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Truth and Happiness

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Nick
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Truth and Happiness

#1 Post by Nick » March 23rd, 2011, 5:34 pm

Form the Reception Forum:
Matt S wrote: I'll take truth over happiness any day of the week. Christianity, though, by it's very nature, is an optimistic view that says there is a reason for being hopeful and joyful.
Nick wrote:I'm delighted to hear that. Maybe there's hope for you yet...
Matt S wrote:Allow me to push you a bit on this point, since you raised it: why, given your view of the world, is truth more important than happiness?
I think this is very important question, not just in connection with whether one should believe in a god, or be a christian, but a question for humanists too.

First of all, I think that truth has enabled humans to progress in every conceivable way. Not only is curiosity a natural human instinct, but it has contributed to human happiness by allowing us to address all sorts of problems we,as humans, encounter. To inhibit human curiosity, as christian and other religions have done, by pretending that the answers are already known, is a major drag on human progress. It is also devastating on the happiness of those who are unable, on the evidence available, to believe. I also believe that it is bad for human happiness to propogate lies in the hope that people will be happier, as well as being immoral. It sets up the probability for disappointment, and prevents people from seeking happiness from the world in which they actually live. Happiness is only possible in the long-term through truth.

To take matters a step further, the pursuit of happiness in an interesting question altogether, and one I had previously intended to raise. From an evolutionary point of view, I do not think it is obvious that evolution should have human happiness (both individually and collectively) as a logical outcome. Evolution has, however, brought us to a stage when we can comprehend the concept of happiness, and given us some control over its pursuit.

As a humanist, as a political animal and an amateur economist, I think we should pursue happiness in a more scientific way. IMO, happiness is often achieved in ways not immediately obvious. For example, less can be more, inhibiting short term pleasure can increase long-term happiness, giving can give us greater pleasure than acquisition, removing dangers can make us more reckless and even suicidal and so on. This has enormous implications for religions, education, politics, economics and many other fields.

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getreal
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#2 Post by getreal » March 25th, 2011, 10:26 pm

For me, truth is more important than happiness because otherwise we are like animals in a zoo. A beautuful zoo, with an abundance of food and activities and companionship, but a zoo all the same. Surely truth is freedom?

Wasn't this the question raised by The Matrix?

Edit: OMG!!! This is a bit deep for me!
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

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Dave B
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#3 Post by Dave B » March 26th, 2011, 11:48 am

During my 66 years on this ball of rock I must have heard, or heard of, a hundred or more stories of people for whom riches, fame, super intelligence/ability etc. etc. have not brought anything like happiness. This is balanced by those who chose a "primitive" (not necessarily on a desert island, sometimes within cities) life that they find immensely fulfilling and rewarding and, apparently, loaded with true happiness.

"The Goode Life" was one fictitious example of this, but there seem to have been real life versions.

Religion seems, to me, to be a false veneer slapped over the people in an attempt to keep them compliant, well behaved. Perhaps a certain "spirituality" is inherent in some humans but the mystique of most religions is man made.

Have any of you ever met an unhappy humanist - not just going through a bad spot but genuinely fed up with their lot? I have had a lot of knocks in my life but they never seem to have dented my optimism. Is self-reliance and resilience a feature of the humanist?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Sel
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#4 Post by Sel » March 26th, 2011, 3:17 pm

Have any of you ever met an unhappy humanist - not just going through a bad spot but genuinely fed up with their lot? I have had a lot of knocks in my life but they never seem to have dented my optimism. Is self-reliance and resilience a feature of the humanist?
Independence seems to be a factor here: the willingness to go it alone, to try new things, to find new solutions, to break the mold as it were.

