Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year.... :)

Happy new year every one. You can easily realize from my posts that I certainly believe that values and virtues play a significant role in our pursuit of happiness. The most recent branch of psychology, called positive psychology, emphasizes the importance of them as well. I intend to write a lot about this fascinating branch but I will do this later.

What I am planning to do in this post is to offer you guys a little gift for the New Year. Positive psychologists have developed various examination methods to help us in realizing the values and virtues which are the strongest in us.

This is a link to one of the most respectable questionnaires to guide you in discovering what positive psychologists call character strengths. Character strength is an alternative name of virtue. You will discover through this questionnaire the most significant personality traits about you which have been shaped by what you take to be the most valuable.

I think it would be great for each one of you to start the New Year while knowing his most significant routes to being happy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From Scratch to Solid Ground: Live According to Your Will but Make Sure That This is What You Are Doing!!!

It is amazing how apparently simple questions can be very difficult to answer. The question "how should I live my life?" is certainly one of those questions. I think the reason why such questions might appear both simple and difficult in the same time is that while, the answer to such questions can be easily provided intuitionally through common sense, further reflection upon those answers clarify that that there are several inconsistencies in them which requires management. Grounding our intuitions might be so difficult. However, sincere efforts can finally provide a full blown theory that explains our common sense and answers our most basic questions.

This is exactly what I have been trying to do in the last few articles I posted. It is here in this post that I will try to put an answer that I think is the most coherent up to this point. Lots of what I will state here has been stated repeatedly by me before. However, at least I would benefit from rewriting the whole thing for one more time. So, here it goes.

I am a human being. I am naturally equipped with biological drives, shaped through centuries of evolution to ensure my survival. Those drives are the basic drives of seeking food, sex, shelter, security and most importantly to bond. The particular drive of bonding that makes me a social animal might be the most important among other drives in shaping the next stage of evolution that human beings have undergone through, namely cultural evolution.

It is through cultural evolution, that I now posses drives other than those biological ones. Those drives are my values. Those values constitute my personality. They go all the way down in me. They don't only drive my actions but they shape my emotions, my reactions and my judgments and so on. Those values and biological drives don't only drive my will but they constitute the very essence of it. Even though, through the theory of evolution I can explain how such motive came to exist, I can't justify them. Again, reason can never justify my passions. I just have to follow them or more precisely act upon them. Passions constitute the essence of my will and who I am. Justification is not need for them; it is only needed for managing them.

Among the values I hold and I think all of us hold are the values of understanding and practical reasoning. They are the motives for writing those particular articles. The value of practical reasoning moves me to do the following;

· I need to understand my self. In other words, I need to understand the motives which constitute me. It is easy to understand my biological drives. However, understanding my values require reflection upon my actions, my emotions, my reactions and my judgments. The broad ideal account which I accepted as the theory the describes my actions, emotions and judgments convinced me that my values can't be reduced to only one value but rather a list of irreducible different values that primarily consist of understanding, friendship, accomplishment, pleasure and practical reasoning.

· I need to understand the world I live in. I need to understand not only the environment I exist in but the people that I share my life with. I need to construct a theory that explains the behavior of the world and of other people. Such theory would allow me to appreciate the situation I am in and to determine the best chances available to me to achieve my motives.

· I need to use this knowledge together with reasoning to make my decisions and choices. Knowledge and reasoning would allow me to choose to get involved in forms of practices already developed by the society or to develop a whole new form of practice that I have to imagine and come up with.

· I need to be able to implement my choices and decisions voluntarily without being coerced by anyone else but my own self.

It might seems that since the values of practical reasoning requires understanding of myself and the world I live in that this value can after all be reduced to the value of understanding. However, all that is required by the value of practical reasoning is just having a set of beliefs about my self and the world. Putting the further condition of those beliefs to be true is something not required by the value of practical reasoning but instead required by the value of understanding. So, those two values are distinct from each other after all. However, since I value understanding as well, I need those beliefs to be true. I think science provides me with the most coherent, accepeltabe, adequate, and successful theory that explains the world. On the other hand, I think psychology based on the broad ideal account is the best theory to explain the behavior of other humans.

However, there is a point which I need to consider when it comes to understanding myself and when it comes to understanding others. I have concluded that each human being acts according to his own values. But what about variations among our values? If we are not justified in holding values, and if values are mainly the creation of human culture, then our values might differ and accordingly I can't secure any understanding of human behavior. It is here where morality plays a crucial role.

Cultural evolution didn't simply develop values as an integral part of my nature. It developed a whole moral theory based on values shared by all the others in the sphere of my culture. Those values stemmed from shared social forms of practices. Those values are not only a part of me but rather a part of an ideal person that has been drawn through generations of human beings. As I act upon my values, I get to realize the criteria of this virtuous person that I don't only aspire for but as a matter of fact all of those surrounding me aspire for. What I am trying to say is that my values can't be isolated from the values of others. They can't have ever been developed in me unless at least it was shared by the culture I grew up in.

But, this moral theory that shaped my values is not static. The culture that produced it is continuously changing. In today's world, there are many states with different histories and different forms of culture. In each state there are many different social groups with different situations and different chances. On the other hand, science develops and it brings out new discoveries and it changes our vision of the world. Economy fluctuates and the whole environment we live in change every single day. How can values be anchored in anything if every thing that constituted them changes almost every single day?

Even if values might change, there is something about human beings that can't change in us unless we ceased to be human beings. It is our basic drive to bond. Bonding is another biological drive in us that was shaped by evolution to ensure our security and our survival. We are driven to bond with all other human beings who are within the sphere that can affect us. In toady's world this sphere has extended to involve the entire globe. All of us need to bond together. This in not a mere act of preaching. It is a fact enforced upon us by our nature and by the world we live in today. Fortunately, our history extends for so long. We have started affecting each other long ago. We share lots of core values. It seems that we only dispute over the more trivial ones. Our dispute is more related to how we might realize our values rather than what is most valuable in our lives.

To sum it up, I should realize my values. I should cultivate them and allow them to grow in me so that I can become happier. I should not act in ways that would violate those values. I should be open to learn about the best ways to realize my values since my knowledge is certainly still limited. Whenever, there is an apparent conflict with others, I should realize that there are ways to resolve those conflicts. Morality is an integral part of me and all of us. It doesn't allow us only to be happy but through its share in the construction of our values it constitutes the very essence of happiness itself. With the mere exception of sociopaths, we all share the values of pleasure, understanding, practical reasoning, friendship, and accomplishment. Any conflict among us is only due to limited knowledge and not being open enough to understand others.

