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Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance Dan Turton
Overview L1 (today): –Happiness and the meaning of life L2 (Thurs 29 Oct): –Measuring happiness L3 (Thurs 5 Nov): –Happiness… so what?
Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance L1: Happiness and the Meaning of Life
Objectives Happiness, well-being and the meaning of life Ancient views of happiness Modern views of happiness Analysing and discussing the accounts Understanding the importance of happiness for ‘the good life’
The Meaning of Life The BIG question –It should inform us on how to live What, if anything, is the purpose for life? –Religious/spiritual purposes –Survival and reproduction –There is no purpose for life How can we find meaning/value in life? –Flourishing –Making plans and seeing them through –Enjoying being in the moment
The Purpose for Life Religious/spiritual Purposes –Advises how to live, but its too risky! Survival and reproduction –Says nothing meaningful about how to live! –We are fermenting globules Neither really satisfy
Finding Meaning/Value in Life Concluding that there is no purpose for life does not mean that your life is meaningless Our experiences and actions seem meaningful/valuable (or the opposite) to us Without ‘higher’ guidance, we should probably still try to live a meaningful/valuable life
The ‘Good Life’ We should still try to attain the ‘good life’ What kind of ‘good life’? –A good example of a life –Aesthetically good –Morally good –Causally good –Subjectively good
Well-Being The subjectively good life = the life that is good for the one living it = Well-Being What makes someone's life go better/best for them? If your life starts to go better (for you), then your well-being has been improved
Theories of Well-Being… Explain what ultimately makes a person’s life go better for them Most theories hold that only one or a few things intrinsically/ ultimately make a person’s life go better or worse –Most things have instrumental value –Use the ‘why?’ test
Happiness & Well-Being Happiness is a simple and commonplace state of mind It’s also a complex and abstract notion Does happiness = well-being? –Is all happiness ultimately good for us? –Is only happiness ultimately good for us?
Defining Happiness To know if happiness = well-being, we need to be clear about what happiness is And then ask ourselves if that and only that is all there is to a life that is good for the one living it –Is happiness the ultimate explanation for why anything is good for us?
Around 700BCE Happiness as a blessed life (by the Gods) Happy people (men) were lucky, enjoyed life, beautiful, prosperous, well-regarded, healthy, athletic, fathers of fine children etc. You don’t know if you’re happy until you’re dead! Dying young could be good for your happiness! It was foolish to strive for happiness because it was totally up to the Gods!
Socrates/Plato ~ 400BCE Happiness is possessing what is good & what is beautiful Happiness is up to us, not the Gods Learning to control our Eros (desires) At first loving simple beauty –E.g. a beautiful person Then, loving the beauty of wisdom & truth –E.g. being a philosopher! Socrates thought this process would take quite a while
Aristotle ~ 300BCE Happiness is flourishing (eudaimonia), which is the purpose of man (not women or animals) Eudaimonia: the soul expressing virtue But ‘happiness in general’ is similar to the list from before Still up to us, but hard if the Gods give you a bad start Virtues are ‘golden means’ Cowardice – courage - rashness Boastfulness – self-respect – self-deception But… Godly contemplation was real happiness
Making Happiness Attainable Socrates/Plato/Aristotle set the bar for happiness too high Zeno & Epicurus offered realistic alternatives Both thought their versions of philosophy could make life bearable or happy by avoiding the vagaries of ‘fortune’ Both, esp. Epicurus, included women and slaves as people
Epicurus - Hedonism Happiness is a life of pleasure & not pain Gods don’t get involved with our lives Hence: a ‘hedonist’ is a pleasure-seeker Epicurus was no modern-day hedonist –Pleasure doesn’t mean sensual pleasure –Pleasure is freedom from bodily and especially mental pain –Pleasure can come from ‘sober reasoning’ – examination of the world and ourselves
