Their good life: Should the state legislate for individual happiness?

‘Men are disturbed not by events, but by their opinion about events.’ Epictetus

Some governments are now providing free psychotherapy to their citizens. Jules Evans asks, ‘Is there a limit to state-sponsored happiness?’

LINK: Their good life: Should the state legislate for individual happiness?

Five years ago, amid intense opposition from some part of the psychotherapeutic profession, the Labour government in the UK launched a programme called Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT). It aimed to train 6,000 new therapists in talking therapies — mainly CBT — by 2014, and to treat around one million people a year for depression and anxiety. As Nick McNulty, a therapist in the IAPT centres for Southwark and Lambeth in south London told me: ‘It is the biggest expansion of mental health services anywhere in the world, ever.’

Jules Evans is Policy director at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London; and author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations.

Full text and more: Here

7 responses to “Their good life: Should the state legislate for individual happiness?

  1. My rough and ready answer is that states should legislate in ways that increase the affordances available for eudaimonics. That is, communities require public infrastructures designed, oriented and facilitated via intentional efforts to assist people in cultivating their own socially adaptive modes of flourishing. Humans have generalized capacities (‘species-being’) that can be enhanced by providing contexts and developing niches for positively expressed life-making. Does this mean “legislating happiness”? Not necessarily. There is a lot of complexly to account for in the relationship between institutional acts of legislation and human lives before we can make simply judgments about the role or absence of government. Our lives are all-ways ‘determined’ in context. Can public institutions help temper private interests and regulate the contexts in which we cultivate our lives? Of course, but let us always seek to pay attention to the details and track EXACTLY how and in what ways those ‘interventions’ shape us.

  2. I hear you tho it’s the old management dilemma of how to widely distribute resources while maintaining/creating and tracking localized/individualized interventions/cooperations, can there be objective measures that are available to people who aren’t directly involved, what/whose standards to use, how to find and train staff that can put into effect such complex/attuned operations, etc…
    maybe we need to flesh out Rorty’s old idea of a public life/venture that minimizes suffering, and maybe even promotes possibilities, while leaving the individualized sense of ends/goals/satisfactions in the private realm but obviously things are not divided at the joint for us so how to sort these issues out as they arrive/develop? I think we need to develop local prototypes and than worry about scaling up/resources but obviously there are always ‘outside’ factors/interests/influences at play. All that said “happiness” is not really a very good general/universal measure by my experience.

  3. happiness is weak concept. i enjoy some of my suffering. i have been transformed by pain, and i would never love a world that it would have been impossible to suffer.

    The public/private distinction is tricky. Above anything though I have to say without a vibrant public sphere social solidarity becomes just a dream.

    • well maybe spaces like this can serve as a sort of seedbed for on the ground social spaces/assemblages, certainly one of the hopes. It is one of the central dilemmas of the kind of existential clinical work that I do that the more aware/tuned-in/response-able my analysands get the less they often fit in with their toxic surroundings and yet there really isn’t much out there to plug/gear into and so they are left isolated and relatively helpless, a condition that is probably all too familiar to most of us ‘here’. So we need more developed/capable individuals to form effective/humane resistance movements and we need support networks to keep increasing our grasp/potential. Yes art-ificial distinctions like public/private aren’t meant to be set/discovered but always up to negotiation/reconfiguring as we go.

      • we need a sense of human potentials that is thought of not in aristotelian terms of telos, but rather of a more experimental/(r)evolutionary darwinian mode.

    • Rise of the evolutionaries?

      “Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word “maladjusted.” Now we all should seek to live a well—adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., June 04, 1957

      I agree, we need is a comprehensive mapping of our broad human capacities. I don’t like the term “potential” simply because it is linked to Aristotle’s metaphysics. Composite bodies have capacities (‘what a body can do’) or powers corresponding to their material-energetic organization, but also always expressed or not according to their ‘station’ or the relations within which they subsist. ‘Subsistence’ in this sense is a technical term I use to signify the always already process of collaboration between entities (human and nonhuman) and their life-conditions. My view is radically ecological in that entities are assemblages (modes) existing in niches, or generative matrices, and should never be considered ‘outside’ the context in which they are found. This is the insight of archaeological thinking. So “potential” is always relative to bodies interacting with bodies within particular conditions. This, I think, is what Dewey was trying to code with his notion of “situations”. Humans are more or less fit to cope in particular situations. In our age our situation is uncannily planetary in scope.

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