Here is my final advice to myself and to others. Happiness is nothing but realizing your values. Realizing your values can't be done unless you have proper understanding of yourself and the fact that you are made of values which are not only a part of yourself but rather the main part of a whole theory made by others. In addition, realizing your values can't be achieved unless you have proper understanding of the world you live in. you might be prevented from achieving your values by the people surrounding you. It is time in such cases to remember that you share with others more than you might think. On the other hand, the world and circumstances might be an obstacle in achieving your goals but in such cases it is again that you can't do any less than changing the world you live in. after all it is your values that constitute your will. Failing them would only fail your own will.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Rise of the Virtuous Man

In the last posts I have reached the conclusions that passions can't be justified. Passions don't only include those biological drives of survival but they include values as well. Each human being has an over driving force to act. We don't have a choice when it comes to our well but to act according to our motives. Biological motives and the more socially constructed values have an equal footing when it comes to driving our actions. I think understanding that values are of no less importance in driving our actions has a significant impact on our choices. I will show why by the end of this series of posts.

Before going on through my line of thought, I would like to write a little bit more about values. Human beings are born with a set of biological drives of motives. Those motives have been shaped through years of evolution to ensure better chances of survival. Motives have an over driving force over our minds. They constitute the essence of our well. Humans are not only equipped with the basic biological drives of survival, but they are equipped in addition with fascinating abilities. Our abilities include various physical and mental abilities. Among those abilities are our abilities to perceive, conceptualize and even more importantly to imagine and innovate. Our unique abilities, allowed us to start our very own process of cultural evolution which goes much faster than biological evolution. Humans have managed to construct bigger societies. In those societies, more innovative practices have been developed to further our over all well being and survival. Each one was assigned particular roles in those practices. Those practices had specific rules of action that would again ensure better chances of survival. As societies got even bigger, humans managed to figure out alternative ways to fulfill their roles. Those alternative ways represented ways to break from the conventional rules of actions. Some of those ways were more successful and some were worse. Long before the development of big societies, humans have managed to develop the practice of language communication. Language allowed humans to further increase their abilities to conceptualize. It made them not only able to conceptualize about the objects of their perceptual experience but to conceptualize about their practices. As humans practices became so diverse, and with the expansion of the alternative ways of managing their rules of actions, humans had to conceptualize about the goals of those practices or of the various ways to fulfill a particular role within those practices. Through years of cultural evolution, humans were able to conceptualize those ends or goals of their various practices into more and more abstract concepts. However, just as wide as our imagination can go, the practices human societies invented became so diverse and so are the goals of those practices. Again some practices were more successful than others in improving the chances of our survival. This lead to a conflict between the goals of those practices. Some goals were thought to be so essential. Human societies had to make those goals important. Through reciprocal sanctions and human sympathy, the concepts of those ends or goals were transmitted from one generation to the other. And those ends through time became not only mere goals but they became important in conceptualizing our life as good. In other terms they became values.

Values are concepts of what makes life good to us. They are raised in our minds as we grow up. They are now not only essential for having a good life but they constitute the meaning of a good life. We can't understand any goodness about life except through them. As we grow up we face sanctions when we behave in a way that is in conflict with the common social practices. And as we grow up, we learn to conceptualize and rationalize between those concepts. Once, we are grown we found our selves we find that we have attained concepts which don't only explain the meaning of a good life but that have an over riding forces in directing our actions. Humans born in today's world don't only have biological motives of survival but they have values constructed through years of cultural evolution. Those values as I have mentioned before can never be distinguished in their importance from those basic biological motives. Again, as I have mentioned over and over, even though you might be aware of the causal process involved in the construction of those motives, you are not justified rationally in holding them. It is just something that constitutes your nature and you simply have nothing but to follow them.

So, values such as love, friendship, or mercy are just culturally innovated concepts. This view runs against a common view that conceives values as entities existing independently of the human experience. Some might argue that love is good, even if there were no human beings to experience it or act according to it. Such an objectivist view is not consistent and it has limited power of explanation. I will not argue against this view here. There are arguments against this view raised by so many philosophers and there is no enough space here to manage this matter.

However, this relativistic view of our values opens the door for so many problems. I will get into the heart of the matter. There are values held by human beings which are conceived by other as bad or even evil. Nazis and terrorists provide a clear example. It would be naïve to think that such people are moved by any thing else other than values. They behave in such a manner sincerely believing that they are at least making their own lives better or even the lives of others as well. If we allowed it that such people have nothing in their choice but to follow their values just as all humans have to follow their values, we would loose the significance of morality. It seems that we must have the ability to judge actions as either wrong or right. Judging some actions as right or wrong is not simply because of holding different values between us from one side and others on the other hand. It might seem that if we accepted the idea that values lack any justification in holding them, then our judgments of right and wrong are only subjective and lack any power of compelling others to behave in a particular way as long as they don't share our own values.

However, things are not like this. Even though, reason can't justify the values we hold or drop, it can investigate and judge the conceptual links between them. Humans might hold values different from each other, but they all agree in conceptualizing them as being essential to a good life. Now, think of a rational being that holds all the values that has ever been developed through the human culture. Such a rational being to be considered as understanding the meaning of those values must be able to provide the conditions required for them to develop a good life. In other words, he must be able to explain how a particular value can be realized without losing another one and so on. Let's call this rational being the virtuous man. The virtuous man will certainly find lots of contradictions between those many different values. However, following rules of reason, those contradictions can be solved. Guided by knowledge of how those values came to exist in the first place and by knowledge that they are not any supreme to our existence as humans' beings, it can be concluded that some value can be reduced to others, and that some need to be qualified into a different concept. We might even find that the problem lays in the kind of practice we are following to realize a particular value and that this practice while may be realizing one value is demolishing another.

The virtuous man first conceived by Aristotle many centuries ago can solve the problem of contradiction between our values. Reason might never be able to justify why we became to hold some values but it can direct us in better understanding of those values. Through better conceptualization of our values we would be able to construct a moral theory that explains the meaning of a good life depending upon a consistent explanation of our various values. The virtuous man exists in many among us. It whispers to us through our intuitions to direct us to what is good and what is right. Through clear thinking, we can become more aware of him inside us and his judgments would become more than ungrounded intuitions. Appeal to him would construct a moral theory that we might all agree upon. Morality can thus be developed through being open minded, communication with others, and understanding of the meaning of our values.

Anyway, the virtuous man or the virtue theory of morality might still face problems. There are situations which might prove challenging for the success of such a theory in guiding our actions. I will consider this theory, its implications in our life, and objections that can be raised against it later.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

One Step Further: It's Passion Over Reason

So, in the last post I have reached the following conclusions:

· There are other motives for actions than values. Such motives mainly include those natural drives to ensure survival. Mere survival is not good. Therefore, if I understand values as those concepts which makes life good. Survival is essentially not a value.

· However, I find myself so much driven by survival that I can't think of any other choice but to use the instrument of rationality to guide my life in the world I exist in to just continue living.

· The use of rationality to guide my choices so that I would go on living doesn't satisfy the definition of the value of practical reasoning. Having drives such as that of survival doesn't justify me in holding the value of practical reasoning. Again I am left with the fact the values themselves can never be justified.

· On the other hand, the use of the drive of survival as the main motive fro being rational regarding your choices can not be generalized to all humans in all different circumstances. It is just so in my case and I think in the cases of many other human beings. Yet it can't be considered as a universal explanation.

