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Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Importance

Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Importance

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Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Importance

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  1. Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Importance Dan Weijers

  2. Overview • L1 (today): • Happiness and the meaning of life • L2 (Thurs 19 July): • Measuring happiness • L3 (Thurs 26 July): • Happiness and public policy

  3. Main Goal

  4. Introductions • Name? • Why have you come along? • The key to happiness in your opinion?

  5. Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance L1: Happiness and the Meaning of Life

  6. Objective • Understanding what’s really important in life

  7. What (Really) Matters? • What advice would you give a child?

  8. What (Really) Matters? Wellbeing The good life Happiness The meaning of life

  9. Theories of Wellbeing… • Explain what ultimately makes a person’s life go better for them

  10. One Thing or Many? • One simple thing: • Just pleasure • One complex thing: • Informed, authentic, and morally based positive feelings • A list of things: • Happiness, friendship and truth

  11. Subjective vs Objective • Does just our personal opinion matter? • Or can we be wrong?

  12. Who Are We to Say What is Objectively Good for Us?

  13. Theories of Wellbeing Desire/Life Satisfaction Flourishing Objective List Mental State (Hedonism)

  14. Mental State Theories • Folk: get pleasure now! • Philosophers: maximise pleasure over your entire life • Key: All that matters is how you feel (your mental states) Well-being Happiness +ve net balance of good over bad mental states Especially hedonism

  15. What about Truth & Freedom? • Compare two lives • Same experiences • Different reality • Double agent partner • Sponsored children all died • Whose life is better? • What should we do about a happy slave?

  16. Desire Satisfaction Theories Having most or more of your desires satisfied • Based on desire/preference-satisfaction • Informed: adequately informed desires only • Ideal: desires that fit some objective criteria only • Key: All that matters is getting what you want (or should want) Happiness Well-being Sometimes

  17. Is the Satisfaction of Our Desires Good for us? • How would “omniscient you” advise yourself? • Having a desire satisfied does not seem valuable unless it is the right desire

  18. Objective List • E.g. W.D. Ross’ account: • Knowledge, Pleasure, Virtue and the proper apportionment of pleasure to virtue • Can’t we explain knowledge with pleasure or desire-satisfaction?

  19. Flourishing Theories • Developing one or all of your species’ fundamental traits • Aristotle: Flourishing is the soul expressing virtue • E.g. cowardice – courage - rashness • Key: All that matters is being the best you can be (given that you’re a human) Well-being Flourishing Developing & expressing natural capacities

  20. Why is Fulfilling Our Natural Capacities Good? • Is excellence in reasoning or long-distance running better for us? • Unnatural things can be good for us too! • E.g. Pacemakers, wings etc.

  21. Best Theory of Wellbeing? Desire/Life Satisfaction Flourishing Mental State (Hedonism) Objective List

  22. Next Week • How to measure wellbeing • Special guest for first half

  23. Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Importance L2: Measuring Happiness

  24. Objectives • Show how various types of happiness are measured • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches • Understand the limitations of measurements

  25. Are you Happy? • A simple and a complicated question • How we go about answering it depends on what we take ‘happiness’ to mean • Or, it depends on how the question is asked

  26. How Can I Find Out How Happy You Are? • Indirectly • Look at your wealth/income • Look at your capabilities or your quality of life indicators • (More) Directly • Observe your behaviour • Brain scans • Ask you

  27. Looking at Your Income • Used by: • Some economists & politicians • Most of us as an indicator of ‘national progress’ • Income is an indicator of ability to satisfy preferences (and thereby make yourself happy)

  28. Margin of Discontent • Gap between what we have and what we want • Two solutions: • ‘Sages’ solution: • “Give up wanting” – Hard & boring? • ‘Economic growth solution: • “People satisfy their wants by increasing their possessions, thus becoming happier”

  29. Looking at Your Income • Used by: • Some economists & politicians • Most of us as an indicator of ‘national progress’ • Income is an indicator of ability to satisfy preferences (and thereby make yourself happy) • Benefits: Easy to calculate and compare on large scale • Problems…

  30. Does $$ Make Us Happy? • Reducing the margin of discontent makes people happier • Economic growth helps consumers to reduce their margin of discontent • If 1. and 2. are both true, then why have we gotten richer… but not happier? • Evidence?

  31. Materialism Doesn’t Pay Very High

  32. Adaptation • Lottery winners return to pretty much the same level of happiness after 1 year (contested) • The more we have: • The more we want and • The more we think we need • Evidence?

  33. So, Does $$ Make Us Happy? • So, unless you are materialistic, more $$ makes very little difference to our happiness – much less than: • A loving relationship • Volunteering • A rewarding job • But materialistic people seem to have a pretty strange idea of happiness • Having said all this… who would not want to win lotto?

  34. Discussion • Can money not buy happiness or are we just spending it on the wrong things? • Is it possible to avoid adapting to new things that bring us happiness? • Has anyone sacrificed money for happiness? How did it go?

  35. Looking at Your Capabilities/QoL Indicators • Used by: • Some economists & politicians • Often encouraged by NGOs • Income, access to education, healthcare, clean environment, employment, political freedoms etc. • Benefits: Not too hard to calculate and compare on large scale • Problems…

  36. Aren’t We all Capable of Happiness? • People from all walks of life report themselves as happy, even those whose circumstances look dire to us • Adaptation (again) • Relativity of happiness • Determinants of happiness • Evidence?

  37. Determinants of Happiness

  38. Discussion • What is more important, freedom, education, or happiness? • Which is better, a long life of medium happiness or a medium life of great happiness? • Should we focus on genetic technology and cognitive behavioural therapy instead of circumstances?

  39. Observe Your Behaviour • Used by: • A few academics • Just about all of us! • By observing body language and behaviour we can tell how happy someone is • Benefits: easy to do, especially with people you know well • Problems: impractical on large scale and…

  40. Smile! • Smiling is the main way to tell if someone’s happy… but only if they are real smiles • Duchenne (real) smiles can be noticed by the ‘sparkle’ in the eyes

  41. Scanning Your Brain • Used by: • A few academics • Activity in specific areas of the brain are measured and compared to the other direct measures of happiness

  42. Cute baby = Left side

  43. Deformed baby = Right side

  44. Causing (Ratty) Pleasure

  45. Scanning Your Brain • Used by: • A few academics • Activity in specific areas of the brain are measured and compared to the other direct measures of happiness • Benefits: becoming increasingly accurate • Problems: very impractical on large scale and still mysterious

  46. Discussion • If happiness has a biological cause in the brain, then we will be able to influence it with drugs, surgery, bionics etc… but should we? • If our brains show equal ‘happiness activity’, then are we equally happy? How can we know this?

  47. Asking You • Used by: • Psychologists • Occasionally by economics academics • You think about and answer a question regarding your happiness. After all, who could be better than you at judging how happy you are? • Benefits: Not too hard to calculate and (possibly) compare on large scale • Problems… depend on the question…

  48. 3 Types of Questions I Can Ask You (3 Levels of Happiness) • How are you feeling right now (from 1 to 7)? • Introspection • All things considered, how happy are you these days (from 1 to 7)? • Introspection, comparative judgement • On the whole, how good do you think your life is (from 1 to 7)? • Introspection, comparative judgement, relative to conception of ‘the good life’