Zeno - Stoicism A great creator gives the universe its underlying logic and reason –So, everything is as it should be Humans logical place in the universe: –Being virtuous… which is being happy! –None of the other things have any value The man of true virtue will be happy… even when being tortured! Hence: ‘Stoic’ means unaffected by suffering or joy
Examining our Desires Both Epicurus and Zeno believed that our desires must be examined if we are to be happy –Unsatisfied desires cause unhappiness Epicurus: train yourself to desire only enough to not be hungry, thirsty or cold Zeno: train yourself to restrict your emotions – if something displeases you then change it or your expectations
700+BCE: Being blessed by the Gods –Don’t bother trying (it’s not up to you) Socrates: Loving wisdom (philosophising) –Ignore our lower Eros (lower desires) Aristotle: Lots, especially expressing virtue & philosophising –Be lucky & dedicate life to using reason to express virtue Epicurus: Being free of bodily & especially mental pain –Examine and limit desires to the basics Zeno: Being at one with the universe (being virtuous for humans) –Restrict emotions - don’t desire anything you don’t have What it is and How to Get it
Discussion Which ancient philosopher had the best account of happiness? Is being virtuous the same as being happy, or is it an indirect route to happiness or is it totally irrelevant? Some consider it a human right to be able to pursue happiness, but is it a bad idea to desire happiness?
Hedonism Well-being = happiness = pleasure and not pain Pleasure is the only thing that is intrinsically valuable for us Folk: get pleasure now! Philosophers: maximise pleasure over your entire life –Bentham: duration x intensity –Mill: quality, duration x intensity
Is Pleasure the Only Thing of Value? Compare two lives Similarities: –Both lived long lives & have experienced equal pleasures from the same sources –Sources: being loved by their family & friends, achieving at work & in hobbies etc. Differences: –One of them is mistaken about all of the things he takes pleasure in –The other is not Whose life is better?
Desire-Satisfaction Well-being = the satisfaction of your desires = (sometimes) happiness Getting what you want is the only thing that is intrinsically valuable for us Informed D-S: only adequately informed desires count Ideal D-S: only desires that fit some objective criteria count
Is the Satisfaction of Our Desires Good for us? Actual and informed desires are often for things that are, on balance, bad for us! Ideal desires require some kind of objective standard We choose to desire things because we think that their satisfaction will provide us with some value or meaning D-S accounts put the value in the satisfaction, not the ultimate reason for having the desire
Modern Accounts of Well-Being Mental state accounts –E.g. hedonism Desire-satisfaction accounts –E.g. informed desire-satisfaction Objective list accounts –E.g. flourishing/objective list accounts
Flourishing The good life for the one living it (well-being) is the life of flourishing Flourishing = developing & expressing natural capacities and powers Developing excellencies in one or all of your species’ fundamental traits Only some versions include or require happiness/enjoyment of life
Flourishing = Objective List But, which traits do you prioritise? –Is excellence in reasoning or long-distance running better for us? The naturalistic fallacy Unnatural things can be good for us too! –E.g. Pacemakers, wings etc. We end up with a list of things that are good for us
Objective List = ‘Objective’ List A list of the ultimate goods Most objective list theories lack justification of their ‘irreducible/intrinsic’ goods E.g. Ross’ account: –Knowledge, Pleasure, Virtue and the proper apportionment of pleasure to virtue Can’t we explain knowledge with pleasure or desire-satisfaction? Why is it ultimately better for me that my pleasure comes from virtue?
What are the Ultimate Bearers of Value? Remember: Accounts of well-being need to say what the ultimate bearers of value are Some accounts just use happiness Some use happiness and other (independent) goods Some don’t even use happiness!
Discussion: Accounts of Happiness/ Well-Being What is the best account of happiness? Do any of the modern accounts of happiness = well-being? Or are there other things that are intrinsically good for us? –If so, what are they?
