Tag Archives: happiness

From “Ontogenesis and the Ethics of Becoming“:

KY: In terms of the Stoics, how might their approach to “dying well” offer us some resources for thinking amidst our current scene of ecological reorganisation that is named the Anthropocene?

EG: The Stoic concept of ‘dying well’ is immensely important not only when we consider the effects of imminent social collapse on each of us and our possible responses, but also when we consider that we are placed in an immensely vast universe where the call to ‘live well, according to one’s principles’ provides us with a connection to the universe, a fully material universe, as the Stoics understand it, which is nevertheless ordered and framed by an order they call ‘incorporeal’. To live well is to live, not according to the opinions and values of others – what we cannot control – but according to one’s own rational sense of one’s place in the world, according to actions we can control. To live well is to live according to what one can control, one’s own inner states, one’s own bodily behaviour, one’s own principles. This position is fundamentally anti-egoistic: it is directed to a knowledge of the world and one’s place in it. However, as a psychical attitude – perseverance, acceptance, self-reliance – I suspect that Stoicism is perhaps not the best psychology for struggle, as the devastation of many of the earth’s resources draws closer. Nietzsche understood that in times of violence, the Stoics were immensely life-affirming in their fortitude, but that in times of peace and plenty, he prefers the Epicureans (The Gay Science #306). The Stoics affirm that we are the subjects of destiny, which is indifferent to our needs and interests. The task of a reasoned or reflective life, a life lived in according with what is beneficial to one’s nature (according to one’s own understanding) is a life able to fully affirm its destiny, a life that seeks to be worthy of what befalls it, even as it has little or no control of such a destiny.

This is a very similar line of thinking that led me to pick up and start practicing Stoicism in the first place- and what has also led me to look into radical variations of ecopsychology that lead us towards first an acceptance of the situation as it is, devoid of ideological blinkers, and thereby to being able to adapt to it and act within it. At some point soon I hope to have some drafts or outlines up of reflections on these concerns in relation to the questions of suicide, eco-catastrophe, and extinction.

Elsewhere in the interview the above excerpt is taken from Grosz links the Stoics to Spinoza and nietzsche in a philosophical counter-tradition. I would say that this is the tradition of ontological corporealism that I identify with and unsurprisingly with an ethics centred on compassion and care. To this tradition we could add Schopenhauer, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, Ernest Becker, Judith Butler and geo/eco-feminists such as Stacey Alaimo and Grosz herself.

Albert Camus wrote that suicide was the only serious philosophical question. Today this must be said of the meanings and the projects of extinction.

The audio above comes from the ResonanceFM radio show of philosopher and founder member of Defend The Right to Protest Nina Power from the March 24th 2013. For this particular broadcast Nina, author of the brilliant work of Marxian feminism One-Dimensional Woman, is joined by writer and artist Linda Stupart.

During this broadcast the affective composition of labour is discussed in relation to capitalism, psychiatry and pharmacology, with a specific eye on the ideology of happiness in tension with the invariant human cultural expression of a desire for eudaimonia. The discussion turns to a discussion of the negative passions. It also features some good music and some not very good music. There are also readings of the opening of Schopenhauer’s On the suffering of the world and Spinoza on the geometric approach to the emotions, and is worth a listen for that alone (surely).

 and ought to be listened to on that basis if no other.

A near-to-full archive of Nina’s ‘Hour of Power’ show is accessible via the invaluable Libcom resource website.

Happiness is a kind of madness
Look around you. Examine the world you live in. Give it a cursory glance. How could you not conclude that happiness is a delusional state? In the abstract to a 1992 paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, experimental psychologist Richard P Bentall put this idea on the table for real:

It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains–that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant [1].

As Bentall explains in his Madness explained: psychosis and human nature, he intended to suggest that happiness was a psychiatric illness as a satire on the medical model that was, and continues to be, the dominant paradigm through which psychiatric practice is concieved, planned and organised. While Bentall intended this as a cutting spoof, a few media outlets and psychiatric journals took him at his word and cited it as evidence of the madness of psychiatry in its pursuit of relentless pathologisation, or painting scientific research as so completely detached from everyday life, so totally “ceased living in things”, as to be absurd. One newspaper even running the headline “Top Doc Talks Through Hat”. Bentall even uses his mocking article to bring the question of happiness into contact with political economic terms, coolly reporting that

Interestingly, despite all the uncertainty about the epidemiology of happiness, there is some evidence that it is unevenly distributed amongst the social classes…

Bentall’s cutting paper uses humour as a weapon to slash the pretentious throat of biological psychiatry’s classificatory system, a fetish that I’m sure has also been sardonically cited as evidence of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Still, this piece isn’t primarily about psychiatry or taxonomic reductionism; this is part intended as a response to a post by anthropologist and synthentic_zer0 fellow traveller, Jeremy Trombley. In a post titled “Happiness and Struggle“, Jeremy raises some questions on the subject of the relations between happiness and struggle, hedonism and eudaimonia, before finally connecting happiness and “healthiness”. In what follows, I want to add to what Jeremy has written, and to examine some of what lurks beneath and beyond these questions.

Read More

Perceiving as the activity of this culture after nihilism is artificial and perceives in works only what we — the artificial beings by nature — value. Nietzsche asks himself the question: “What does it mean ‘to perceive’?”, and answers: “To take something to be true: is to say yes to something.” Self and world cannot be played against one another, they belong together, inseparably, as reciprocal perceptive action, as Nietzsche knew: “The animal knows nothing of itself, nor does it know anything of the world.” There can be no authoritative measure in autopoetics surpassing that which created the authority to begin with. But this does not make us self-legislators in Kant‘s sense and in that of the Enlightenment, this would only be the case if we had to yield to a (universal) law of consequence. Even the self-imposed rule becomes obsolete for me at the same moment it has made its contribution to my art of living. As Nietzsche tells us: “The creator must always be a destroyer…, only the appreciation of value itself… cannot destroy itself. “But how can the individual possibly discover whether his or her life fulfills itself — without criteria and without assured methods? Together with Nietzsche we should respond to a postmodern cynicism which calls upon us to vegetate, homeless in our own world, and to renounce identity once and for all with an affirmative: THIS life is not for me! I WANT a different one! Whether life fulfills itself cannot be discovered with the aid of a eudaemonistic ethics and its self-examination, nor even through general inquiry. The existential interest in the lie diagnosed by Nietzsche concerns most intimately self-delusion. Everything which reaches our consciousness and is interpreted by it is subject to this tendency to deceive oneself in the futile interest of survival, to blandish what is bad, to ruin what was perfectly good. Happiness as well as suffering are noticeable and for this basic reason cannot be helpful in allowing a self-fulfilling life to become evident.

Wolfgang Schirmacher, Ph.D., is a continental philosopher, professor of philosophy and founder of the pioneering Media and Communications Division at the European Graduate School (EGS). An internationally renowned Arthur Schopenhauer scholar, he is the President of the International Schopenhauer Association. Dr. Schirmacher is also the Arthur Schopenhauer Chair at EGS.

Read full article Here.

Baudrillard and Schirmacher in conversation.

Baudrillard and Schirmacher