As to "happiness", I prefer to use the word "contentment" as not all of life is pleasant but one can be content as one seeks solutions or tries new things to ease difficult times. Sure beats praying for someone else to help out.
Last edited by Alan H on March 26th, 2011, 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fixed quote tags.
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

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Sel
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#5 Post by Sel » March 26th, 2011, 3:19 pm

:pointlaugh: oopps blew the quote thing AGAIN. This time I see my error...I need a secretary. :rolleyes:
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

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Dave B
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#6 Post by Dave B » March 26th, 2011, 6:52 pm

Hmm: "happiness" - "contentment" - "peace of mind"

Can these be ranked or are they all facets of the same thing?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Sel
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#7 Post by Sel » March 26th, 2011, 8:21 pm

Dave B wrote:Hmm: "happiness" - "contentment" - "peace of mind"

Can these be ranked or are they all facets of the same thing?
I am not sure they can be ranked. Perhaps they can be considered equally contributing components to the way we think about our lives and ourselves. There are folk who claim they are happy who never seem to be content and those with peace of mind that are not quite happy.

Myself, I seem to be quite content but happiness, or perhaps "joy", seems to elude me at the moment and although I feel peace of mind re myself when I consider my daughters' lives that peace of mind evaporates.

This whole concept of happiness is multi-faceted. Throw in a discussion of truth and you are off to the races with a deep philosophical discussion!
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

thundril
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#8 Post by thundril » March 27th, 2011, 5:18 pm

Happiness: the Trivial Pursuit? I really don't understand why the 'Pursuit of Happiness' was ranked alongside the absolute essentials of Life and Liberty in that great document. Except to maybe follow the rhetorical 'Rule of Threes'. They got as far as 'Life, Liberty and... err,' and they had to stick something on the end. But 'the pursuit of happiness' seems a bit lame after all that magnificence. Pity.
I don't see what's so great about 'happiness' anyway. I mean, what's it supposed to mean? I think back about the greatest, most intense, most amazing, most meaningful experiences of my life, and the word 'happiness' doesn't relate to any of them. (Well OK, maybe one: come to think of it I can remember one isolated incident of being so utterly blissfully contented that I always remember that moment as 'happy'.) But the rest? Life is full of astounding moments that may be described as terrifying, testing, completely baffling: i wouldn't say I felt 'happy' at any of those times. When the moment passed I have frequently felt 'happy' to be back in the world of normal, quiet, uninteresting routine; but it's all a bit small somehow.
And then there's 'Truth'.
WTF is that?

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Dave B
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#9 Post by Dave B » March 27th, 2011, 5:44 pm

To start with "Achievement of Happiness" was a better option, but then not all will achieve such.

Also the use of words does shift over the centuries, in 1885 "pursuit" also meant "prosecution" in another old sense that meant "continued act". A hobby may be called a "pursuit" in, it does not necessarily mean "following", though you follow a career . .

Damn this language! :laughter:
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Sel
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#10 Post by Sel » March 27th, 2011, 5:56 pm

thundril wrote:And then there's 'Truth'.
WTF is that?
It was a priest's flippant use of the word "truth" that drove me to distraction and further from Christianity.. You see, I was singing in the Catholic church choir (my husband and kids were Catholic - I bring real meaning to the word hypocrite!)) and would be forced to listen to this priest who fancied himself a philosopher. After about 30 minutes he would have argued himself into a logical corner and always, I repeat, ALWAYS, would escape by saying something to the effect of "the Bible says so and so that is the truth...Blah!"
:headbang: Knowing people listened to and accepted that drivel drove me bonkers.
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

thundril
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#11 Post by thundril » March 27th, 2011, 6:04 pm

Sel wrote:
thundril wrote:And then there's 'Truth'.
WTF is that?
It was a priest's flippant use of the word "truth" that drove me to distraction and further from Christianity.. You see, I was singing in the Catholic church choir (my husband and kids were Catholic - I bring real meaning to the word hypocrite!)) and would be forced to listen to this priest who fancied himself a philosopher. After about 30 minutes he would have argued himself into a logical corner and always, I repeat, ALWAYS, would escape by saying something to the effect of "the Bible says so and so that is the truth...Blah!"
:headbang: Knowing people listened to and accepted that drivel drove me bonkers.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde.. One must have a heart of stone to listen to a priest discussing truth without laughing..