Happiness and the Meaning of Life Most people think happiness is at least important for our well-being – for finding meaning/value in our lives But it’s not clear what we can or should do about that fact First we need to know how well happiness can be measured And then we can discuss what we could and should do with that information
How to Find Out More Further reading: –The Pursuit of Happiness: A History from the Greeks to the Present –By Darrin McMahon –Also published as “Happiness: A History”
Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance L2: Measuring Happiness
Objectives Show how various types of happiness are measured Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches Understand the limitations of measurements
Are you Happy? A simple and a complicated question How we go about answering it depends on what we take ‘happiness’ to mean Or, it depends on how the question is asked
How Can I Find Out How Happy You Are? Indirectly –Look at your wealth/income –Look at your capabilities or your quality of life indicators (More) Directly –Observe your behaviour –Brain scans –Ask you
Looking at Your Income Used by: –Some economists & politicians –Most of us as an indicator of ‘national progress’ Income is an indicator of ability to satisfy preferences (and thereby make yourself happy)
Margin of Discontent Gap between what we have and what we want Two solutions: ‘Sages’ solution: “Give up wanting” – Hard & boring? ‘Economic growth solution: “People satisfy their wants by increasing their possessions, thus becoming happier”
Looking at Your Income Used by: –Some economists & politicians –Most of us as an indicator of ‘national progress’ Income is an indicator of ability to satisfy preferences (and thereby make yourself happy) Benefits: Easy to calculate and compare on large scale Problems…
Does $$ Make Us Happy? Reducing the margin of discontent makes people happier Economic growth helps consumers to reduce their margin of discontent If 1. and 2. are both true, then why have we gotten richer… but not happier? Evidence?
Adaptation Lottery winners return to pretty much the same level of happiness after 1 year (contested) The more we have: –The more we want and –The more we think we need Evidence?
So, Does $$ Make Us Happy? So, unless you are materialistic, more $$ makes very little difference to our happiness – much less than: –A loving relationship –Volunteering –A rewarding job But materialistic people seem to have a pretty strange idea of happiness Having said all this… who would not want to win lotto?
Discussion Can money not buy happiness or are we just spending it on the wrong things? Is it possible to avoid adapting to new things that bring us happiness? Has anyone sacrificed money for happiness? How did it go?
Looking at Your Capabilities/QoL Indicators Used by: –Some economists & politicians –Often encouraged by NGOs Income, access to education, healthcare, clean environment, employment, political freedoms etc. Benefits: Not too hard to calculate and compare on large scale Problems…
Aren’t We all Capable of Happiness? People from all walks of life report themselves as happy, even those whose circumstances look dire to us Adaptation (again) Relativity of happiness Determinants of happiness –Evidence?
Discussion What is more important, freedom, education, or happiness? Which is better, a long life of medium happiness or a medium life of great happiness? Should we focus on genetic technology and cognitive behavioural therapy instead of circumstances?
Observe Your Behaviour Used by: –A few academics –Just about all of us! By observing body language and behaviour we can tell how happy someone is Benefits: easy to do, especially with people you know well Problems: impractical on large scale and…
Smile! Smiling is the main way to tell if someone’s happy… but only if they are real smiles real smiles Duchenne (real) smiles can be noticed by the ‘sparkle’ in the eyes
Scanning Your Brain Used by: –A few academics Activity in specific areas of the brain are measured and compared to the other direct measures of happiness Benefits: becoming increasingly accurate Problems: very impractical on large scale and still mysterious
Discussion If happiness has a biological cause in the brain, then we will be able to influence it with drugs, surgery, bionics etc… but should we? If our brains show equal ‘happiness activity’, then are we equally happy? How can we know this?
