1. I don’t know if I can adopt the totally hedonistic perspective that all happiness is good. Again, happiness derived from some terrible act, like torture or serial killing, seems problematic. I feel like to say that all happiness is good, that’s like saying “everyone should do whatever it takes to make them happy,” and that basically says to those people made happy by serial killing that they should go ahead and kill serially. I don’t really want to endorse that behavior. I don’t have a strict definition for “good happiness,” but I think people can reasonably decide when their happiness is derived from a seriously morally questionable act.
2. I think my life might be okay with someone else making all my decisions (I’d probably do a lot less dumb stuff), but I don’t think I’d be happy. I think a lot of the time, you get happiness from things you do purely or at least partly because you did them. For instance, it feels great to get a question right in Jeopardy, but there’s really no sense of accomplishment if someone told you the answer. Even if my being in control means I make a lot more mistakes, at least they’re my mistakes.
3. Nowhere Man’s life is tough because he basically has no consistent identity and means of self-expression. He’s constantly changing activities, interests, friends, etc. I agree that this life would be undesirable, even if it were filled with happiness, because I feel like that happiness would be temporary and unreliable. Maybe one thing makes Nowhere Man happy, but he soon moves on to a different thing. He has no consistent source of happiness, and no sense of self to fall back on when he feels lost, confused and sad.
4. When Kazez says we can feel infinity through ethical concern, I think she means that thinking altruistically of humanity’s future gives us a sense that we’ll never die. If we can impact on the future – say, keep the world from getting too hot for the next thousand years or so – that impact is a part of us that will survive after our physical bodies die. It pleases us to think that we, in our legacies, will survive beyond our times.
5. That’s a really difficult question. I’m inclined to say the latter – terrible start and marvelous end – because it seems more romantic/heroic/admirable. I know many people who have had lives like that, and I admire them greatly. But to be honest, I don’t think that would be necessary to be truly happy. As long as some small progress continues to be made over time, I think I could still be really happy. It’s no Rocky story, but it’s admirable in its own sort of small, everyday way.
6. This really circles back to the first question, which I still don’t really know how to answer. I don’t know about the value of happiness, because I feel like that’s difficult to define, but I know that certain experiences I have give me greater feelings of happiness than other ones. For instance, happiness that I feel from bonding with my family or my friends is usually a lot more powerful than the happiness I feel from eating a Kit-Kat (although the Kit-Kat happiness is not insignificant). So I think it’s possible that not all happiness is equally valuable – but I’m still really not sure.
2. I kind of answered this in the last question, but I can think of another set of examples. For instance, last weekend I was watching Netflix alone in my apartment Friday night, and that made me happy, because it was relaxing and I didn’t have to do any work. Then, the next night, I was watching Netflix with my best friend, and I felt a lot happier. That’s almost the exact same situation, but the second one felt more valuable because I was with someone I cared about. I don’t know if that makes the happiness more valuable or just in greater quantity, though, because I’m not exactly sure what “valuable” means when it comes to happiness.
3. I honestly agree with all of them. While reading the essay, I tried to think of my life without any of the five, and the thoughts were always really undesirable. I can’t imagine going without any of the five factors she identified and still being a happy, fulfilled person.
4. I don’t think a person’s life can be meaningful simply because they believe it is, but I also don’t think a person’s life can be meaningful (to them) if they don’t believe it is. In my opinion, outlook and attitude are a huge factor in how our lives go. If you do really meaningful things – help other people, live a moral life, etc – but you don’t believe they’re meaningful, then it won’t feel meaningful to you, and you probably won’t be happy. Moreover, even if you don’t do meaningful things, perhaps the belief that your life is meaningful will lead you to do meaningful things. That may be a little overly optimistic, but I feel like belief is really important. I think a big part of happiness lies in the way you choose to think about your life.