(urth) happiness in The Knight

maru marudubshinki at gmail.com
Sun Feb 20 21:05:12 PST 2005

Ah! Finally, someone wonders whether I was playing word-games.
The answer is: I don't think so.

It is circular to define happiness as sating of desires, and desires
as things whose sating leads to happiness, but the redefining does have some
I think of it like this:  We all start seeking some state labelled
'happiness'. We aren't sure what it is, but it is what we are hard-wired
to seek.  It is the axiom to our logic, the supergoal to our goalseeking
behaivour (from an evolutionary perspective, its a positive feedback
cycle which causes us to do all the many things required to reproduce
and survive, in that order).
Occaisonally we stumble on actions which bring us a little closer
to that, and we remember and do them again.  But of course, we are
not islands, and so the happiness of others has direct impacts on our
own unhappiness.
Do well-adjusted people molest and bully others?
The happiness of others becomes necessary to our own, and we will
even sacrifice some guaranteed happiness of our own to increase
the happiness of the population (leaving out of course, such explanations
as reciprocation, rational selfishness, increased reproductive fitness, 
drives etc.)
And eventually, we even juggle desires, suppressing desires and inducing
local minima so as to maximize long run happiness.

And even the best medicine can taste nasty.  Exercise is unpleasant
but we are happier to be fit than not.

One more thing: I just realized that the Norse conception of worlds involved
my favorite number, 9, but Wolfe's involve's 7, which is strewn 
thoughout the Bible.

$fortune: Your analyst has you mixed up with another patient.  Don't 
believe a
thing he tells you.

> that defining happiness as the pursuit of one's desires is semantically
>empty, because one can always say, "Of course you're pursuing that which you desire;
>how else can one act?"  Talking about lower desire and higher, base and meta-, will
>not help avoid this silliness.
>In discussions like this I think it would be good to limit our use of the word
>'happiness' to that feeling which ranges from emotional euphoria to contentment,
>which is hard to define but everyone understands: that which is generally meant when
>people say, "I'm feeling happy."
>I can't think of a word that encompasses the state of mind Iowerth alluded to, of
>moral fulfillment, when someone is caused pain and suffering because they refuse to
>compromise themselves.  "Morally fulfilled" doesn't seem to describe their mental
>state in the same way that "happiness" describes someone who is having fun or
>feeling loved or what have you.  Perhaps the word to use, which is difficult to
>bring up without all kinds of negative connotations in this age, is "righteous."  It
>seems like a condescending jibe to say that someone "feels righteous," but if you
>can't feel consolation in the fact that you are doing (what you believe is) the
>right thing even as you die for it, then when is a good time?
>>>Not at all. I've long been convinced that my (and everyones really.  They 
>>>might not go about it
>>>very competently, but it seems universal to me) chief desire was to be 
>>>happy, and all
>>>my desires should be subordinated to that goal.
>That's why I think this statement is confusing.  I don't know whether by "happy" you
>mean, "sensationally elated," or "loved," or "righteous," or whatever other zillion
>things.  In (the semantically empty) one sense all your desires *must* be
>subordinated to your desire to be happy; say rather that they *are*.  In the case of
>"sensorial satisfaction as happiness," then you aren't elevating yourself much above
>animals.  I don't think that's what you are saying, but my point is that it's very
>difficult to know what you are saying.
>>>Thus far, what seems to satisfy my desires, and also bring me happiness is 
>>>and games & computers, and good literature like Wolfe's. And good oolong 
>>>tea, but that is just me : )
>This is a start, but it's more testimonial than anything else.  You haven't said why
>these things make you happy.
>I think Wolfe takes aim at this question in The Wizard Knight; it seems that people
>of worth in his tale are people concerned with "right doing," and not with pursuit
>of happiness as defined above.  I think Wolfe was saying that many times the best
>way to know how to act rightly (which is to say, more like a knight; I think it was
>obvious that everyone is called to knighthood) is to act like someone you know is a
>knight, or is more knightly than you are.  So Able acts like Ravd until he is more a
>knight than Ravd was.  Then his model becomes The Valfather's son.  The point I
>think Wolfe was trying to make is that (even in a world of seven tiers with gods and
>more gods) eventually we are trying to become like The Most High God, but He is so
>far above us that it can be hard to know what He would do.  Wolfe makes this point
>also in the parable of the angel and the rooster in BotNS.
>I'm not trying to say that becoming like the Most High God doesn't involve
>knowledge, and games and computers, and good oolong tea, and all sorts of other
>things that make us happy.  Sometimes, though, as The Knight illustrates, it
>involves less immediately (or never) pleasing activities.

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