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Sense of happiness and mood-brightening drug (Prozac etc)


The President's Council led by Leon Kass discusses the topic of "happy souls" in their report Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness (2003). This discussion constitutes, probably, the most significant part of this report. I am not sure who wrote this part. I presume that Kass himself wrote it, but other council members might have written or added something.

They talk about the drugs that can delete unpleasant memories, or can provide us with happy feelings. While the former drug has not been developed yet, the latter one already exists, namely, such "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)" as Prozac, Paxil, etc.

Concerning memory-blunting drugs, Report concludes:

To have only happy memories would be a blessing—and a curse. Nothing would trouble us, but we would be probably be shallow people... In the end, to have only happy memories is not to be happy in a truly human way. It is simply to be free of misery—an understandable desire given the many troubles of life, but a low aspiration for those who seek a truly human happiness. (p.234)

And concerning mood-brightening drugs, Report distinguishes "the sense or feeling of well-being" from "well-being itself," and then concludes that acquiring the former does not necessarily lead to the latter, because these two are completely different from each other. Report admits that this kind of drug sometimes give depressed people the power and courage to live & survive, however:

While such drugs often make things better—they often help individuals achieve some measure of the happiness they desire—taking such drugs may also leave many of the same individuals wondering whether their newfound happiness is fully their own—and in this sense, fully real. ... It is even more pertinent, and more disquieting, should one come to feel happy for no good reason at all, or happy even when there remains much in one's life to be truly unhappy about. (p.255)

I think they have succeeded in pointing out an important philosophical question, that is, "What is the difference between 'the sense of happiness' and 'happiness itself'?" And they seem to conclude that happiness itself needs the (long and winding) "process" through which we can finally reach the state of happiness where we can enjoy the sense of happiness. Intuitively, I believe their idea is right, but I am not satisfied with their explanation in their report.

What if someone says, "I don't need any process. What I need is the sense of happiness, and that's all. Period," then what Kass would reply to that person? Is his answer, "You are a shallow person"?

I don't mean to offend Kass and his colleagues. What I want to do is to think about this important philosophical question more deeply. We need "philosophy of life."

Photo: A house near my apartment, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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Happiness I believe is a construct of the human mind...it cannot exist without its partner sadness..and both are just tailored illusions of yet another perceived duality from each human perspective. Looking at it from a less buddhist view: engineering things so people can be in a permanent state of happiness, may not be all that bad from a holistic sustainability perspective. If people in the current economic model are constantly striving ambituously to get to the next level...the fact is this is not sustainable..ie if the whole population of earth attained middle class, they'd then want the next level of wealth and "so called happiness"....the planet cannot sustain this growth, so a drug induced state of happiness, does have possible applications in controlling unsustainable growth.

Hello, urban monk. Then what do you think about Kass's point?, that is, for example, such a case in which the baby of a mother is killed before her eyes, she is shocked and takes pills which create happiness and she becomes "happy" holding her killed baby's body. Is this real "happiness"? If happiness means the mental state this situation should be called "happy", but this is against our intuition, probably.

Is there anyone of you who is interested in my above question? I think this is a significant case study in philosophy.

Very good reading. Peace until next time.

Lieber grumble!!! hoffe dir gehts gut da in der fremden weite... wenn man dich schon nicht persænlich besuchen kann...

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