Thursday, January 24, 2013

Meaning is a Component of Happiness

The Atlantic has an article by Emily Esfahani Smith, "There's More to Life Than Happiness," which raises a perpetual issue in the happiness discussion.

On the one side is the Aristotelian view that happiness is the end of life, the one end which is not a means to another end.

On the other side is the view that happiness is a feeling that may accompany the highest end(s) of life, but is not that end.

This dispute is mostly semantic.  But there is a substantive question here.

The best alternative contender for the chief end of life is "meaning."  This is the alternative that Smith's article, and many others like it in this long-running dispute, raises.

The modern empirical study of happiness keeps coming back to this question: "On the whole, would you say that your life is very happy, somewhat [or pretty] happy, or not too happy?"  The overwhelming majority of people pick the first or second option.

What is important to me here is that people can answer this question about the lives on the whole. I think this means they are understanding happiness as a state of being, not a temporary feeling.

So how do we square the circle? I think meaning is a vital component of happiness.  When people say that, on the whole, they are happy, this includes some judgment that their lives are meaningful enough.

There is much more to be said on this subject.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today's Good News: The Center Rises in Israel

In Israeli elections yesterday the governing right-wing party did win the most seats, as expected. 

But widespread gloomy predictions that the next biggest bloc would be an even more right-wing party, bent on driving all Palestinians out of Israel, proved false. 

The second largest party in the Knesset will be a new centrist party.

Hopes for a peaceful and semi-just settlement in Israel and Palestine stay alive.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stealth Bomber Parents

I learned a new distinction and a new ideal type this morning. 

A college staff member who deals with parents said that Baby Boomers are the generation of helicopter parents, hovering over their children.

Gen Xers, on the other hand, don't hover, but instead are fierce advocates for their children.  She called them "stealth bomber parents."