Sunday, March 21, 2010

life is good to live

I caught the end of this interview on Lateline with Leigh Sales and British philosopher A.C. Grayling a few weeks ago and I absolutely loved his insights into the pursuit of happiness.

LEIGH SALES: That sort of fits with what I wanted to ask you next which is about the idea of doing good. You in your book 'Thinking of Answers' have a chapter headed 'Happiness and the Good' and it's subtitled 'Does being happy make us good and does being good make us happy?' What is the answer to that?

ANTHONY GRAYLING: Well, the first thing that one has to remember is that the surest way of being unhappy is to pursue happiness itself. Happiness, when it comes - and what we need to do is analyse it and try to make better sense of what we're talking about there, and we're talking about something like a sense of doing things that are worthwhile, a sense of flourishing, a sense of being well-related to other people that we care about.

All that sort of thing, which is what constitutes happiness, is something that would come as a consequence of doing things that are worthwhile, of pursuing certain aims, moulded to our talents for achieving those aims, which are genuinely, intrinsically valuable.

Learning, trying to understand the world better, trying to do a bit of good for other people.

You know, they say if you want to be happy yourself, make other people happy. Well that means being externally directed, it means thinking about others, and it means getting up in the morning with a genuine desire to add something which you yourself recognise as valuable, always of course subject to the harm principle, as John Stuart Mill called it, which is you don't do harm to others or interrupt them in their endeavours to do this too.

And then as a kind of side issue, you get this feeling that life is good to live. And that's what happiness consists in.

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