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animist
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#12 Post by animist » March 28th, 2011, 2:07 pm

thundril wrote:Happiness: the Trivial Pursuit? I really don't understand why the 'Pursuit of Happiness' was ranked alongside the absolute essentials of Life and Liberty in that great document. Except to maybe follow the rhetorical 'Rule of Threes'. They got as far as 'Life, Liberty and... err,' and they had to stick something on the end. But 'the pursuit of happiness' seems a bit lame after all that magnificence. Pity.
I don't see what's so great about 'happiness' anyway. I mean, what's it supposed to mean? I think back about the greatest, most intense, most amazing, most meaningful experiences of my life, and the word 'happiness' doesn't relate to any of them. (Well OK, maybe one: come to think of it I can remember one isolated incident of being so utterly blissfully contented that I always remember that moment as 'happy'.) But the rest? Life is full of astounding moments that may be described as terrifying, testing, completely baffling: i wouldn't say I felt 'happy' at any of those times. When the moment passed I have frequently felt 'happy' to be back in the world of normal, quiet, uninteresting routine; but it's all a bit small somehow.
And then there's 'Truth'.
WTF is that?
what indeed is truth? But I think there's too much worrying about what happiness is exactly - there is not one thing, and we are all different. Your valuing of intense experiences (and I suppose the intensity of joy, mentioned by someone else) is one end of the spectrum, and the contentment and peace of mind that others value is the other end. The Founding Fathers were I think pointing to an important fact - that whatever happiness means exactly, it is what most people want (more positive than liberty) and are entitled to pursue. I am glad that Nick started this thread, and that countries (like notably Bhutan) are realising that happiness is more important than simple economic wellbeing. Going back to Nick's question, he is right about the importance of truth for happiness in the long run, though I would prefer happiness if there were a genuine choice - we will never know THE TRUTH

thundril
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#13 Post by thundril » March 28th, 2011, 2:50 pm

Dave B wrote: in 1885 "pursuit" also meant "prosecution" in another old sense that meant "continued act". A hobby may be called a "pursuit"
Yes, that's the sense in which I called it th 'Trivial Pursuit'. :)

thundril
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#14 Post by thundril » March 28th, 2011, 2:59 pm

animist wrote:what indeed is truth? But I think there's too much worrying about what happiness is exactly - there is not one thing, and we are all different. Your valuing of intense experiences (and I suppose the intensity of joy, mentioned by someone else) is one end of the spectrum, and the contentment and peace of mind that others value is the other end.. . . . Going back to Nick's question, he is right about the importance of truth for happiness in the long run, though I would prefer happiness if there were a genuine choice - we will never know THE TRUTH
So we can't know what THE TRUTH is, and we can't agree what happiness is, but it's still worthwhile wondering which is best? :shrug:

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animist
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#15 Post by animist » March 28th, 2011, 3:42 pm

thundril wrote:
animist wrote:what indeed is truth? But I think there's too much worrying about what happiness is exactly - there is not one thing, and we are all different. Your valuing of intense experiences (and I suppose the intensity of joy, mentioned by someone else) is one end of the spectrum, and the contentment and peace of mind that others value is the other end.. . . . Going back to Nick's question, he is right about the importance of truth for happiness in the long run, though I would prefer happiness if there were a genuine choice - we will never know THE TRUTH
So we can't know what THE TRUTH is, and we can't agree what happiness is, but it's still worthwhile wondering which is best? :shrug:
you and I would not be "wasting" our time here if we didn't love to wonder about all sorts of things. I suppose I mean that happiness is what you make of it (sounds corny I know); there is no one "true" happiness because we all differ. Truth is not quite like that, that's all I know: is it something that relates only to propositions, and in what way do these mirror the "real" world? I think of myself as a utilitarian (though like all theories, it does not cover everything) so I would always prefer to leave someone happily deluded than judge they should know a tough truth (as that's what I would prefer myself) - unless of course they really needed to know....

