Re: Damned European Socialists ;-)

Bernard Hughes (
Fri, 13 Nov 1998 01:23:33 -0330

Steve Tucker wrote:

> > I was at a conference this weekend, "Dennett's Philosophy of Mind". (Dennet is
> > the author of "Consciousness Explained" and "Darwins Dangerous Idea".) Dennett
> > reported on one study of happiness in which the highest scoring group were
> > quadriplegics. The "explanation" was that they were starting from a very low
> > base, and had long term prospects (with improving technology and all) of steady
> > improvement.
> >
> > If this research is accurate, a rational libertarian should voluntarily give
> > away most of their wealth every so often to maximize happiness. The short term
> > hit after giving it away is more than compensated for by the long term
> > opportunity to rebuild from a low base. It is rather counter intuitive though.
> > How convincing would the research need to be for people on this list to adopt
> > such a strategy? What would be the economic effects (Robin?)?
> Did I miss something? It sounds as though the able-bodied should choose to become
> quadreplegics for the sake of their happiness, if one accepts this sort of nonsense.

> - Steve

I figured the "we should all become quadriplegics" deduction was so obviously flawed that it didn't need comment. The quadriplegic example was just to illustrate that common assumptions about happiness may be flawed. People with so little of what we consider valuable should be miserable, right? Not necessarily so. People with lots of "valuables" should be happy, right? Not necessarily so.

My point was if we are trying to maximize our happiness, but are intuitions about what makes us happy are flawed, then our strategies are likely to be flawed. Declaring research nonsense because it doesn't meet our expectations doesn't seem to be very rational. Since the reported research is not yet published, its hard to guess its validity. But my question remains, would you change your strategy for increasing your personal happiness if reliable research showed the currently accepted assumptions to be flawed? Or are you trying to optimize some other factor than happiness? If you are trying to optimize power for example, I would guess absolute values rather than rate of change become most significant.


Bernard J Hughes
Timedancer Systems
 -- Creative Laziness at its best --