So, up till now, all I can say is that I really want to survive. The world I live in forces to use the best instrument available to me which is rationality to make the right sort of choices regarding my actions to ensure survival. Simply, I have to rationally get a job that will provide me with the chance of having food, shelter, and sex. I will commit to the rules of actions set by the society only to the extent that rationally would allow me the best chances to get those conditions of survival. But is this really what life is all about?

I think not. I still want other things in addition to the mere survival. I want to have a good life. I can't be aware of the possibility of having a good life or a better life than this required only by survival unless I already hold on particular concepts that I think make life good. In other words, I can't claim that there is a possibility of a better life than the one I have just mentioned unless I hold other values. So, what are those values that underlie my preference of having a better life?

I have mentioned before that even though I can never be justified in holding a value, I can be justified in holding beliefs about what values I already hold. Reflection on the history of my actions and reflection on my primary theory of practical reasoning I can be justified in arguing that I hold particular values. I think I am justified in arguing that I hold the values of practical reasoning, understanding, accomplishment, friendship and pleasure.

Now, there is a question which I have to face. If I allowed it that invaluable motives such as those of survival can direct my actions depending on the claim that they are so basic in my nature that I can't choose any other thing but following them, then why can't I allow the same thing for my values. They are so basic in my nature just like those of survival. They might have been caused in me by a much greater amount of social intervention when compared to the natural motives of survival, but why would this make them any less significant than the natural drives of survival? Whether the causal chain involved in forming a human motive is formed only of events of biological evolution or of cultural evolution in addition doesn't make any of those motives more or less justified.

So, justification wise, there is no difference between what I can call the purely natural drives of survival and the more culturally innovated drives of what I hold valuable. However, this is a difference after all. Survival drives are more compelling than those of values. It seems very difficult to me to choose any thing else but survival. However, it seems more possible to choose not to follow the motivation based on my values. I can choose not to have a good life but it is very difficult to choose not to live. But is this true? At least, I have to admit that this claim can't be generalized to all human beings. There are lots of people who upon the loss of what makes life valuable for them choose to put an end to their life. There are others who might sacrifice their own life for the sake of what they value. This fact makes me suspicious even of my claim that I personally would be more determined to survive but less so to seek my values. I think I can't be justified in arguing that survival is more compelling than realizing my own values. I can only be justified in such a claim if I was given the choice between mere survival and value realization and yet I choose mere survival. If I was giving the choice between being transformed into a unicellular bacterium that would survive forever and the life of a philosopher making significant contribution to knowledge but would last only for forty years, I think I would certainly choose the life of a philosopher. I have to admit that values might be just as compelling as survival.

So, I can't think of anyway through which I can distinguish natural drives from values. If I allowed it that I can act directed by natural drives, I have to admit that I can act driven by my values.

Things are just like Hume stated. Reason can't be but the slave of the passions. Reason is useless when it comes to determining your ends. All you have to do is just to stop thinking when it comes to your main motives. You simply have to follow them.

But if I accepted my values just as they are and realized that I have no choice but to follow them, won't this be at least in some situations dangerous? Aren't Nazis and terrorists moved by values and motives? It seems just wrong to accept that they can be allowed to follow such values. There are values I might hold which can affect the lives of others in a negative way. On the other hand, the world I live in might show that I can't realize all of my values and that I have to choose between them, how can I choose between them if I can't reason between them? Furthermore, it seems that the very nature of some of my values might contradict the realization of other values, again how can I choose between them?

The fact that reason is useless when it comes to deciding upon which values I should hold and which I should drop and the fact that I can't do anything about my passions but to follow them might be problematic after all. However, up to this stage I am satisfied with the conclusion that the well to act itself is so strong in me that I can't neglect and that I can't reason with this well, I simply have to follow it. I am also satisfied with the fact that values are just as important as my natural drives. They stand on equal footing. It might be true that natural drives are shaped by nature and that's why they are more shared by almost all human beings, while values are shaped more by cultural evolution and that's why they involve greater amount of contradictions, but both of them are strong in each one of us. How to solve the contradictions between values is a problem that I should figure out. I will try to do this later.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reflections of a Man Starting from Scratch

I have been so busy lately studying the philosophy of ethics which as you will see in this post is literally driving me crazy. That's why I didn't fin enough time to post in my beloved blog. However, I thought I should share with you some of my crazy philosophical reflections. I know that most of you won't like it. However, I promise you that soon I will write something that would be more appealing to your tastes.

Here I am again totally lost regarding what I should do. I will try to handle things from a new prospective. Maybe values are mainly related to evaluation of life. However what guides my actions are not values. My actions are directed toward achieving goals. Those goals and rules of actions are determined by the game I am involved in. Values move me and direct my choices of the games I should be involved in. depending upon my values; I will choose those games which have goals compatible with my values. I will follow the rules of actions of a game or I will innovate in them depending upon the space created by my values as well. Following the rules of actions is what is required by morality. The extent possible by which those rules can be broken or modified is a problem concerning morality. Following the rules, breaking them, or modifying them is all shaped by values. Which values should be followed in managing rules of actions is another problem facing practical reasoning and thus morality.

Contradictions among values make rule following problematic. In addition, it makes the choice among games problematic as well. Solving this problem is another task required by practical reasoning.

How should practical reasoning work? I need a theory of practical reasoning that would allow me to claim that it is true. This theory should be acceptable, utilitarian, stable, and coherent so that it can be called true. Do I need such a theory to be true for the sake of the value of understanding or for the sake of the value of practical reasoning itself? The value of practical reasoning can be conceived as the preference of bringing about a state of affair at which I am able to have a theory that would enable me to make practical decisions and in the same time be able to implement my decisions. Whether this theory is true or not is not something required by the value of practical reasoning itself but rather through the value of knowledge. Over all, the value of practical reasoning is realized in my life. I have some kind of an intuitional theory of practical reasoning that I decide upon and which I am to a large extent able to implement. What is really pushing me to act and think right now is the value of understanding. This value is driving me to develop this proto theory into a true theory. However, the construction of a theory about practical reasoning that will be useful in achieving the goals it determines, that is acceptable by all rational beings, that is stable under all possible circumstances, and that is coherent is very difficult.

This theory should be concerned with explaining how I should act. But why do I need such a theory in the first place? Why can't I just act randomly? Why do I think that there is a right way to act and a wrong way? This question has already been answered. It is because of the value of practical reasoning. Again, the value of practical reasoning is the preference of bringing about a state of affair at which I do what I want. Doing what you want can be broken down into the following conditions;

· You must know what you want. So you must have a theory about what you want. This theory should be true. If this theory is false, then it can't be said that you are doing what you want since you don't know what you really want in the first place.

· You must have a theory of how to achieve what you want. This theory doesn't have to be true. Even, if you didn't know how to achieve what you want, having mere beliefs about how to achieve them is enough for you to claim that you are doing what you want. I think this loose condition upon this component of the value is related to the fact that up till now we don't have a true theory of practical reasoning.

· Having the circumstances which allow you to implement your way of achieving what you want.

