(urth) happiness in The Knight

maru marudubshinki at gmail.com
Sun Mar 20 08:16:08 PST 2005

Chris wrote:

>> James Wynn wrote:
>>> What is your definition of "well-adjusted"? The word implies an 
>>> objective
>>> goal to which one would "adjust". Depending on one's criteria, a
>>> well-adjusted person might bully and molest. Saddam seems to have 
>>> adjusted
>>> Uday and Qusay to do that.
> Maru said:
>> You wish an objective goal? Very well, I can supply one.
>> Consider that happiness has a very strong correlation to
>> the concentrations of certain chemicals in the human species
>> brain, which is objectively measurable; consider further that
>> there are brain wave patterns which have a very strong correlation
>> with happiness, and are equally objectively measurable.  These two
>> tests can be concatenated for a measurement of high confidence.
> This amounts to an objective test of a subjective goal.
> Another way of putting the matter is this:
> There are disconnections at a couple of levels that require certain 
> subjective assumptions to bridge. To start with - and this I think is 
> the essence of the objection Crush was raising, which has not been 
> answered here - do you really think that what we consider 
> "well-adjusted" is objectively correlated to happiness? Individuals 
> vary as to which stimuli produce "happiness" in their brains, as do 
> (necessarily) societies made up of such individuals. The totality of 
> existent humans, taken as a whole, is no less variable, from moment to 
> moment.
Not that much. Just as humans largely disagree on what is beautiful, yet 
repeatedly show agreements and correlations of ~.8, even when from 
entirely different cultures and ethnic groups, so too the 'totality' of 
humanity's happiness can be meaningfully worked with.  And I do consider 
'well-adjustedness' to be correlated with happiness. Perfectly? No, of 
course not. We are beings who possess limited data and processing power, 
and stricken with numerous biases, and just plain wrong heuristics, 
programmed in by evolution or otherwise.

> Another is the association of happiness with an objective goal; there 
> is nothing that objectively makes happiness a more worthy goal than 
> any other conceivable goal. And in fact, for any non-trivial 
> definition of happiness, it is evident that even if we accept 
> happiness as a goal, we make numerous exceptions to this rule as a 
> matter of course. This is evident in the common-sense observation that 
> that which makes us happy is not always that which is best for us.
> -- Civet

We must build our ethical systems somewhere; the system of deductions 
and ethical theorems/facts must rest on some axioms (or be utterly 
useless).  An axiom which we feel with our very minds, which is shared 
by the overwhelming majority of sentient beings, and humans, which can
be objectively measured, seems to me a pretty good axiom, with much more 
value to it than any merely arbitrary and randomly selected goal.
And as I said, we do not act solely on the basis of short-term returns, 
or even on long-term returns that accrue to only ourselves: we want the 
best of things for everyone.

tho' this is not the best of all possible worlds, perhaps we can steer 

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