What is Happiness?

2016-01-30

Can you say you are really happy so long as you feel happy? Or are there any requisites besides mere feelings?

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1. Feeling deceives you

Even if you have your arm or leg amputated, you will feel as if you still had it. That is called a phantom limb. The stimuli on the amputated section are felt as those at the end of nervous system and you have an itch or an ache in the phantom limb. This phenomenon is not confined to arms or legs. All of our senses can be deceived in the same way.

Suppose a businessman, who was inspired by it, established a brain management company. This company takes out brains from customers’ bodies, connects them with wire, keeps sending pleasant stimuli to them and has them live a happy life throughout life. Though brains have lost their bodies, they are under an illusion of still having them. Following a program the brain management company prepared beforehand, you fall in love with a fantastic sweetheart, get married to her/him, succeed in life, win a reputation, make a fortune and finish happy life, ascertaining that all of your descendants succeed like you.

Let’s visit this company. In this company, each brain connected with many wires is kept in a tank. While you are looking at this strange spectacle, the president of this company approaches you about making a contract to have your brain managed in exchange for providing him with all of your property. All of brains that have already contracted with the company tell you that they are happy. Are you inclined to live in this virtual paradise?

This question is similar to that of whether to join cult religion consecrating all your property to it. Maybe you would not believe in the brainwashed cult followers, however happy they seem to be. You would look down upon happy-looking brains and leave the company, murmuring, "It’s not true happiness."

2. What is the true happiness?

What is the difference between what we regard as true happiness and the virtual happiness of brains? You feel happy, when you are well spoken of, but it might be just a compliment. You also feel happy, when you have overcome difficulties and succeed in something, but it might be accidental and not because of your effort or talent. Your happiness may be just an illusion.

There is no essential difference between our real happiness and the brains’ virtual happiness. To confirm it, let’s consider what conditions are necessary for the taken out brains to feel happy.

First, it is necessary to make the brains believe that they are experiencing not fantasy but reality. If the brains knew that their happiness is just an illusion, they were no less happy than those who see a happy ending movie. So, the brain management company must delete the entire acquired data including the memory of the contract from the contractor’s brains, initialize them and make them start afresh.

Second, just as having only sweets makes the taste paralyzed, receiving only pleasant stimuli ever since their birth does not make the brains happy. So, the company must make the brains have painful experiences as well. Therefore, they must lead the same kind of life as ours.

3. The feeling of sustainability

The true happiness is not different from the false happiness on the sensuous level, but different as to whether the ground of happiness is near to or far from the truth. Whether a belief is true or not is verified by whether it can contribute to the survival of systems that believe it in the long run. What if the brain management company should go bankrupt? The true happiness must be sustainable.

By the way, if one morning you woke up to find yourself a brain without body connected with wire in a tank and were told by a stranger, "All you had experienced ever since your birth was fantasy provided by a brain management company, but I am sorry to say that the company went bankrupt today and we cannot continue the services any longer", what would you do?