So needing such a theory in the first place is required by the value of practical reasoning itself. That's why you need such a theory as long as you want to realize this value. Why do actions has to be wrong or right is something related and judged by whether your action would realize those wants of yours or not. That's why actions have to be either right or wrong. Those wants I have mentioned are other values. However, there are lots of problems concerning values. I can test all of those problems by thinking about the value of practical reasoning itself.

Should I or shouldn't I hold the value of practical reasoning itself? Answering this question would reveal the first problem concerning values. Values can never be justified. your beliefs about whether you hold this value or not can be justified but you beliefs about whether you should hold this value or not is very difficult to be justified. For example I am justified in believing that I hold the value of practical reasoning through reflection upon the history of my practice. Sitting down right now and attempting to figure out what is wrong about with my practical reasoning is clear evidence that in my practice I value practical reasoning. However, what justifies me in holding this value? The right answer is nothing. I intuitionally believe that practical reason is good because it is simply is. I can't even claim that it is good because it realizes other values like being happy for example. Happiness itself as I have understood from the broad ideal account consists of a list of many different values. The crude list of those values include in addition to practical reasoning, the values of understanding, accomplishment, pleasure and friendship. However, this list is formed of those values in particular because each of them passes the isolation and completeness tests. Since practical reasoning itself is among the values of this list, then it has passed those tests. This means that I have already agreed to take them as something that would make me happy with my life even if there was nothing else good in my life other than it and that this value is good simply because it is good.

The broad ideal account is a theory which attempts to explain the notion of happiness. This account is based on the very basic assumption that we can never be justified in holding what ultimately makes us happy. This assumption is further explained by another assumption concerning the nature of human beings themselves. We, human beings, are mainly practical animals. We have needs, basic preferences, and abilities all of which are mainly concerned with our survival. We face challenges, we improvise in solving them, we imitate what proves to be successful in meeting those challenges, we transmit our knowledge of what is useful to our offspring, we conceptualize, we adapt to what ensures our survival, and finally we hold on our concepts of what we think is valuable through long history of evolving human culture. This assumption is plausible when you accept the sentimentalist account of our values stated by philosophers such as Hume.

The point is thus that I can never be justified in holding a particular value. I might be well aware of what caused me to hold this value but causal origins of a concept can't be though of as a justification for that concept.

But accepting the idea that values themselves are unjustifiable is still problematic. This is because just like values are held by us through a particular causal chain, they can be dropped or demolished through another causal chain. If I accepted the idea that I don't have to be justified in holding a particular value, and yet I choose to hold it, then I don't have to be justified for dropping a particular value to drop it. So, why can't I just drop the value of practical reasoning?

I think I am not free in answering this question. I have no choice here but to choose to hold the value of practical reasoning. The human society I live in has developed a system that I can't survive through unless I try to be rational as possible regarding my choices. So, it might be for the sake of survival that I choose to hold on practical reasoning. But won't this make survival another value in itself? Survival is not a value. You can't claim that your life is good simply because you survived in it for the longest time possible. But if survival is not a value, it is certainly, one of the most significant drives in humans. At least, it is the motive for holding upon the value of practical reasoning. But can't I think that at least I still have the choice of braking free from the value of practical reasoning through dismantling this social system I live in that requires me to necessarily hold on this value? Can't I just some how convince people that they should give up on rationality that underlies practical reasoning? Again, this doesn't seem possible. People hold on rationality. It might not be a value. But it is certainly an important instrument is ensuring survival. It is survival as basic motive and rationality as am important instrument that requires me to act rationally regarding my actions. It is the very basic nature of me as a human being and the fact that the world is not so merciful to creatures which don't act rationally that makes me have to hold on practical reasoning. I might not be justified in holding it but I am certainly caused to hold on it.

This is the first step in moving forward to figure out what I should do.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aristotle Rediscovered

It is clear from my previous posts that I am so curious about happiness. I offered lots of posts concerned with this subject. I presented the points of views of many writers and thinkers together with my own points of view. Today, I will write again about the same subject. However, this time I will focus on the ideas offered by one of the oldest philosophers in history, Aristotle, together with the findings of one of the most recent branches of psychology, namely positive psychology. Amazingly, their ideas mach to a very large extent. It has been stated by Christopher Peterson himself, one of the founders of positive psychology, that the ideas of this new branch of science validate to a large extent what has been preached by Aristotle centuries ago. Personally, I think that this account that can be constructed from both Aristotle and positive psychology represent the most convincing account about happiness I have ever encountered.

Aristotle in his search for happiness discovered brilliantly the relationship between the concepts of happiness, good, and actions. Aristotle argued that what is good is what we aim at through any action. I will try to explain Aristotle’s thoughts from my own point of view. I can argue that there are different classes of objects or states of affairs. Those objects or states of affairs have criteria. Those objects or states of affairs which have criteria that moves us to obtain them or bring them on are those which are called good. For example the statement “this knife is good” means that this knife has among its criteria some which would move me to buy it or obtain it in a particular situation such as if I need to buy a knife. Such criteria which would make this knife good include for example being sharp or being of an adequate size and so on. It is those criteria which would move me to obtain this knife and they represent what is good about this knife.

From this account, we can see that judging something as good entails a necessary relation to action. A T-shirt that doesn’t have anything about it that would move me to buy it can never be a good T-shirt. Similarly, this relationship can be applied to even less obvious examples. The statement “honesty is good” entails that honest actions move me to bring them on whether in my behavior or in the behavior of others.

Now, let’s go back to life and the question which keeps occupying me. How can I have a good life? Life consists of actions. A good life is equal to a series of good action. What make those actions good are criteria they must have. Those actions must have criteria which move us to bring them on and to execute such actions. If there is a single criterion which is shared by all those good actions and which can’t be reduced to any further criterion, then this criterion must be what can be called “the supreme good”. The supreme good is the goal which is common among all of our good actions.

Aristotle then considered whether there is such a supreme good shared between all good actions and what it would be. He argued that this supreme good can be called Happiness. He argued that the concept of happiness has the same feature of this supreme good. It is plausible to state that all of our good actions involve us moving to obtain or bring about a state of happiness. Accordingly, happiness seems to be a shared criterion among all good actions. In addition, happiness can’t be further reduced into something else we aim at when we act. I can state that I want to be rich, and when I am asked why, I can answer that being rich makes me happy. However, if I am asked why I do want to be happy, it seems that I wouldn’t be able to give answer in terms of a further goal or aim. If the concept of “supreme good” and “happiness” share the same feature, then they are equivalent to each other.

What is interesting about this argument is that it shows that happiness is closely tied to actions. You can never obtain happiness unless you act to bring it on. Bringing on happiness is mainly a criterion shared by all good actions. Accordingly, you must do a good action to bring up happiness.

Before moving further, I would like to summarize the previous argument in the following terms; what Aristotle did so far is to offer a conceptual analysis of the term “good” which leads us into conceiving that all of our good actions aim at some goal. Happiness is conceptually a common goal among all our good actions. Now we can move to the next question.

What does happiness or this common goal of all of our good action consist of?