Asking You Used by: –Psychologists –Occasionally by economics academics You think about and answer a question regarding your happiness. After all, who could be better than you at judging how happy you are? Benefits: Not too hard to calculate and (possibly) compare on large scale Problems… depend on the question…
3 Types of Questions I Can Ask You (3 Levels of Happiness) 1)How are you feeling right now (from 1 to 7)? –Introspection 2)All things considered, how happy are you these days (from 1 to 7)? –Introspection, comparative judgement 3)On the whole, how good do you think your life is (from 1 to 7)? –Introspection, comparative judgement, relative to conception of ‘the good life’
Level One Happiness: Feeling Happy in the Moment How are you feeling right now? –Introspection Level One Happiness (Nettle) –Mood –Pleasure –Joy –Absence of pain and suffering (negative feelings) Fear, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Pain
Level One Happiness: Feeling Happy in the Moment Is there really such a thing? How good are we at getting it right? –Introspection –Smiling.. –Brain scans How good is it to have?
Level Two Happiness: Judging Your Happiness All things considered, how happy are you these days? –Introspection, comparative judgement Level Two Happiness (Nettle) –Total net Level One happiness (Kahneman) –Well-being –Satisfaction –Judgement about feelings Can be distorted by biased judgements
Level Two Happiness: Judging Your Happiness Is there really such a thing? How good are we at getting it right? –Appraisal biases –Aspirational biases How good is it to have?
Level Three Happiness: Thinking You Have a Good Life On the whole, how good do you think your life is? –Introspection, comparative judgement, relative to conception of ‘the good life’ Level Three Happiness (Nettle) –Eudaimonia –Fulfilling potential –Quality of life Doesn’t always require Level 1 or 2 happiness
Level Three Happiness: Thinking You Have a Good Life Is there really such a thing? –Subjectively: yes –Objectively: interesting question How good are we at getting it right? How good is it to have?
Happiness ‘Continuum’ Level 1 -Momentary feelings -Mood -Pleasure or joy -Not suffering Level 2 -Judgements about feelings -Net level 1 happiness -Well-being -satisfaction Level 3 -Holistic evaluation of value of life -Flourishing -Needn’t include happiness More emotional, sensual, and reliable More cognitive, moral, and easily biased
Discussion When (if ever) are our judgments about how we feel accurate enough to make decisions by? For self- and governmental –assessment, which method of measuring happiness: –Provides the best gauge of actual happiness (most accurate/ reliable)? –Is the easiest to carry out? Or, suggest another method
How to Find Out More Further reading: –Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile By Daniel Nettle –Stumbling on Happiness By Dan Gilbert Multimedia info: –www.danturton.com/happinesswww.danturton.com/happiness –http://www.nationalaccountsofwellbein g.org/http://www.nationalaccountsofwellbein g.org/
Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance L3: Happiness… So What?
Objectives Use our previous learning (about what happiness is, how valuable it is and if we can measure it) to help us… Decide what we should do about happiness both personally and as a society
So What Should I Do? Perhaps you should pursue happiness (wisely) & gently encourage those you love to do the same Perhaps by trying to change things about yourself –Try to be open-minded, –Extroverted, –Positive, –Believe that you can control your own life, –And, stop negative thought patterns (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
So What Should I Do? Perhaps you should change what you do with your time –Reduce commuting –Take holidays with family (work-life balance) –Get married & spend time keeping it in good shape –Don’t necessarily have kids –Make and keep good friends –Meditate once a day –Exercise at least twice a week –Volunteer & become ‘socially enmeshed’ –Go to church?
So What Should I Do? Perhaps you should buy experiences, not stuff And maybe… ‘happiness hats’ & drugs! Happiness hats –http://gizmodo.com/5391968/the- happiness-hat-will-spike-your-skullhttp://gizmodo.com/5391968/the- happiness-hat-will-spike-your-skull Deep Brain Stimulation –Early days, but has temporarily cured anhedonia in chronic depressives Drugs of the future might be easier to use than DBS hats
Discussion Would you take a 50% higher-paying job that required 1 hour more commuting per day? If meditation has been ‘proven’ to make us happier, why don’t more people do it? Do you do it? Would you advise a friend about what the latest happiness study says about the decision s/he is about to make? Would you use a happiness hat/drugs?
