The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 25 December 2019 - Page 19

The question that naturally emerges next is "Are we happy?" The author admits that this is not a question historians discuss. Perhaps not. But insofar as there are ethical assumptions operating in history is there not therefore indirectly a concern with happiness? The difficulty of answering this question is related to its ambiguity, i.e. related to the fact that happiness is a term that means many different things. Harari to some extent acknowledges this and asks whether scientific research could contradict these different interpretations. He admits that there are few studies looking at the long-term history of happiness and also that both scholars and laypersons only have a vague idea of what happiness is. It is not the case, he insists, in contradiction to the philosophical view of Kant that we are happier than our medieval ancestors. He even at one point claims that as man's power has increased his world has grown more mechanical and colder. Counterarguments to this position are presented and we finally arrive at the crux of the matter which is that humankind ought to use their powers and capabilities ethically. The ethical factor will contest the primacy of happiness related as it is to desire rather than reason which determines how we use our capacities and powers. The discussion of happiness as the product of material factors such as health, diet, and wealth is rightly seeing that happiness is the consequence of a kind of activity of man but is wrongly identifying that activity in materialistic terms. It is as, the Greeks and their followers and Kant and his followers claim, a product of rational/ethical activity. What it is that determines whether or not one is going to lead a flourishing life is the worthiness of the agent experiencing the happiness or flourishing life. The worth of the agent will not be determined by the power of his imagination as Harari insists, but rather the power of his practical reasoning in the sphere of ethical action. The idea of a person's worth is not a subjective inner state but rather an objective universal matter to be determined by either virtue theory or Kantian deontological ethics. The definition provided that "happiness is "subjective well- being." is subjectivizing an entire area of philosophy, namely, practical reasoning. Having defined the flourishing life as something subjective we are then asked to attempt to "measure" this subjective well being by questionnaires which reveal that money brings happiness but only to a point: that family and community have more impact on our happiness than money or even our health. Apparently, the freedom which we value, according to these studies, is working against us because we may freely choose our spouses but they, in turn, may use their freedom to leave us. The outcome of this long and meandering discussion is that questionnaires do not reveal causation but can only speak about the correlation