Aristotle didn’t answer this question properly, however in his attempt to answer it he focused on making appeal to virtues. Our good actions are those which are virtuous. Our actions might be virtuous or not. However, it is our life which might be happy or not. Aristotle argued that one good action doesn’t make the performer of this action a virtuous one. The performer of this action must develop the habit of acting virtuously. Good actions as we have argued before have the criterion of bringing happiness and accordingly developing the habit of acting virtuously is what would bring a continuously happy life. Aristotle didn’t think of virtues as capacities or tendencies. Instead he though that virtues are obtained by habit.

What the most important about Aristotle line of thought are the following points;

· Happiness is conceptually connected to action. You must move to be happy

· It is virtuous actions which bring happiness

· Happiness is predicated on one’s entire life

Aristotle however, failed in providing an account for virtues, and how virtue would bring up happiness. However, the modern science of positive psychology might have tightened those screws and solved those hanging problems in Aristotle’s philosophy.

Positive psychology is one of the most recent and rapidly growing branches of psychology. The principle underlying positive psychology is that conventional psychology or what Peterson likes to call Business-as-usual-psychology focused mainly on what goes wrong in human life and how to over come psychological distress. Peterson among other pioneers in positive psychology argued that we should focus on the scientific study of what goes well in just as much of what goes wrong in it. In other words, we should scientifically study human happiness and well being.

Positive psychology made great steps forward. However, one of its most important theories is based on the old ideas of Aristotle. Positive psychologists argued that acting virtuously would lead us into happiness. However, instead of treating virtues as learnt repertoire of behavior, they defined virtues as personality traits. Personality trait is a disposition to act, think, and feel in a particular way. Positive psychology theorizes that human beings are born with tendencies to act virtuously and it has proved scientifically that acting virtuously would lead to a happy life.

What was not proven as a matter of necessity by Aristotle was proven as a matter of scientific contingency by positive psychology. I think later on, evolutionary psychologists might be able to show that this biological tendency to act virtuously was selected by nature through evolution to facilitate even stronger progress of human life and therefore greater chances of survival.

Positive psychology offered further amazing findings related to virtues and to other aspects of human life which might bring up happiness. I will present future posts related to the findings of positive psychology.

On the other hand, I am going to modify this blog so that in addition to what it has commonly offered it would reflect my personal attempt to live this life according to the findings and theories of positive psychology. So, expect some changes. I hope you like them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Achievements Don't Have to be BIG!!

First, I would like to remind you of the five main values that make your life worth living. According to Roger Crisp, those are; pleasure, understanding, achievement, friendship and practical reasoning. I wrote about understanding before, and today I will write about achievement.

There are lots of things which you might think of as an achievement. Gaining your driving license, getting married, travelling all around the world, and lost of other things are commonly considered by us ac achievements. However, this is not what is meant by making an achievement here. All of the examples mentioned before are great things but what makes them valuable might be gaining pleasurable experiences or developing a strong attachment to someone or other values in life. However, satisfying the value of achievement itself is gained through other set of activities.

I will try to explain what I have just said a little bit more. To have a valuable life, you must achieve in it. To achieve in your life you must do something that will strengthen the theory you have about this life. As I have argued before, when I wrote about the value of understanding, we all need to develop a theory about life. Such a theory must be the most coherent theory we can come up with, it should explain the nature of the universe, the human experience and life in general, and it should invite agreement among all well informed rationally thinking human beings. Efforts made in science and philosophy seem to be the most promising among other efforts in developing such a theory. It is true that we can’t claim that the ultimate theory ,we are aspiring for, have been already developed ,but I think we are justified in holding a hope that one day we will do develop such a theory. In order to gain the value of achievement you must make a contribution toward strengthening this developing theory. In simpler terms, you should make an impact on this world or on humanity that will be beneficial according to the theory that enables you to understand this world. I can give some examples here. We are already discussing the theory of welfare presented by Roger Crisp. This theory seems to be the most promising in explaining what is good about life. If you accepted such a theory, then you would be entitled to think of yourself as making an achievement when you promote the five main values of life for other people surrounding you. Helping other people to gain pleasure, understanding, achievements, friendship or better ability to reason practically would be a great achievement made by you. Another example I can think of is this; science informs us that global warming is a great threat to our existence, accordingly making an effort to eliminate the causes of this phenomenon would still be another valuable achievement since it fits well within the theory that you understand the world through.

I have argued before that those five main values in life are all founded upon our basic desires as human beings. As I have mentioned before, those desires are raw and primitive. They contradict each other. They face lots of limitations, and all of them must be managed rationally to reach the best results. All of those desires lead to happiness when they are satisfied. However, the necessity of their rational management reveals that it is not only happiness we are seeking but those five main values we have mentioned repeatedly. I think it is an appropriate place to explain this mush further by making an appeal to achievement. The value of achievement might be based on the desires of self actualization and self esteem. Those desires are best achieved by recognizing and utilizing your most promising ability. One of the best instruments, to tell you that you are on the right track to satisfy those desires, is social recognition and approval. Now, if you only focused on satisfying those desires rather than focusing on gaining the value of achievement, you might end up having a less valuable life. Imagine if you were able to paint. If you focused on gaining social recognition to satisfy your desire of self actualization you might nice paintings that would be liked by so many people. Now imagine if you didn’t care about social recognition that much and focused instead on the theory you have about this life and attempted to express such a theory through your paintings. As an artist, you are most probably capable of figuring out the aesthetics behind paintings more than anyone else. Attempting to express your point of view of aesthetics might yield far better products, and attempting to express your theory about life might give a remarkable depth and meaning to those paintings. Focusing on the value of achievement rather than the desires of self actualization and self esteem might yield far better satisfaction of those same desires.

Now there is a final point I would like to make. I totally believe that each one of us is unique. The coagulum of each one’s abilities together with our different experiences would make each one of superior in a particular aspect of life. It is this unique ability which you should recognize and utilize to reach the value of achievement. However, even though your best achievement will most probably be made by your most remarkable ability, but lots of other achievements can still be made by you without depending on any unique ability at all. Any effort to strengthen your theory of life would account as an achievement. What I really believe in is that even though it is a great thing to be ambitious but it is still very important to be humble. As I have mentioned in my previous post, it is ok to accept that the fact that we still don’t understand life fully. It would be much better to make a humble contribution to further understand the world rather attempting to rush things up by giving a full blown theory about life which is filled with incoherent supernatural claims. The same thing goes when it comes to achievement. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a famous artist to think of yourself as having a life full of achievements. Helping your friend, participating in social work, arguing for what you think is right might all be great achievements.

I think everyone once defined the most promising theory to understand life, should start seeking achievements. You should recognize your most promising ability and make a long term plan to actualize the potentials you can achieve. However, in addition, it would be great to make an achievement every single day. Think each day of how you might do even a little thing to strengthen the theory you have about this life. Teaching your kid something that would benefit him or others, participating in charity, helping the deprived, acting morally, and promoting benevolence might all be great achievements that can be done on daily basis.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Passion to Understand

As I have argued before, whenever you feel like life is becoming nonsense or whenever you feel like you lost your purpose, remember that all of this is wrong. You are a human being. You are born in this world with desires, rationality, and abilities. All of those are mixed together to give you the five genuine sources of life fulfillment. These are; pleasure, friendship, understanding, achievement, and practical reasoning.

