I hear people talk about happiness all the time. How they want it, what they must to get it, how other people have it and they don't, etc.
Wikipedia has this definition for happiness.
Which states that happiness is: an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense joy.
First I'm going to elucidate on what their definition means:
Okay, so it an emotion. Which means it is a feeling or a surge that is like something. happiness is defined by other abstractions, contentment and satisfaction implies happiness. Abstractions are words that imply other words.
Now, if they had interest in using language properly they could say, "happiness is when someone is smiling, someone doesn't seem nervous or tense. When someone is on a roller coaster and smiling and laughing. When someone is fucking and everything seems to be going okay. When people are drunk dancing and laughing. etc."
Maybe some real predicates.
Definitions are predicates.
A predicate describes what nouns do. If you have a word without predicates than you don't have a word but an object. Or the word isn't being properly described.
So going on that happiness is other words psychologists decided to do tests on happiness. They found out happiness is 50 percent genetic using that definition.
They did a twin study to prove this:
Which implies they asked the twins.
Asking people if they are happy is nonsense.
Republicans say they are more happy than democrats.
Most republicans if not all of them are insane.
They also say having a higher standard of living makes one happy.
Revolutionary Road and Babbit which shows the lives of people that could be construed as happy lives because they own certain things and live in a nice neighborhood, but they don't seem that happy in those books. They aren't tragic. But they are empty and without meaning.
Having meaning in one's life is strange. A person really can't make their own meaning. A meaning comes from outside. During the Civil Rights movement black people had meaning, they had to struggle to survive. I've heard soldiers say they had meaning when they were in a war. Struggle seems to imply meaning. A sense of purpose. If a person has life's necessities and a good amount of stuff they don't need and they aren't struggling, they have no real sense of purpose, therefore their life is meaningless. A person can arrange for themselves to have a meaning like writing a book, protesting things they know won't change, being a good doctor or teacher, but it is an artificial meaning compared to say the peasant storming the bastille, or hitting the beaches at Iwo Jima.
Maybe having meaning implies that they your life is now involved on a large scale with other people's. A person hitting the beach at Normandy knew they were part of something huge, something that needed every little body involved to work together to bring down the nazis. The blacks knew they had to fight together or all would be lost.
You have been given meaning from the outside.
You can't give yourself meaning.
Cultures that have achieved a higher standard of living, form Romans, to Mongels, to mughals, to America have all become decadent shortly after they have achieved this standard of living that is conducive to happiness.
Is decadence happiness?
So what is decadence?
To revert to wikipedia again: "Decadent societies are often prosperous but usually have severe social and economic inequality, to such a degree that the upper class becomes either complacent or greedy, while the lower classes become hopeless and apathetic. The middle class may exhibit either or both patterns, or it may vanish entirely. Poor leadership is generally held to be both a cause and a symptom of decadence, as the lifestyle of a decadent individual is usually considered to be incompatible with responsibility. Applied to the arts, decadence implies an elevation of self-indulgence and pretension over effort and talent; when applied to science and the professions, it describes an erosion of professional ethics. Individual or collective greed is generally disliked in societies with strong moral beliefs, and for this reason, societies that nurture it are sometimes accused of decadence."
They have economic inequality, the upper class is greedy, lower classes are hopeless and apathetic, no one is responsible, elevation of self indulgence in the arts, lack of professional ethics, and lack of moral beliefs.
Is that what happiness is?
Can we get some twins in here and do a poll on that?
I prefer the word "enjoyment."
Happiness implies a long term emotion. An emotion that is maintained over a long period of time.
Enjoyment implies a transitory emotion that comes and goes, perhaps minutes, maybe a day, but no longer.
it can be seen in how they are used:
"I am happy."
"I enjoyed that."
It is very hard to be happy all the time.
We all have jobs, and what we do there is probably very boring.
Things break and go wrong and other people get on our nerves.
I personally cannot make a definition for happiness or enjoyment:
Happiness and enjoyment for one person means to be a boss and order people around, another person it might be ice cream, another person drugs, another being emotionally dominated by their lover, going to an amusement park, joining the military and being part of a group, having friends that listen to the same music as you, getting so drunk you piss yourself, babbling endlessly on a blog, etc.
The only definition I can think of is: That which we do for free.
We get paid to go to work so we don't really want to do that.
So if we watch a certain show, read a certain book, stay in an abusive relationship, snort heroin, go to church, attend college, etc.
we must enjoy it.
But to label crack addiction happiness fucks up the psychology test.
Scientists do not understand that language is not like a math equation, like a compass, or microscope, etc.
The meaning of words are not static, they are temporal. The meanings of words change, depending on how humans are using them. That words are more than their definitions. But they are trying to explain things with words.
The more abstract the word the more temporal. And to go in another direction, the key component of having an abstract word around like happiness is that one can project what they want onto it. Those words are projections of the people using it. 2 + 2 = 4 on mars but what happiness means changes from person.
What happiness means to a Saudi Arabian and what happiness means to a person in Kentucky are two different things.
I once heard a guy say when I was in the mountains of PA, "A sunny day, a cooler full of freshly caught fish, eating some ice cream, and the wife is home cooking dinner. What's better than that?"
When dealing with behavior concerning humans and animals, empiricism always ends and rationalism must takes it place.