Thursday, December 17, 2009

No one in the world today is ever really happy

A Rulebook for Arguments (fourth edition) informs me that it is important to start from well-supported premises. For example the premise, 'no one in the world today is really happy' is not a very good premise because even when well defended it is quite unlikely.

Sometimes, on certain rainy afternoons or in certain moods, this may almost seem true. But ask yourself if this premise really is plausible. Is nobody in the world today really happy? Ever? At the very least, this premise needs some serious defense, and is very likely not true.
You can tell that this writer realizes they are writing to philosophers and philosophy students. The conclusion is only that this premise would need very good support, not that it is useless. Because knowing the sort of person an undergraduate is nothing is more tempting then that which they tell us is impossible. Of course we can argue from that premise.

Watch me!

Happiness as defined philosophically is different from the emotion. It isn't an instant of pleasure no matter how powerful. It is not passion because passion includes pain. Taken the Greek it might amount to being human.

Here is my theory: early societies form such that each member can understand the purpose of their society and the role that they play within that society. These societies are organic and as such will shift according to needs, such as oral story telling changes through generations. Once a society becomes larger and more complex it ceases to be a group of humans and becomes a system. Members of this society will have difficulty understanding the purpose of their society and their role in it. Philosophy becomes prevalent. Philosophy tries to explain why people should continue to behave in a human manner even though they are now within a system.

If being happy is the equivalent to being human qua human, then very few if any of us will be considered really happy. For the modern world is not an extremely human invention. We are surrounded by things which trascend being human, such as computers and cars and global warming and frozen pizza. In using technology in our every day lives we cease to be human and become something else. As such we are not happy.

This seems almost plausible. But I shall admit it: defending this premise is quite near to impossible. If we accept the idea that humans are a tool-making creature then our use of technology is part of what we are, and using it to the best of our abilities will lead us to be more complete. I view my computer as an extension of myself. It's that part of myself that eats electricity. Furthermore, there are many ways that we can be human apart from our use of technology. But if we accept consider the world 'really' we will see that the bar can be raised to any height as to what 'really' happy is, as such the premise requires something that is impossible in a finite world and is useless.

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