Today, I will write about one of them which is understanding.

Life is a great mystery which is still, largely, unsolved up till now. Many different people through out time have attempted to rush things up by offering a theory explaining life and what it is all about. Religions, ancient and modern spiritual ideologies were all among the products of such attempts. Those many different forms of religions aimed for more than any of them could have ever accomplished. They attempted to explain how we came into being, why we exist, what we should do in life, how to think about death, and lots of other difficult questions that maybe all of us have to encounter sooner or later.

Unfortunately, those super natural claims are infected with so many incoherencies. In addition to the particular incoherencies related to each one of them, they all share a common fatal problem. They use terms such as “God”, “soul”, “inner spirit” all of which can’t be used to yield a meaningful sentence at least within the context of reality. The details of this problem are mainly related to the theory of understanding and the arguments presented by Dummett, Platts, and Grayling. I will not go into its details here but maybe later.

Anyway, you might become content with such theories and reject their dismissal. If you do so, you are following your raw desires instead of attempting to rationally control them. Rational control of such a desire to know and to understand will lead you into rethinking about those super natural claims. Later you would find that we have to depend upon our rationality to understand. The proper way through which our rationality can be expressed is through philosophy and science.

Reality is not simple. It is so much complex. It will take more than a single, allegedly, divinely inspired man to solve its mysteries. However, lacking a theory that allows us to understand life should not lead us into despair. Having this passion to understand is all that you need to think of life as worthy living. Making a modest contribution among other contributions made by other humans through out different ages would one day allow us to see the bigger picture and to start dealing properly with all the problems we face in life.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Morality, Very Disturbing...

Understanding morality might be one of the most difficult things I had to encounter. There are many different problems related to morality. I am mainly concerned with the problem of the moral standard. What is the standard which guides our thinking into taking a particular action as good and another as bad? I have this tendency to adopt utilitarianism. Utilitarianism argues that maximization of utility is the end of all human actions and therefore it is the principle which lies in the basis of what distinguishes a good action from a bad one.

I would like to interpret utilitarianism in the following terms; it is wrong to perform an action which interferes with someone else’s pursuit of a good life. On the other hand, it is good to facilitate other people’s pursuit of a good life. This interpretation is totally different from the classical form of utilitarianism. However, I interpreted it in such a way to provide some limitations on the classical form to avoid lots of the objections which were raised against it. However, this might seem as a good interpretation initially, but with further investigation, it becomes apparent that this principle is so raw when it comes to practical applications.

What about situations at which you are put into a difficult choice between two actions which both would violate other people’s pursuit of a good life, but to different degrees? I can use the commonly used example by philosophers here. If you passed by a village governed by a tyrant. This tyrant decided to punish the inhabitants of the village, for their last attempt to revolute against him, by killing 20 ones of them selected randomly. This tyrant however, decided to give you a privilege as a guest. If you choose so, you might kill only one of those poor guys and in such a case the tyrant would let go of the others. However, if you decided not to kill any one, the tyrant would go on with his plan of killing them all. What would you do in such a case?

Clearly, no one with a normal moral sense would commit the crime of killing an innocent person even for the sake of saving the lives of 19 other innocent guys. However, such a moral choice can’t be based on the utilitarian principal alone. It must be depending upon other principles. But what are those principles which together with the utilitarian principle might constitute our moral standard. We might think of some principles such as justice, integrity, or freedom. A problem however still exists. We can think of many different occasions at which those principles might contradict each other. What should we do in such cases? In such cases the question would remain; what is the moral standard which we can make an appeal to in such cases of contradiction?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Here is What Makes Your Life Good

I argued in my last post that it is not only happiness which we are looking for in life. Don’t get me wrong. Having a happy life is a great thing. However, focusing on happiness as the sole end of your life will most probably lead you into an unhappy life. So, what is it that we want in life? We have different desires in life. I have mentioned them repeatedly in previous post. However, it might be a good thing to remind you with them. Our basic desirers are; biological needs, security, attachment, self esteem, and self actualization. Some psychologists added self transcendence to the list. It is a bad idea to focus on the mere fulfillment of your desires as your strategy to have a good life. Our desires were designed by evolution to enhance our survival. I don’t want to under estimate them though. They were in fact great in accomplishing what was required of them to do. However, they are still primitive and not so well designed to be our sole compass toward having what is good. They might represent the foundation of what constitutes what we might conceive as good in this life, but there are other factors which are important as well, even more important. Another feature of human beings which was also developed by nature to enhance survival is our ability of rational thinking. It is very important to recognize the importance of rationality when it comes to determining what is good in life. The rational assessment of our desires and our abilities is the only way through which we can determine what is really good about life. Without going into the philosophical details, I would like to present to you one of the most plausible theories concerned with what makes our life good. Roger Crisp argued convincingly that what makes our life good and accordingly the ultimate end of our life are the following five main features to which any other feature can be reduced:

• Pleasure, including aesthetic pleasure
• Friendship and if possible the highest degree of friendship which is love
• understanding
• achievement
• practical reasoning

Each of those features deserves further explanation. Before I do so, I would like you yourself to think about what those features mean to you and their value to your life.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What is Good about Life?

