Free will and happiness

I concur with both Kevin and L.Dragon in theory. But, it seems that both of you are discounting the fact that we are, first and foremost, animals. No matter how lofty our thoughts become, no one escapes the flesh and blood of life. The word "should" always comes up when we are conjuring up an escape from how things are. "Should" personifies a belief in free will ? that we are able to choose to do what we "should" do (or not do).

It is not that we "should do nothing", or "should live life as if it is fleeting". Life is fleeting and we do nothing, despite how long we feel life is, or what we think we do. Even knowing this is so doesn't change experiencing the ebb and flow of our primate biology. If I've got an itch, I'll scratch it.

Now, I'm just calling 'em as I see 'em, which often rubs folks the wrong way, so please don't take what I say personally. If I had free will, I'd change and become a bit more diplomatic... alas...


  • edited December 1969
    What is the value of being happy? Why would I want to remember what makes me happy? Could I be happy by remembering? It may make me unhappy to remember what used to make me happy. Get the happy idea out of the free will discussion and there is something to talk about. :D
  • edited July 2004
    Words are tricky! Maybe 'happy' is too loaded a word to use here. The observation is: we believe that if we get, or do, what we want, we will feel better... a sense of well being. We believe in a power of free will and choice that enables us to get, or do, what we want. Free will is the means to get what we want, which when achieved will leave us feeling .....(you name it). This belief is extremely compelling for we prove it true every day, or so we 'believe'.

    So, how is it if we replace 'happy' with 'sense of well being'?
    Like Santa Claus, believing in 'free will' serves a purpose, whether or not it factually exists. Santa gives kids a fleeting sense of well being. Likewise, 'free will' gives us a fleeting sense of well being with the notion that we can control our lives.

    'Free will', or rather, 'wise will' is not part of our genome, nor can we learn or teach it. We simply earn it as we stumble through life, fall down, pause, ponder and remember what gives us a longer and deeper sense of well being.
  • edited December 1969
    OK, let me tackle a few sentences...
    [cite] Climacus:[/cite]What is the value of being happy?
    If we look at happiness more in the sense of "a feeling of well-being" instead of elation or something, then either the answer is obvious, or you're going to have to define "value." It's like Buddha's Four Noble Truths . . . what's the value in reducing suffering? Same sort of thing, methinks.
    [cite] Climacus:[/cite]Why would I want to remember what makes me happy?
    So that you can stay happy. Maybe it's better if we say "remember what makes us unhappy so we can avoid that in the future." I mean, we do that already with other things . . . touching a hot stove will make you unhappy (rough analogy).
    [cite] Climacus:[/cite]Could I be happy by remembering? It may make me unhappy to remember what used to make me happy.
    Well, just remembering doesn't make me happy, usually. We're talking about applying what we've learned in the past to the present. And since we're talking about an approach to life, it's not something that can become inattainable, like a youthful body or carefree childhood. Am I going off on a tangent? Well, anyway, there you go.
  • edited December 1969
    Well, very interesting responses. A lot to think about. First, thanx for indulging my objection to the notion of happiness. I hope you won't think me ungrateful bz I don't think much more of a sense of well-being. But since Carl took the trouble to propose an alternative, let's go with it for now, reserving the right to object later.

    Luke, since you mention the four noble truths, Very good place to begin. So, the first point is that life is suffering. Maybe this is what you were thinking of when you said that we might think of remembering what makes us unhappy. This is so important! Bz when we remember our suffering, we are more in the present moment, not desiring, not anticipating some satisfying source of happiness. Since our suffering is based on attraction and repulsion, we our hope for ending suffering is not better desires, but the eightfold path, which is usually translated as the 8 Rights: right living, right thoughts, right speech, etc. No mention of happiness or a sense of well being.

    Suppose that the 8 Rightnesses are performed in such a way that one actually begins to experience a sense of joy in their practice. Then one could truly say that one's discipline had become voluntary. Then the credit goes to the 8fold way, and not to the individual, so free will would mean submission to a higher order.

    Is this what we mean by free will? viz.,that we voluntarily submit to a higher order of being in order to ultimately be free of suffering?

    Thanx for reading.
  • edited December 1969
    Personally speaking, when I feel less suffering, I feel more well being, so its 6 of one, half a dozen of another for me. But, I do like Luke's point. Looking at it from the suffering side works just as well,... or better if it enhances mutual understanding.

    As to Climacus' reference to a 'higher order' ...

    'Higher order' is a curious notion, which I think is tied closely, one way or the other, with the notion of free will. I imagine this 'higher order' concept originates in (and is driven by) our innate social sense in general and our hierarchical impulses particular.

    Thus, if one believes free will is real, then one must, I suppose, also believe in some form of 'higher order'. Come to think of it, our sense of 'higher order' gets a jump start from our specie centric sense of superiority (which is itself just another emergent notion motivated by our hierarchical instincts.) Our social instinct drives us to see ourselves on top vis-a-vis other life forms, and just a notch below a 'higher order' to which we may submit if we are to realized a mythical 'superior realized enlightened self'.

    And what better way to validate our sense of superiority, both as individuals and as a species, than to endow ourselves with a power of free will and self control. The whole thing seems just too self serving as to not, in fact, be just that... a myth of self, followed by a myth of self control, followed by a myth of a higher power to whom we can surrender our mythical selves through a mythical agency of free will. Boy, am I a cynic or what!
  • edited December 1969
    Lets see, I generally feel better when i remember things that made me unhappy, because that means I'm still aware of those situations and not as likely to repeat them. those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. maybe this wouldnt be so if I'd had a 'happy childhood'. 'Remembering' also places those things in the past, and that fact brings a sense of well being.
    While this has led many to call me a pessimist, I see myself as a pragmatist, one with a sense of reality about life based on experience-does that conflict or coincide with Taoist belief? or have nothing at all to do with it?
    Happy things seem to have come out of nowhere in my life, and I've learned not to expect them or strive towards them especially. My best friendships, best jobs, hugs from my kid are more satisfying when they're unexpected.
    And as a sometime writer & poet and full time curmudgeon, I get more meat from unhappiness, a sense of unease, than from the more 'positive' alternative. But then pain is weakness leaving the body...
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