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Friday, November 06, 2015

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The definition of being happy + NEWS for today Friday

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The definition of being happy.

I have written a few provoking ideas (I hope they are) that establish
beyond doubt that this is not an easy task we are faced with. Ruel has
also sent us the link to his essay but first news about a book
presentation at the Centro Segoviano:
Book Presentation at Centro Segoviano - Author Ricardo A Fernandez title
Segovia para Curiosos
http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/2015/11/book-presentation-at-centro-segoviano.html


From Ruel:
Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to the very short essay I wrote on Sunday's topic:
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/the-definition-of-being-happy/
Thanks and see you on Sunday.
All the best,
Ruel

From Lawrence
The definition of being happy
The first issue we have to address ourselves here is whether different
causes give rise to the same effect? Furthermore, is "being happy" a
direct cause of one of these possible causes that might make people
happy or is the state of happiness an indirect effect of the original
cause? Is there an intervening, middle cause that mediates between the
world of causes out there and our psychological/mental state of being
happy? Even if "being happy" is itself an effect of a cause.

The second issue that stems from the first issue, and is key to our
topic, 1) is whether our internal mental state of being happy is so
subjective and so internal that an independent observer will never have
access to our mental/brain state to determine if our state of happiness
is really cause by the chain of cause and effect we claim to have
reasons to be happy or 2) whether what we think is causing us to be
happy might itself not be the direct cause or related to our happiness.
This is important for the simple reason that if we are to give a
definition of "being happy" we need to meet two conditions.

The first condition is that we are justified to be happy under the
conditions we claim to be happy under. If this was not the case then we
would not be able to give a real definition of "being happy" in a public
and understandable language. The alternative, (what we think is making
us happy) would just be a March Hare effect (Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland), any meaning of happiness and being happy, are purely a
subjective meaning and therefore not capable of arriving at a precise
meaning. Or I say what I mean and I mean what I say! Pure subjectivism
does not lend itself very easily to a public definition and language.

We can however, arrive at a probabilistic meaning of what it is to be
happy but I am sure that the purists and connoisseurs of happiness won't
accept a "maybe" definition." A probabilistic meaning would involve
having an objectively verifiable cause, say an ice cream or a piece of
cake, then asking an array of people if the object or cause in question
makes them happy. We might not know how we get from ice cream to "I am
happy" but we have a good scattering of opinions from not happy to super
duper happy!

The second condition is that we need to arrive at the necessary and
sufficient conditions that will lead to happiness should we come
"across" any causal chain of happiness. Given that many different causes
lead to this same mental state we call "happiness" we need to know what
exactly triggers this so called happiness in us. But before we get there
we also need to establish whether what we call happiness is one and the
same thing in all of us: there is no point of a definition if each and
every one's experience is different despite everyone calling it
happiness. We need something more certain; we need some universal
criteria, for example something like the universal criteria of being
dead. Once again we can hardly come up with a definition of what it
means to be happy if we are reporting that we feel something but in fact
we are all feeling different independent things.

So before we can even being to define "being happy" we need to overcome
the issue of whether all causes that can lead to happiness are leading
to the same effect in all of us. Something, for example, as the
universal effect as being dead. Except of course, being dead only
applies to dead people, but being happy must apply to living people.
Secondly, we can really establish an objective meaning of "being happy"
that forms part of our language where the cause is present in the public
domain but the effect is only to be found in the subjective, private,
domain?

Best Lawrence



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from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The definition of
being happy + NEWS for today Friday

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