What is good about life? What makes life worth living? Terms such as “good”,”bad”,”right” and “wrong” are all evaluatory terms. In other words, such terms will not make any sense if we though of them in isolation from an evaluating subject who applies certain evaluative criteria to determine whether those terms can be used or not.
I can further clarify this through the use of an example. What does the statement “this is a good car” mean? This statement would mean that if we took the car in question and examine its fulfillment to certain evaluative criteria we would be able to determine whether it’s good or not and accordingly whether this statement is true or false. Evaluative criteria for distinguishing a good car from a bad one might include; its speed, its design, its horse power and so on. All of those criteria are considered to be the evaluative criteria we need to use since they determine what the evaluator would like this car to do for him. Hence, the process of evaluation has to be under lied by the interests of the subject making the evaluation.
Now let’s go back to our main question; what is a good life? It might be clear to you now that this question can be paraphrased into the following; “what are the evaluative criteria we would tend to apply to determine whether a particular form of life good or bad?” we might think that the only one criteria that is of importance in distinguishing a good life from a bad one might be happiness. We might find it plausible to claim that I can say of myself that I had a good life if I had a happy one. Those who hold this assumption are called hedonists. It is important to notice that this assumption is a highly respectable one. Some might think that holding this assumption would mean depending on material and sensual sources of happiness to provide a good life. However, this is not necessarily the case. There are a lot other different sources of happiness other than sensual and material ones. It is clear that serving others, defending a higher cause or gaining success in work are all important sources of happiness which are neither material nor sensual.
However, hedonism still suffers from internal incoherencies which make it a less plausible theory. Those incoherencies were best demonstrated through the objections that have been raised against John Stuart Mill’s hedonism. Those objections were recognized by Mill as we will see and he attempted to defend his hedonism against them. However, it seems that he failed to do so. I will mention some of those objections here. It might seem highly intuitive that a good life is a happy one, but isn’t it intuitive as well that Socrates, who was delineated by his society and was sentenced to death, had a better life than any other fool who rejected his wisdom. You might argue that Socrates might have had difficulties in his life but this doesn’t necessarily mean that he was unhappy. He must have enjoyed his wisdom to a greater degree than what he suffered because of the people surrounding him. Even if this was true, we can still think of someone who was not happy in his life and yet he had a good life. We can think of some one who has discovered a particular truth that would benefit humans greatly. However, he suffered a great deal in his life to come up with this discovery; his discovery was not appreciated till after his death. Such a person might have felt happy for some time when he came up with his discovery but any one else who suffered less in his life must have had a happier life than him. Even though such a person didn’t have the happiest life possible but he can still be considered as having lived a good life, might be even better than the lives of most of us. It is important to notice that it is not only us, who see the whole thing from the outside, who judge his life as a good one, but this person himself would be considering himself as having lived a good life based on his assumption that he made a great achievement that will be evaluated properly one day even after his death. We might still argue that it’s his realization that he has made an achievement which will be recognized one day is still a significant source of happiness that can overweight any other suffering that he might have experienced. Therefore, over all, he had a happier life and thus a better life than most of us. By accepting this response we accept the assumption that making a big achievement yields a greater amount of happiness than most of the other sources and therefore it would over weight any other suffering that one might have experienced.
This would lead us to the following argument that was offered again in objection to hedonism. Imagine that you were given the choice between leading the life of a great scientist who would make very big achievements to the human kind, but who would die at the age of 78, and the life of a moderately intelligent man who would lead a luxurious life style full of sensual delights and who will die at the age of 500 or even will live forever. It seems that most of use would still find the life of this scientist better than the life of this immortal man, even though the amount of happiness experienced by the immortal man must at some point exceed what was experienced by the scientist. Note that even though you might choose to live this luxurious long life, but it is still hard to deny that the life of the scientist would still be more memorable and better.
In response, we might still argue that the happiness created by achievement is of entirely different nature that it can never be compared to what ever the amount of happiness developed by other sources. In such a case, we must have to face this question: what makes the happiness developed by achievement better or of higher value than the happiness developed by other sources. It seems clear now that there must be other evaluative criteria which we have to use to distinguish higher sources of happiness from lower ones. Accordingly, there must be other evaluative criteria which are important in distinguishing a good life other happiness.
We will continue searching for those criteria in later posts.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happiness Project: Further Explanations

It’s been long since I started writing about happiness. Today, I will complete what I have started before. I have mentioned before that the transcendence program include the following activities:
• Appreciation of life
• Embracing life with its unsolvable problems
• Appreciation of people and the love you can share with them
• Enjoy pleasurable activities and stimuli more profoundly
• Enjoy your most rewarding activity
What is common between all those activities is that they don’t involve your Ego as their axis. In addition approaching them should be done through a form of thinking which is systematic positive and imaginative rather than factual. I will attempt here to further clarify what is meant by the utilization of an imaginative form of thinking.
There are many different contemporary thinkers who have suggested promoting your life through what I consider to be modern spiritual trends. Authors such as Eckhart Tolle, Mctaggart and Goswami have all preached some kind of what I consider to be an example of the imaginative line of thinking that I am suggesting here. Tolle argued for the identification of oneself as consciousness, Mctagratt argued for considering neotic science, and Goswami depended on the findings of quantum physics to argue for revitalization of ancient spiritual beliefs. There are many different writers with different theories of this kind. Such theories can be of great help in achieving all the activities I have mentioned in the transcendence program.
However, I would like to stress that all of those theories are not based on factual form of thinking. Even though such theories might appear initially coherent, with further analysis, it becomes apparent that they are infected with contradictions and unjustified speculations on so many levels. Even if you were convinced that they are coherent, they would still be much less coherent than the scientific naturalistic theory we have for explaining the nature of humans and the universe. The scientific naturalistic theory is the theory we can hold upon based upon factual thinking which ensures the best utilization of human rationality. Other theories even though might have a utility in allowing transcendence activities, as I can admit, but they lack stability and adequacy and other evaluative properties which justify us in accepting them to be literally true.
However, even if such theories are not true, I don’t think there is any reason which prevents us from using them in achieving the transcendence activities. Being committed to a true theory is only essential when it comes to the Ego program. It is the Ego program at which you need to achieve things and deal with solvable problems. It is at the level of this program at which you must hold on to reality. However, when it comes to those moments at which you are just too exhausted to think properly, and when it is time to relax and enjoy the moment, you can use such theories to help you enjoy life through all the various transcendence activities.
Imagination is an amazing ability which we should utilize as long as it doesn’t interfere with serious issues that are more worthy of our rational consideration.
Religion can be thought of as theory which has developed because of many reasons. One of the most important reasons, I think, why it developed is to help in allowing the transcendence activities. With time, people faith in religion was deeply internalized in them to the degree that it affected their factual thinking which they should utilize when it comes to the Ego program. This is why I would like to stress the importance of keeping the imaginative line of thinking that might utilize such theologies to the transcendence activities alone without crossing to the Ego program. When you consider such theories to approach the transcendence activities, you should think of it as if you are just reading a fairy tale or enjoying nice movies. Once, your session of transcendence is over, you should return back to the factual line of thinking to go along with your life properly.
It seems that there is still much to talk about regarding happiness. I will do this later.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Your Second Chance

One of the most remarkable abilities that we humans have is imagination. In times when you don’t know any better, using your imagination might be a highly valuable tool. Today, I would like to ask you to use your imagination to see your own future. Think about yourself approaching seventy, have lived your life according to the plan you have made long ago. Imagine that you were told that you are suffering from a terminal disease that would soon put an end to your life. Imagine asking yourself this question “if I was given a second chance would there be anything that I might have done differently?” what if the answer to this question was “yes”, would not you desire so much to be given a second chance. Wouldn’t you wish to go back in time and get your passions satisfied?
Now, return back to reality. Imagine that your wish was fulfilled. You have been given your second chance to do exactly what you wanted the most. I think the wisest thing you can do right now is to go ahead and start following your passion.
It might be difficult to reach a conclusive idea reasonably about what to do in our life. However, imagination might teach us that the most important thing to do in life is to do what you would regret the most for not doing when your life approaches an end.
So, go ahead and don’t waste your second chance.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Realism: Metaphysical or Epistemological?

There are lots of philosophers who rejected realism. among those philosophers are Putnam, Wittegenstein, Rorty, and Davidson. Their rejection of realism was based upon the claim that it is problematic, that it raises too many difficulties, and that it leads into paradox and confusion. however, this reason can't be considered as an adequate grounding for refutation of realism. it might be a motivation to do so, but it can't be a justifiable reason for asserting that realism is wrong. However, Grayling seems to argue that the reason why those philosophers failed in providing an adequate account to refute realism is that they misconceived realism as a metaphysical view, while it should be conceived as an epistemological view.

