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Stumbling On Happiness
Humans are different because they are only animals which think about the future. (Discounts birds and animals which lay in stores for the winter as they are simply following instinct. Shortened days trigger food-burying programs in squirrel brains, but a squirrel "knows" about the future in the same way as a falling rock "knows" about gravity.)
We get almostas much pleasure thinking about the future as actually experiencing it. People buy lottery tickets to contemplate what they'd do if won, even though they understand how unlikely winning actually is. One study told people they'd won a free dinner ata flash restaurant, then asked when they wanted to go. most people preferred 'next week' bc gave them week of looking forward to the experience.
Some experiences actually better imagined than experienced eg St Kilda cake shops in Ackland Rd.
Patently obvious to all of us that conjoined twins must be very unhappy, and the dangerous operation to separate them is imperative. But if you ask the twins themselves, they will tell you that they wouldn't have it any other way. And not just a few of them feel like that; it is practically universal. But most 'normals' reject their opinion - "They are just saying that to cheer themselves up" or "They don't know what happiness is" (as if the speaker does!).
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Amount of control you have over life is crucial. Rest home expts where half residents given control over (pot plants, goldfih) feeding and cleaning, and half cd just look at them. Low control group more drugs, higher mortality rate. But when control power taken away when expt ended, high control group suddenlydouble mortality rate.
Most common reaction to high stress is resilience. Negative events affect us, but not as much, or for as long, as people expect.
In practice, people are actually unhappier with kids, but society keeps telling us that kids are 'best things in my life', and so we fall into line.
John Stuart Mill said "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their side of the question."
Another philosopher, Robert Nozick, described an imaginary virtual reality pleasure machine that allowed someone to have any experience they wanted, and at same time letting them forget that they were hooked up to a machine. He decided that no-one would want to be hooked up to such a machine for the rest of their life, because the experience would be artificial.
Belief that, to be happy, your life has to be proper, moral and meaningful. For Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and even Epicurus, the only true happiness came from a life well-lived - the virtuous performance of one's duties, with the precise meaning of 'virtuous' being left up to the individual.
And then later the Christian theorists added a twist to that idea. "Happiness' wasn't necessarily the product of a life of virtue, but the reward for it, and the reward was not necessarily to be expected in this lifetime.
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