Source: p 110-111 Top. Happiness: A Very Short Introduction (1 ed 2013) by Daniel M. Haybron.

Here, though, I am interested in the way we evaluate lives as they are lived, or when looking back on them. The question is, when are we justified in affirming, or being satisfied with, our lives? As the last two chapters explained, there seem to be at least two fundamental parts to a good life: whether your life is good for you, and whether the way you lead it is good. Well-being, and virtue.

We saw in Chapter 3 that it may not be very important whether you are actually satisfied with your life. But here the question is

[p 111 :]

whether you have reason to be satisfied with your life. Whether you could reasonably take such an attitude. [1.] This is a question about how your life measures up, not your state of mind. [2.] And that could be important even if it doesn't matter so much whether you actually do have the attitude. [End of 2.]

  1. What is 1 true? Why does not your 'state of mind' pertain?

  2. Why is 2 true?


If you intended your question to be taken literally, the answer is in the premise. "If the question is whether you have reason...". The questioner is already presuming that answering the question is a matter of reasonable grounds to feel happy, not the actual feeling". What they mean by "reasonable grounds", however, is anyone's guess.

If, rather, you're asking whether this in itself is a reasonable position to hold, then you would need to specify the grounds you would use to define reasonable. From a logical positivist perspective, we know that all human feeling (including happiness) is mediated by chemicals in the brain. We also know that these chemicals evolved to carry out a function which promoted the survival of similar genetic codes to the ones we have. As all humans are thus constrained it is unlikely that human desires (which I am defining as those things, the satisfaction of which brings about happiness) are especially varied. Therefore, it is a reasonable conclusion to draw that those things which are agreed upon by a large number of humans as bringing about happiness, are likely to bring about happiness in any given individual, even if they currently do not feel that way.

There are, however, two caveats. The first, fairly trivial, is that this would not apply to someone who was psychologically disturbed. The second, most importantly, is that living in a global society with a very large population in frequent communication means that ideas can take on characteristics of chaos (in the mathematical sense) and the premise would be less true the more it relates to modern ideas of virtue and more true the more ancient the virtue (in anthropological timescales).

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