"happiness is a moral obligation"

  • badbug

    Posts: 866

    Nov 29, 2015 1:29 AM GMT

    On another thread, poster JackNNJ brought up something interesting.

    "happiness is a moral obligation"

    I am not sure if the poster agrees with this or not, I am not sure if i do either but i thought it was an interesting thought about the ways in which we can effect those around us. If someone is unhappy and unwilling to work at it, assuming of course they don't have some mental health issue that precludes or complicates the issue such as depression.....should that be treated as odious as bad breath or poor hygiene, bad odour.

    If you're an unhappy person, chances are you are going to go out in the world and make interacting with you a little harder on everyone else. We've all heard the saying misery loves company, and we all probably know someone who is almost always miserable and as such a pain to be around. No one on here, always being negative that's for sure. icon_rolleyes.gif

    In coming to think about this, i find myself instantly equating the idea of happiness as a moral obligation, to being physically fit as a moral obligation. If you're fit, you'll have less healthcare costs and be more productive and perhaps the sea level won't rise so fast with all the fatties weighing the tectonic plates down....

    I feel like comparing it to exercising and eating properly because that seems less esoteric. What is happiness? how do we achieve it? That seems like something a little harder to understand versus losing weight and eating healthy.
    I think in the end, the mechanics are the same.....happiness requires work, disicpline, perhaps attaining knowledge from someone who seems to be better at being satisfied than yourself.....or if you're lucky, like some people with great genes, it requires a little less work.

    So that brings me back to the idea, the idea of moral obligation. What do i owe, you. What do i owe all the versions of you, running around my neighbourhood...

    I am not sure. I am not sure i am overly well equipped with the same moral certitude many of you might have out there. Maybe that's part of the reason i found the question so interesting, is my lack of ability to come to answer easily.

    What do you think? Is happiness a moral obligation? Could it be? Should it be?

    Or if you prefer, is physical fitness one?

  • Triggerman

    Posts: 611

    Nov 29, 2015 2:50 AM GMT
    There is a great book on this. "Happiness is a Serious Problem". by Dennis Prager. It talks deeply about what happiness is as opposed to pleasure. How important it is for some of the same reasons you touched on, and how people confuse pleasure with happiness. Pleasure is eating a great meal. Happiness is learning how to cook that meal. Recommend it. Some might be put off by the fact that the author is a conservative mostly talk show host in LA. But as a gay man and having been a listener of him for years, I can attest to the fact that he thinks deeply first on all subjects and he has deep talks with people of all walks of life in a respectful manner.
  • SilverRRCloud

    Posts: 901

    Nov 29, 2015 4:20 AM GMT

    Neither personal happiness nor fit body or good health are moral obligations that we have towards the people around us or the society in general.

    Our legal systems clearly define the spheres of personal freedom. If you wish to wallow in your unhappiness, and be seriously obese, you are free to do both of these in exercising your personal freedom which is of higher moral (and legal importance) here. We would be all so much worse off if anyone imposed any sense of moral duty of achieving happiness and having a fit body because the most precious of all of our moral and legal values - our freedom would be on a sure path of destruction.

    How soon would the moralists who today mandate happiness and fit bodies start mandating that we all wear the same style of black shoes only because that lowers the cost of shoe production, and possibly helps reduce the negative environmental effect of the shoe production?

    Believe it or not, unhappiness and bad health are very basic human rights, and should not be tempered with regardless of the fact that relatively very few people wish to be unhappy or unhealthy.

    Soeren Kierkegaard would have have been lost to the humanity along with the hundreds if not thousands of great minds who created humanity's greatest achievements while being profoundly unhappy.

    I doubt that a happy and content mind would have bothered to figure out anything as complex and as beautiful as the Special Theory of Relativity as Einstein did in Bern in 1905 (annus mirabilis) being relatively poor, and struggling on more fronts than one as a clerk in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern.


    Our societies are largely based upon the premise that the individuals, while free agents, will act in their best self-interest. By far, most of us wish to be happy, and are doing what we can to get there. A few succeed, and many fail.

    Most people wish to have good health, and as we all know, millions have stopped smoking, are eating selectively, and are exercising regularly. Many do none of the above.


  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 29, 2015 7:00 AM GMT
    I'll throw in another shameless plug for the movie Brain Candy by Kids In The Hall. I like the way they approach the idea of being forced to accept a distilled, productized version of happiness as packaged and marketed by people who have no business telling anyone else how to feel.

    I guess that answers it for me, though: whose definition of happiness is the moral obligation, and for whom? I feel zero obligation to accept anyone else's definition of happiness except on my own judgment of merit, and I wouldn't expect anyone else to understand or care about, let alone pursue, my own idea of happiness. It works as a generic platitude, but the idea seems to fall apart in practice.

    I think it's a great question, though; I haven't had time or interest to follow much on RJ lately (there are some really twisted vibes floating around, even more than usual) but this thread kind of pulled me in and I do feel like I gained something from reading the other posts. Thanks, all!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 29, 2015 11:06 AM GMT
    One only has a moral obligation to keep their unhappiness to themselves and not spread it to others.