Tag Archives: happiness

Happiness – The Lost Gypsy

Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby


During a recent tour of the magnificent southern island of New Zealand, I came across a small village named Papatowai. In the heart of the village sits a caravan named “The Lost Gypsy”. It is run by a fine fellow by the name Blair, who seems to me to have found the key to happiness.

I have often argued that happiness is not to be found in material wealth and I have claimed that my own happiness is due, in part, to not desiring material possessions. One needs food, shelter, and friends, but beyond this, additional accumulation is unnecessary.

The Lost Gypsy lives a peaceful life. He tinkers with recycled material, turning them into curious works of art. As far as I can see, he has little need for material wealth and is content to make art and converse with passers by. It is a life of little stress.

People may argue that this is not a happy life because he has no money for the things we desire in these modern times, such as large televisions, sophisticated computers, big cars, and fashionable clothing. However, I think the desire for these luxuries steer us away from happiness. I shall present my meditation on this subject in syllogistic form:

P1. (premise) I believe that I need luxuries to attain happiness

P2. (premise) Because I believe I need luxuries to attain happiness, I am driven to obtain luxuries

P3. (premise) Because I am driven to obtain luxuries, I am upset when I don’t obtain luxuries

P4. (premise) Because I am driven to obtain luxuries, I am anxious to obtain luxuries

P5. (premise) A luxury is only a luxury until a greater luxury is available

P6. (premise) Because I am driven to obtain luxuries and because luxuries are only luxuries until a greater luxury is available, I am constantly pushed forward to acquire greater luxuries

P7. (premise) Because I am constantly pushed forward to acquire greater luxuries, I experience anxiety and disappointment with what I have

P8. (premise) If I am anxious to obtain luxuries, or if I am upset about not obtaining luxuries, or if I am disappointed with what I have, then I am not happy

C1. (conclusion) I am not happy

C2. (conclusion) My belief that I need luxuries to attain happiness is false

This argument does not tell us what we need to be happy. But if it is sound, it shows us that the pursuit of luxury gets in the way of happiness. As far as I can tell, The Lost Gypsy has shed the common belief that one needs luxuries to attain happiness, and thus he has removed an impediment to happiness which has allowed him to focus on other things. These have resulted in his happiness.

Still, as a closing thought, I wonder if the constant desire to find recycled material to create new art works may get in the way of true happiness for the gypsy.

— Socrates

 

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Happiness at the mall?

Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby


Yesterday I wandered through the shopping mall. It is like the Agora but it is indoors. As I walked through the mall I noticed something most peculiar. I was the only one smiling. Everyone else seemed to be under pressure, rushed, and frowning. People even looked sad after paying for the item they had chosen to purchase. And I thought shopping was supposed to make people happy.

If shopping makes people happy, and if people smile when they are happy, then I should expect people to be smiling at the mall. But this is not what I saw. So either shopping does not make people happy or people do not always smile when they are happy. I wonder which it is.

Myself, I was very happy. As I wandered around taking note of everything I did not need, I realized that it doesn’t take much to be happy. Perhaps our focus on enriching our material wealth distracts us from enriching our souls. Perhaps this contributes to the elusiveness of happiness.

— Socrates

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Technology, the overstated route to happiness


Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby


In my search for wisdom I meet many people. As I converse with them I find that they all seek the same thing: happiness. But when I ask how they intend to achieve their goal of happiness, their answers reveal how elusive it is.

I was recently at a technology market. As I wandered through the exhibit tents, I was struck with what everyone seemed to be selling: happiness. Astonishingly this elusive thing seemed to be available for purchased at a technology market. Now I must be clear, the advertising didn’t use the term “happiness”. However this is clearly what they wanted people to think. I saw displays of people smiling and looking fulfilled, all thanks to their technological aids; iPads, robotic lawnmowers, automated vacuum cleaners, and software to remote control their house.

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Einstein’s Formula for Happiness


Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby


How does one achieve happiness? That has been one of the central questions driving my search for wisdom. I have argued that people who equate happiness with material gain will never actually achieve happiness. Many people disagree. They believe that more money and, by extension, more possessions will bring them happiness. But I wonder if I will ever meet anyone for whom this is true.