Putnam did in fact attach the term "metaphysical" to realism to name the view he rejected. Putnam argued that metaphysical realism is the view that commits us to take objects we identify to be mind independent entities. in his own terms, a realist would claim that the world consists of a fixed totality of mind-independent objects. Putnam continued to argued that such a conception would lead us into thinking of truth as a matter of correspondence between what we say about the world and how things are in that world. Therefore, according to Putnam, a realist is committed to the uniqueness of truth; that there is one description of how things are in the world that is true. In addition, a realist is committed to the principle of bivalence which states that any meaningful statement is determinately either true or false. accordingly, a realist is someone who accepts the principle of correspondence, uniqueness, and bivalence in addition to the independent existence of objects. accepting such principles would clearly have metaphysical consequences. They would lead a realist into thinking that words have a fixed reference to objects. a statements such as "electrons are negatively charged" must be either true or false. its truth value would depend upon whether electrons are in fact negatively charged or not. accordingly its truth value is a matter of correspondence with this fact. on the other hand, if this statement is true, then electrons can't be but negatively charged, since a true description is unique, and we can't have but one true description of the charge of electrons. Putnam rejected those assumption because they , as i have mentioned before, lead us into taking words to have fixed reference. in the previous example, the conclusions we have made are premised on taking the term "electron" to have a fixed reference to particular entities in the world. so, accepting what is entailed by realism when it comes to the statement "electrons are negatively charged" would implicitly commit us to unnecessary metaphysical point of view, namely that there are electrons out there in the world with a particular kind of charge. it would be clarified that this is an un necessary metaphysical commitment when we remind ourselves that it is us who conceptualized or theorized the existence of electrons in the first place. this is the point that Putnam is mainly attempting to make; that reference is only made within the conceptual scheme of the users of a referring term.

however, Grayling argued that realism is not mainly a metaphysical point of view. a realist is only committed metaphysically to the principle of independent existence of entities. a realist can claim that there is a class of objects which exist independently from our mind. however, a realist might still remain a realist if he accepted the idea that even though there are objects which exist independent from our mind or from us knowing that they exist, the objects we take to exist depend at least on some part on how we conceive them to exist. accordingly, a realist might be committed to acceptance of the principle of independent existence of a class of entities but he doesn't have to be committed to the other principles of correspondence, bivalence, and uniqueness. so, the metaphysical commitments made by the statement in the previous example can be escaped by someone who would still be a realist.

the arguments offered by Putnam to refute realism were mainly directed against the metaphysical consequences of accepting the principles of correspondence, uniqueness, and bivalence. as we have clarified, those arguments would not represent a problem to realism. other arguments against realism offered by Putnam were directed against the problems imposed by realism. we have argued in the beginning of this article that this can't be accepted as a justifiable reason for rejection of realism. Grayling seems to argued that an adequate account against realism can be established by conceiving it to be mainly an epistemological point of view rather than a metaphysical one.

there is a final point which i would like to make regarding Putnam which i think is so inspiring. Putnam rejected the metaphysical consequences we have mentioned before because he argued that any metaphysical view that commits us to dividing the world into objects, entities, events, and causes can never makes any sense. it is us who divide the world into those different entities for the sake of our own interest and purpose. if you were asked to mention the contents of a room, you would divide the contents of this room into furniture, books, papers and so on. this division is based on your own perspective and it can't be based on any thing else.

Putnam had very interesting point about the metaphysics about reality. However, according to Grayling those points can't be used against realism since it is mainly an epistemological point of view rather than a metaphysical one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happiness Project: Transcendence Program

The term "transcendence" is not a term that I just came up with. Lots of psychologists have argued that the basic psychological needs, which I have mentioned before should be modified to include a further set of needs which they called self transcendence needs. On the other hands, most of the spiritual trends, whether ancient or recent, preach self transcendence either explicitly of implicitly. What I am trying to do through talking about what I call "the transcendence program" is to provide a clear comprehensive practical account of how self transcendence can be achieved.

The self transcendence program is a reminder of a set of activities which you must get engaged in on regular basis to achieve happiness. As I have argued in the previous post, happiness can't be achieved through the Ego program alone, and the transcendence program is far more important than the Ego program. Any way, the common feature among all those activities, belonging to the transcendence program, is that all of them revolve around a different axis other than yourself. In other words, they are not primarily done to benefit your Ego. In more precise terms, they are not done to add to your self esteem or self actualization needs. Psychologists have attempted to define those activities by appeal to the society again. They argued that those self transcendence activities involve mainly those activities which are done to serve the others, like charity work, taking care of children or pets, getting committed to a bigger cause and so on. Even though, it is true that all of those activities might belong to the transcendence program, but those examples are not conclusive and they don't help us getting in contact with the main essence of the transcendence program. I think that seeking spirituality is one other form of activities which are primarily done to achieve self transcendence. However, in addition to arguing for helping others, spiritual trends would invite you to perform other self transcendence activities like better evaluation of life and nature. I think the human need to transcend his Ego must be explained in a way that will not only consider tendencies to help others but in addition it should explain those spiritual tendencies of humans as well.

As I have argued before, the main feature shared by all self transcendence activities is that they are not primarily done to add to your self esteem or self actualization. All those activities are done because they allow you to enjoy this particular moment you are involved in. they are not done as a step of a bigger plan to achieve something related to your self actualization needs. In modern life, most of our basic psychological needs are satisfied by the social constructions we live in. In other words, we are born in societies which have drawn regular well established routes which will provide you with your basic biological needs, security and attachment to others. However, what we get totally occupied with for the rest of our life is to satisfy the two remaining psychological needs of self esteem and self actualization. I can't emphasize enough the importance of pairing those activities you do to achieve self esteem and self actualization with activities to achieve self transcendence. Happiness can never be achieved through focusing on one set of activities rather than the others.

There is a further important feature belonging to the self transcendence program. While the Ego program is based on reasonable factual thinking, the transcendence program might and should be, in most of the times, based on a different form of thinking. This form of think should still be systematic, reasonable, and positive, just like the form of thinking involved in planning for the Ego program. However this alternative form of thinking doesn't have to be factual. It can and should, as I have argued before, utilize the most amazing mental ability humans have which is imagination. You should depend on the use of systematic reasonable positive imaginative thinking when it comes to self transcendence activities.

There is another important feature about the self transcendence program which is that those activities are primarily done to allow you to experience life from a different prospective. All of those activities should allow you to get free from the pressure created by your self esteem and self actualization needs and get to enjoy the moment.

Self transcendence activates can be broadly categorized into the following; those activities done to have a deeper appreciation of life, activities which would help you embrace life together with its unsolvable problems, activities done to help you have better appreciation of people and the joy they can bring, new activities which are simply fun to do, and finally activities which are the most rewarding to your self. Each of those categories should be mentioned in details. However, I will delay this till later.