So What Should the Government Do? Assuming the following: –Happiness is important to most of us –Happiness can be increased –Government policies can affect happiness –Governments try to do what is best for their citizens Governments should seek and use relevant happiness data when deciding if policies are good. Assuming: –A sufficiently effective data-collecting method is available –Gathering the data would not create any widespread perverse incentives
Bhutan vs. New Zealand In Bhutan, happiness (they define it more like peaceful serenity) is the most important driver of policy –Since the late 1980’s In New Zealand, it’s often ‘the effect on the economy’ –On jobs or per capita incomes or GDP/GNP
Discussion Consider the assumptions mentioned before… Do we know enough about happiness and value it enough to follow in the footsteps of Bhutan? Or should we just increase the relevance of happiness research in policy-making? If we do use considerations of happiness to inform policy-making, then should we use studies or just common sense? Or, are we assuming too much? Is using happiness to guide policy a hopeless idea?
Income Inequality Income inequality might make Kiwis unhappy (relativity of happiness) Any citizens with an income of $20,000 or less per year could be made happier by giving them access to more $$ Should we cap very high incomes or guarantee minimum incomes?
Unemployment Unemployment is a major cause of unhappiness & dissatisfaction with life A redistribution of wages for civil servants (less for top execs) could create enough spare cash to create more jobs for unemployed job-seekers Should drastic measures like this be taken to ensure unemployment is minimal?
Employment More quality time with family, less time at work and more time commuting could make us happier (both individually and as a nation) Should the government mandate a better work-life balance? –More holidays? –Virtual workplaces?
Advertising Rosser Reeves –Manager of a successful advertising company While holding up two coins: –“[Making] you think that this quarter is more valuable than that one”
The Benefits of Advertising Winston Churchill: “Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It creates wants for a better standard of living… It spurs individual exertion and greater production.” Advertising improves our well-being
Does Advertising Make Us Dissatisfied? Beautiful (photo-shopped) women are in adverts everywhere They make us unhappy/ dissatisfied Should we remove tax breaks for pictorial advertising? Should we ban pictorial advertising?
Education Being more intelligent doesn’t make you happier… it may even make you less happy Should we make learning positive psychology & social skills part of school education? Should schools focus on happiness or work? –Happiness 52%, work 43%
Health Psychological health has a big impact on happiness Should more taxes go to counseling, positive psychologists, mediation classes etc? What about anti-depressants, happy pills, happy hats etc?
Foreign Policy A slight increase in taxes for rich people in rich countries would be more than enough to fund the continual development of the world’s poorest communities (making them happier) But, people (rich or not) don’t like having stuff taken from them Should foreign aid tax be increased?
Discussion There are many policies that could be implemented in the name of increasing happiness Most policies just cost money. Are there other things that should not be sacrificed for happiness? E.g. freedom, intelligence etc? Some policies would work better if people didn’t know about them (e.g. happiness drugs in the water). Should the government always have to inform the public about such policies? Even when it would make them less happy?
The Press/Media The press/media has long had the role as a check and balance on government (where bias does not have too much influence) The press has the power (to some extent) to set the method used to measure the success of governments They seem to focus on financial economic indicators –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWC-2ZcIJCshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWC-2ZcIJCs
Discussion The media both sets and measures what is newsworthy – what the public want to know & what they learn to want –Should the media also publish information about what the people should want to know about? Should the press/media do what they can to ensure the government does more direct measuring of happiness and uses the results to inform policy-making?
How to Find Out More Further reading: –Happiness: Lessons from a New Science By Lord Richard layard Further research: –Google Scholar search happiness+factor+review (from 2000 onwards) Multimedia info: –www.danturton.com/happinesswww.danturton.com/happiness –http://www.nationalaccountsofwellbeing.org/http://www.nationalaccountsofwellbeing.org/