The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.
— Leonardo da Vinci
, Italian polymath; painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer (1452-1519) (tnx wildcat2030)
Pascal Bruckner on the western cult of happiness
“Happiness was never “a new idea in Europe.” In fact, it was the oldest of ideas, defended by the ancients and pondered by the great philosophical schools. (…)
It is not a question of knowing whether we are more or less happy than our ancestors; our conception of the thing itself has changed, and we are probably the first society in history to make people unhappy for not being happy.” “
He had more books than I’ve ever seen in all my life - two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls and such books as the apocryphal something-or-other in ten volumes. He played Verdi Operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn’t give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life.
Daniel Kahneman on the riddle of experience vs. memory
“We might be thinking of ourselves in terms of two selves. There is an experiencing self, who lives in the present and knows the present, is capable of re-living the past, but basically it has only the present. (…) And then there is a remembering self, and the remembering self is the one that keeps score, and maintains the story of our life. (…)
The experiencing self lives its life continuously. It has moments of experience, one after the other. And you ask: What happens to these moments? And the answer is really straightforward. They are lost forever. I mean, most of the moments of our life — and I calculated — you know, the psychological present is said to be about three seconds long. Which means that, you know, in a life there, are about 600 million of them. In a month, there are about 600,000. Most of them don’t leave a trace. Most of them are completely ignored by the remembering self. And yet, some how you get the sense that they should count, that what happens during these moments of experience is our life. It’s the finite resource that we’re spending while we’re on this earth. And how to spend it, would seem to be relevant, but that is not the story that the remembering self keeps for us.
So we have the remembering self and the experiencing self, and they’re really quite distinct. The biggest difference between them is in the handling of time.
Now, the remembering self does more than remember and tell stories. It is actually the one that makes decisions. (…) The experiencing self has no voice in this choice. We actually don’t choose between experiences. We choose between memories of experiences. And, even when we think about the future, we don’t think of our future normally as experiences. We think of our future as anticipated memories. And basically you can look at this, you know, as a tyranny of the remembering self, and you can think of the remembering self sort of dragging the experiencing self through experiences that the experiencing self doesn’t need. (…)
There are really two concepts of happiness that we can apply, one per self. So you can ask: How happy is the experiencing self? And then you would ask: How happy are the moments in the experiencing self’s life? And they’re all — happiness for moments is a fairly complicated process. What are the emotions that can be measured? And, by the way, now we are capable of getting a pretty good idea of the happiness of the experiencing self over time. If you ask for the happiness of the remembering self, it’s a completely different thing. This is not about how happily a person lives. It is about how satisfied or pleased the person is when that person thinks about her life. Very different notion. (…)
We know that happiness is mainly being satisfied with people that we like, spending time with people that we like. There are other pleasures, but this is dominant. So if you want to maximize the happiness of the two selves, you are going to end up doing very different things. The bottom line of what I’ve said here is that we really should not think of happiness as a substitute for well-being. It is a completely different notion. (…)
How to enhance happiness, goes very different ways depending on how you think, and whether you think of the remembering self or you think of the experiencing self.” “
Hypatia: [Looks up at night sky] “If I could just unravel this just a little bit more, and just get a little closer to the answer, then… Then I would go to my grave a happy woman.” “
The highest education is that which does not merely give us information, but makes our life in harmony with all existence.
— Rabindranath Tagore
, Bengali poet, novelist, musician, painter and playwright who reshaped Bengali literature and music (1861-1941)
Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men – above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.
John Locke on free will
“For, the mind having in most cases, as is evident in experience, a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires; and so all, one after another; is at liberty to consider the objects of them, examine them on all sides, and weigh them with others. In this lies the liberty of mistakes, errors, and faults which we run into in the conduct of our lives, and our endeavours after happiness; whilst we precipitate the determination of our wills, and engage too soon, before due examination.
To prevent this, we have a power to suspend the prosecution of this or that desire; as every one daily may experiment in himself. This seems to me the source of all liberty; in this seems to consist that which is (as I think improperly) called free-will.
For, during this suspension of any desire… we have opportunity to examine, view, and judge of the good or evil of what we are going to do; and when, upon due examination, we have judged, we have done our duty, all that we can, or ought to do, in pursuit of our happiness; and it is not a fault, but a perfection of our nature, to desire, will, and act according to the last result of a fair examination.” “
— John Locke
, Essay, II, XXI, 48
, cited in Daniel Clement Dennett
, Elbow room: the varieties of free will worth wanting
, VIP Garamond, Achorn Graphic Service, 1997, p. 36
I’ve found that your chances for happiness are increased if you wind up doing something that is a reflection of what you loved most when you were somewhere between nine and eleven years old. At that age, you know enough of the world to have opinions about things, but you’re not old enough yet to be overly influenced by the crowd or by what other people are doing or what you think you “should” be doing. If what you do later on ties into that reservoir in some way, then you are nurturing some essential part of yourself.
After all, the alchemist continued to live in the desert, even though he understood the Language of the World, and knew how to transform lead into gold. He didn’t need to demonstrate his science and art to anyone. The boy told himself that, on the way toward realizing his own destiny, he had learned all he needed to know, and had experienced everything he might have dreamed of.
Happiness (beatitudo) is the good which, once achieved, leaves nothing further to be desired. It is the highest of all goods, containing all goods with itself; if any good was lacking to it, it could not be the highest good since there would be something left over to be desired. So happiness is a state which is made perfect by the accumulation of all the goods there are.
, Christian philosopher of the early 6th century, On the Consolation of Philosophy
Theodor W. Adorno on happiness
“To happiness the same applies as to truth: one does not have it, but is in it. Indeed, happiness is nothing other than being encompassed, an after-image of the original shelter within the mother. But for this reason no-one who is happy can know that he is so. To see happiness, he would have to pass out of it: to be as if already born. He who says he is happy lies, and in invoking happiness, sins against it. He alone keeps faith who says: I was happy. The only relation of consciousness to happiness is gratitude: in which lies its incomparable dignity.” “