Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Then I Would Die, But At Least Then I’d Be Free

Some clues to the physiology of happiness set the stage. One author writes, "In the normal range of behavior, 30 to 50 percent of the variance (diversity in the general population) can usually be assigned to genetic factors." ... In some longitudinal studies, "genes account for 80% of the stable variance in long-term reports of well-being." But, as we shall see, the interaction between mind and body gives a little more space to volition, behavior and changing circumstance.

The nature-nurture relationship is complex. For one thing, our genes often influence our choice of environments; what is nurture is then something shaped by nature. If people choose their own environments, they make socialization a two-way process. As one group of researchers has written, "Whatever effects parents, schools, and neighbourhoods may have had, they were either quite different in different children or [were ephemeral and] did not persist until the children grew up." Given the tendency of children to differentiate themselves so as to occupy special niches in families and schools, and given the consequent lack of the same environment for children in the same family, it is not surprising that socialization effects "were quite different in different children." The bright child pleases her father, the musical child her mother: parental treatments of the two children follow from the children's respective endowments.

... but in the meantime I note that in addition to these interactive nature-nurture relationships, there are also purely environmental influences; for example, the loss of a parent during childhood is directly correlated with alcoholism of daughters, irrespective of their genes. The complexity of the nature-nurture relationship has roots in our evolutionary histories.

- Robert E. Lane, The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies, P. 38

Stopping short of theological philosophy on the free-will vs fate argument and assuming we're agents endowed with free-will, if a part of being happy is to know that one is in control of one's destiny, where does this leave us?

He adds in an earlier part that:

Fixity of mood also has implications for the assessing of distributive justice. Philosophers wrestle (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) with problems of justice when the outcomes of behavior are fixed by such genetic endowments as intelligence and beauty. If happiness is at least partly given by nature, philosophers like David Ross and Nicholas Rescher, who make happiness an ultimate good only when merited, are in trouble.

What happens if you're a philosopher whose work has weight and value only because the truth to be seeked is still a shady concept, and one day your work is proven beyond reasonable doubt that it is wrong and you're not dead yet? I wonder what kind of blow one must sustain to realise that a lifetime has been dedicated to the wrong end of the truth.

Or perhaps one would rather die knowing he's wrong and knowing the truth. In a utilitarian way of looking at it, one's philosophical errors can be seen as contributing to discovering the ultimate truth and achieving the all important end.

Actually, post-Euro'08 I've also been quite fascinated in a back-of-my-head kinda way about the psychology of the underdog. What's it like to be Adrian Mutu, Petr Cech or Andrey Arshavin; brilliant footballers who should deserve more but will never have the means to glory on the international stage?

In a somewhat side but relevant note, while Cristiano Ronaldo's still keeping at his cat and mouse game with Real Madrid and Manchester United, Cesc Fabregas rejected Real Madrid outrightly and declared allegiance to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. It does say alot about the kinds of contrasting people these two are. And then you have players like Ryan Giggs, who have dedicated a lifetime of football to Manchester United, but only because Manchester United are illustrious in their own right. What if you were brilliant and loyal but your team was mediocre, like the situation the old Denilson at Real Betis found himself in?

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.
- George Burns

Audio Candy:
The Spill Canvas - Polygraph, Right Now

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Im from Melbourne Autralia.

Please check out unique understanding of Happiness via these references in which the author points out that the urge to be ecstatically happy is the primal urge of all beings---not just us humans.