instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Videtur quod beatitudo non est parvis canis calidis

Last week, I wrote:
For a person to be happy, the patterns according to which he lives his life must themselves form some sort of integrated pattern.
Confidently asserted, but can I offer a compelling argument that it's true?

That depends, obviously, on what people find compelling -- and also, in this instance, on what people think happiness is. So let me first propose, as a most general an unrefined definition, that happiness is having what you want and wanting what you have.

I think this is in the ballpark of what people mean when they say they're happy. They might have everything they want and want everything they have with respect to some certain limited context (e.g., "I'm happy with my dinner."), or they might have mostly everything they reasonably want and mostly want most of what they have (e.g., "I'm happy with the way my life is going these days.").

So what does living according to patterns that form an integrated pattern have to do with having what you want and wanting what you have?

Well, I mean "an integrated pattern" to suggest that the various desires, choices, values, and so forth that compose the pattern are all mutually compatible. If they aren't compatible, then they are somehow in conflict, and if I value two things that are in conflict I won't be able to have everything I want, so by definition I won't be happy.

There's a difference, by the way, between two things being in conflict and two things being in tension. In the former, the two things relate to each other only through the conflict, so to speak; they are independent of each other and can be considered apart from each other. When two things are in tension, they have a natural and essential relation to each other, and neither can be considered in an absolute sense without also considering the other.