Field of Science

Happiness is irrelevant, resistance is futile

When I was a child, I once watched an animated kid's program about a family where the youngest of two children turned out to be retarded. At first the child was just happy, and all was joy. But then later on, the parents got worried that the child didn't respond much, but was just happy crumbling up paper and listening to the sound.

A doctor told them that there was nothing wrong with their child, but that she was just one of "them". At first the parents got really sad and worried, but then the older child said "but look! she's happy!", and then they all realized that this was good, and they that everything was going to be all right.

For me as a child it was a good story to hear (rather than Dragon Ball Z GT total brainless waste of time kind of thing). It made me think. The morale was perhaps that as long as someone is happy, things are really all right. Something like that.


Is that true? Is happiness really the ultimate measure of worth? Does the pursuit of it really make sense to write up as a guiding principle? Is everything okay if we're happy? Can we be happy in other ways than being happy?

I will counter that happiness can be made to stand alongside other measures of a good life. That is, rather than saying that happiness is achieved given we work well, carry out our duty, live up to our responsibilities, treat others well, honor thy parents, score many touchdowns, or whatever you think are good things to do in life, I would say that happiness can be added to that list. Happiness is a thing to achieve for sure, but need not be the ultimate goal. A life can be lived to the fullest without happiness necessarily playing a big part.

For example, people sometimes say that flow is one way to be happy: when we are so immersed in a task that we notice nothing else, then this is one form of happiness. But, while I agree that flow is nice, I do not think it is happiness at all. Rather, it makes happiness irrelevant.

And this is my point here: Happiness is not enough. It is one thing among many that are worth striving for. Rather than being what we may achieve when everything else is right, we can make life worthwhile without being happy (note that not being happy is not equal being unhappy). And also, we can be happy at times without anything else going our way.

In evolution, I could add, happiness is irrelevant. Fitness does not come to the happiest. The happiest human beings are not at all those with the most children. Does the one who have the most children become the most happy? Or does the happiest person become the one with the most children?

Surely a life lived in pure and constant happiness induced by a constant intake of heroin cannot be deemed a good life. Of course a life lived as the happiest retard is not something to aspire to. Clearly happiness is not everything.

Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is.

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