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Sel
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#16 Post by Sel » March 28th, 2011, 4:25 pm

so I would always prefer to leave someone happily deluded than judge they should know a tough truth (as that's what I would prefer myself) - unless of course they really needed to know....
As I have always said; "Truth is relative" . Of course, that is an oversimplification and I am sure you debating types can do more with it than that!
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

thundril
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#17 Post by thundril » March 28th, 2011, 4:33 pm

Animist wrote: so I would always prefer to leave someone happily deluded than judge they should know a tough truth (as that's what I would prefer myself) - unless of course they really needed to know....
Well yes... a girl's bum never looks huge in anything! (Unless you're her chosen style guru and she's going on a really important date, in which case you have a license to be more truthful than kind.)
Sel wrote:As I have always said; "Truth is relative" . Of course, that is an oversimplification and I am sure you debating types can do more with it than that!
"Truth is relative?" That's so not an oversimplification, Sel! In fact it's the deepest question of all, IMHO.

Vivisectus
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#18 Post by Vivisectus » March 29th, 2011, 11:11 am

Hi All!

Aren't we discussing two things that are so different they cannot be contrasted with each other in this way? Happiness being an overall average state of well-being, and truth being perceived veracity? Making a comparison like this without putting it in some kind of context doesn't seem useful to me.

In the context of religion, you could make a case for ignorance being bliss - religion can be a source of well-being, pride and strength for people. Being unaware of the logical inconsistencies that could make you doubt your religion is then a good thing, as it allows you to hang on to this. But it would be a fragile sort of happiness - someone might come along and disrupt it at any moment. When this happens the temptation will be great to simply pretend reality is other than it is.

This wouldn't be so bad if people could use religion as an entirely internal resource and not judge other people based on it, or make statements about the universe that are supported only by religious ideas. Sadly this is rarely the case.

thundril
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#19 Post by thundril » March 30th, 2011, 12:54 pm

Vivisectus wrote: Hi All!

Aren't we discussing two things that are so different they cannot be contrasted with each other in this way? Happiness being an overall average state of well-being, and truth being perceived veracity? Making a comparison like this without putting it in some kind of context doesn't seem useful to me.
Hello Vivisectus! I know I might seem to have been arguing from a similar pov, but in fact I recognise that knowing, believing etc do have very great impacts on our well-being, as well as on our sense of well-being. So I guess Nick's original question is deserving of much more attention than my skeptical musings might suggest.
Vivisectus wrote:In the context of religion, you could make a case for ignorance being bliss - religion can be a source of well-being, pride and strength for people. Being unaware of the logical inconsistencies that could make you doubt your religion is then a good thing, as it allows you to hang on to this. But it would be a fragile sort of happiness - someone might come along and disrupt it at any moment.
I like this example! In your first para you suggest Truth and Happiness are completely incomparable; in your second you show how deeply inter-related they can be.
Vivisectus wrote:When this happens the temptation will be great to simply pretend reality is other than it is.
On the other hand, realising that a dreadful god is only a myth can be enormously liberating.
Vivisectus wrote:This wouldn't be so bad if people could use religion as an entirely internal resource and not judge other people based on it, or make statements about the universe that are supported only by religious ideas. Sadly this is rarely the case.
IMO, religious belief only becomes a real problem when people use it to wield power, and to convince some people to do harm to others.

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Dave B
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Re: Truth and Happiness

#20 Post by Dave B » March 30th, 2011, 1:45 pm

IMO, religious belief only becomes a real problem when people use it to wield power, and to convince some people to do harm to others.
I assume that means in the negative as well, as in the case of JWs and similar refusing to allow their family members medical assistance.

I also think it includes all those who stand on streets corners and shout out that we are all doomed unless we "embrace the lord". Some suckers are going to fall for it I fear. But those kind of suckers usually need a prop anyway (sorry if that sounds nasty, not intended that way.)

I have no beef with the non-evangelical believers, unless they come down hard on their kids if the kids question the use of religion. What they do in their churches/mosques/temples is up to them, if it is legal.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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