It may be true that buying a new product is accompanied by a good feeling. By Hercules, even I must admit to having experienced this. Natural philosophers who study the brain tell me that these feelings arise through the release of endorphins. Now we all know that such feelings are short lived. If I want to repeat the experience, I need to purchase something else. If this is happiness then happiness is fleeting and elusive. And this indicates to me that seeking happiness in this way will be relentless because I will be forever seeking out new products to reproduce those feelings. Happiness will be constantly slipping beyond by reach.

My solution was the realization that happiness is not to be found in material wealth. I took great pleasure in reminding everyone of this by walking around the Agora commenting that I did not need most of the product being sold. My search for happiness has lead me to the conclusion that all I need is good friends, a warm house, and food to eat. Freeing myself from excess material desire gives me more time to enjoy the world and engage in philosophy with friends. This is where happiness can be found.

It seems that a well known natural philosopher by the name of Einstein shares my view. After his stay at a hotel, he was short on cash and could not leave the bell boy a tip. Instead he left a note: “A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it.” This is music to my ears.

The irony is that that this note has now been sold for $1.3 million, thus providing its former owner the fleeting illusion of happiness through material gain.

Here is a news article about the famous note: https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/middle-east/98236201/einsteins-formula-for-happiness-sells-for-nz19-million

— Socrates

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Technology and Happiness

Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby



Does technology bring happiness? This question has been the subject of a recent dialogue between myself and an eager technophile. A lover of technology and a lover of wisdom, searching for happiness. By the gods, what a pair.

The technophile’s argument was based on the assumption that the reason for unhappiness is that the world does not conform to our desires. He suggested that technology can adjust the world to suit our desires, and thus bring happiness. For example, the cold of a long winter’s night will make me unhappy. But this can be fixed by using the appropriate technology. To gain happiness I need to bend nature to suit my needs.

My technophile friend’s argument can be summarized in this form:

P1. Because the reason for my unhappiness is that the world does not conform to my desires, if I want to be happy, I need to adjust the world to suit my desires

P2. I want to be happy

C1. Therefore, I need to adjust the world to suit my desires

P3. Technology is the means by which I adjust the world to suit my desires in order to achieve happiness

C2. Therefore, technology brings happiness

This argument is valid, but sadly my technophile friend seems to be in a most unfortunate position. To become happy, he needs to change objective reality. This, to me, seems to be a relentless undertaking. I think we can all agree that the world is imperfect. I think we can also agree that achieving perfection is a task suited only to the gods. My unfortunate friend may be able to alter small aspects of the world to provide a temporary feeling of happiness, but technological fixes don’t last. Things break. Nature is unpredictable. If my friend’s happiness requires that nature is bent to his will, I fear that he will never be truly happy.

Shall we take a look at the first premise in the technophile’s reasoning. He believes that the reason for his unhappiness is that the world does not conform to his desires. I wonder if there is another way to look at this. Could it be that the reason for his unhappiness is his expectation that the world conforms to his desires, and yet it usually doesn’t? If this is true, an easier road to happiness may be an adjustment of that expectation.

Back in Athens we believed that happiness could be achieved by conforming the soul to objective reality, as opposed to attempting to change reality to suit the soul. If my technophile friend can use wisdom and self control to adjust his desires to reality, he may find happiness more forthcoming. Of course, this is not to say that he shouldn’t warm his house at night.

— Socrates

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Philosophy in Schools

A Socratic Dialogue
By BRENT SILBY

Click here to download the PDF for reading in a page-by-page format

 

Background

Over recent years there has been a growing movement pushing for the inclusion of Philosophy in schools.[1]

As a subject, Philosophy is broad. It can be separated into many sub-disciplines such as Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science, to name a few. These sub-disciplines reduce back to three broad pillars of Philosophy: Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Axiology.

Regardless of where one’s philosophical interest sits, the essential skill set remains the same. This is the ability to reason. Philosophers produce rationally convincing arguments and critically assess the arguments of others.

In this fictional dialogue Socrates meets with Allison Fells, the Principal of Western Heights School, to discuss the inclusion of Philosophy in the school curriculum. Socrates has been running a successful Philosophy club at school and believes that students would benefit through the extension of the club into the regular school curriculum. Socrates argues that Philosophy equips students with the skill set needed to live the good life.

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