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to be Happy in 2001 (although it has been in the news recently as it has just been made accessible to the English speaking world thanks to a new translation of the work by Steven Rendall).

Continue reading “Happiness: If You’re Not Feeling it You’re Committing a Crime Against Yourself”

Should parents – and not just their babies – be crying?

The costs and benefits of being a parent have been in the news a lot in the last few years.  Some studies apparently indicate that parenting is linked to unhappiness.  According to one study, “parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness (Alesina et al., 2004), life satisfaction (Di Tella et al., 2003), marital satisfaction (Twenge et al., 2003) and mental well-being (Clark & Oswald, 2002) compared with non-parents.”

So why should anyone have children?  This is a reasonable thing to wonder about. We wonder about good reasons for doing and creating things all the time. Should we build that stadium? Should I go to school or get a new job? Should I make the pizza or the steamed kale? Given that child-rearing is seemingly a monumental task, it is reasonable to wonder if and why one has reason to do it.   Continue reading “Should parents – and not just their babies – be crying?”

The Pursuit of Happiness

David Cameron has recently announced and, due to widespread scepticism, defended the coalition government’s decision to introduce a national £2m government funded ‘happiness-index’, to gauge the happiness of the British people.  The Office for National Statistics is to formulate questions for a household survey, to be carried out up to four times a year.  Cameron has previously hinted at such an ambitious project.  In 2005, soon after becoming Conservative leader he said: “It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – General Well-Being”.

One could dismiss the government’s happiness-index proposals as woolly, blue sky thinking, politically calculated to coincide with the continuing instability of the Euro Zone, the winter student riots or the new year VAT rise.  Alternatively, one may insist quite the reverse – that these factors render the proposals an even more Continue reading “The Pursuit of Happiness”

Remembering the good, forgetting the bad

800px-EdisonDelights1905The relation between memory and personal identity is a well trodden track in the metaphysics of mind and self. But an article on the BBC News website suggests a connection not standardly considered.

A standard proposal of their relation, for instance, is that A is the same person as B only if A can remember experiences had by B. A consequence of such a view is that a person who is sufficiently old and incapable of remembering experiences had by her younger self is not the same person as that ‘younger self.’ There are variants on this approach which rule out that consequence. But all variants share the following feature: the link between memory and personal identity is in what is remembered.

But recent psychological research gives reason to consider a different kind of relation. Psychologists have found that as we get older, we tend to remember positive things better than we do negative things, with a corresponding change in how we behave (we’re happier) and in how we exercise our mental capacities. If this is true, then perhaps, in addition to changes to what one remembers, there are also changes in how one remembers that could constitute changes to who one is.

For the BBC article go here. For a more elaborate description of the research go here.

Related articles:
£1.99 - small Anthony Collins on the Emergence of Consciousness and Personal Identity
By William Uzgalis , Oregon State University
(Vol. 4, March 2009)
Philosophy Compass

Ag policy, cartographically

Tomatoes on the vine.

Parke Wilde at the US Food Policy blog posts ten google maps illustrating different agriculture land uses, from a phosphate strip mine in Florida to the Polyface farm featured in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Inc.

Peter Singer’s argument for vegetarianism turns on the premise that the difference in the amount of happiness we get from eating a salad and eating a pork chop is slight enough that it deserves little weight against other considerations.  The suffering and death of the pig, for example, is far more significant than our pork-chop/salad pleasure differential.  This is a powerful idea and it’s gotten a lot of traction.

Looking at these maps, I wonder why Singer’s premise hasn’t been more broadly applied.  After all, there is little or no difference between the amount we enjoy eating corn fertilized with mined phosphorous and eating crop-rotated corn.  Given the huge difference in environmental impact between these practices, shouldn’t we care about agricultural policy more than we do?  Singer’s argument has made many vegetarians.  Why hasn’t it made more policy wonks?

Related articles:

£1.99 - small Environmental Ethics: An Overview
By Katie McShane, Colarado State University (May 2009)
Philosophy Compass

£1.99 - small Morality and Psychology
By Chrisoula Andreou, University of Utah (December 2006)
Philosophy Compass

Golf, Happiness, and Morality

Stuart Cink golf_2won the 2009 British Open at Turnberry last Sunday, his first major championship. However, the new highpoint in the 36 year-old Cink’s professional golf career came at the expense of Tom Watson’s happiness and the happiness of (nearly all) golf fans world-wide who desperately wanted to see Watson do the impossible: win golf’s most storied major at the not-so-tender age of 59, eleven years older than any previous major winner. Continue reading “Golf, Happiness, and Morality”