11 December 2004



Dec 11, 2004

Dear Friends,

Next Sunday's meeting is about happiness, I'm sure we are all looking forward

for some new ideas and suggestions.

In the meantime, I have activated the yahoo group for the philomadrid, however I

have been toooo busy to organise it; i.e. there is nothing there!! Theoretically

this email should be posted to the group. During the last meeting we agree that

the yahoo group will be used for:

> philosophical exchanges between members

> postings of activities organised by members (eg exhibition visits etc)

> help, wanted, offers by members

> the weekly write up.

I will start by vetting the emails at first to see how it goes, and for security

reasons (ie robot viruses) I will approve membership. I also suggest you keep

your email private. These are the details:

www.yahoo.co.uk --> groups (have to register) --> philomadridgroup

Post message: philomadridgroup@yahoogroups.co.uk

Subscribe: philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

Unsubscribe: philomadridgroup-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

List owner: philomadridgroup-owner@yahoogroups.co.uk

I'm also new at this!!

Finally, don't forget that there is the offer by the Broadsheet magazine for a

discount subscription. Details from Rachel at TBS Tel: 91 523 7484/Fax: 91 522

7843 rachel@tbs.com.es or me.

Have fun, see you Sunday,


SUNDAY 6.30pm START at Molly Malone's Pub, right at the very back of thepub,

then turn left OR down stairs!

philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk tel 606081813


Pub Molly Malone, c/ Manuela Malasaña, 11, Madrid 28004

metro: <Bilbao> : buses: 21, 149, 147


There is a concept in high street politics known as the 'feel good factor.'

Briefly, the idea is that voters approve of a government or governing party

depending on how happy they are or feel. It does not matter how one's financial

situation is; one can be doing quite well, but what matters is how one feels.

The consequence of the feel good factor is that parties are re-elected not

necessarily on merit, but on the subjective feelings of the voters at the time

of the elections.

The reason why I mention the feel good factor is because it is a very good

illustration of the importance of happiness. Collective happiness can seriously

influence our political and economic life. How important is subjective happiness

or personal happiness?

The first issue we can look at is this: is happiness something we achieve or

something that happens to us?

If happiness is something we achieve then the suggestion is that we can have a

formula that we can apply to be happy. As a secondary consequence, if we can

write a formula for happiness we can generalise it and make it applicable to

everyone. In other words, happiness becomes an objective entity. Moreover, It

can be harvested and wrapped in glossy packaging and sold at a premium price in

department stores. This would, of course, make some people rich and many others


Should happiness turn out to be something that happens to us then a number of

things follow. First of all, there is nothing we can do to be happy. We are

either fated to be happy or randomly chosen to be happy.

This also means that happiness is subjective. Subjective because it is something

specific to each individual and therefore not transferable to others; my

happiness cannot be used in any shape or form to help others become happy. To

use Machiavelli's analogy, it is similar to saying that my suite of armour will

not fit anyone else comfortably.

In issues like happiness we are always tempted to ask: what is happiness? We are

not alone, many scientists, philosophers, universities and even countries

(Bhutan established a Gross National Happiness metric) try to answer this

question. And if we can give an objective answer we can then measure happiness.

In a recent study* it was suggested that our happiness depended on mundane, day

to day things such as sleep or commuting to work.

At the very least we can say that happiness is a personal state of affairs with

two components. The first component is physical. This can range from not being

in pain to experiencing certain physical sensations that make us have happy type

feelings. The second component is maybe more elusive, since we can describe it

as spiritual, emotional or even metaphysical. This is even harder to pin down.

This type of happiness manifests itself as being at peace with one's self to

relishing the lingering taste of beauty. Or a dinner in a two star Michelin

restaurant, which ever comes first.

But we cannot escape an objective view of happiness. One thing about happiness

is that not only do we know when we are happy, but also think we know when

others are happy. And from here we are very close to claiming we are able to say

who ought to be happy. The next port of call is the slippery slope towards value

judgements so beloved by spoil sports, do gooders, busy bodies, elitists

organisations, political parties and religions.

However, there is always the question, happy at what cost? Not only is this a

complex issue, but the implications are enormous. I will not even try to go into

the issue, but I will try to give a context relevant list: money, labour

conditions, legal and moral acts, environment, friends, partners, social

relations, you name it, it appears on the balance sheet.

The quest for happiness, however, continues. Utilitarianism gives us a frame of

mind which tells us to maximise our happiness. Sometimes there seems to be some

misunderstanding here. Maximising one's happiness does not necessarily mean that

one has to be at an all time high 24/7. On the other hand, rejecting all the

pleasures of the flesh, as some would put it, does not seem to be the best way

out to what is already a difficult problem.

Collective happiness, in the form of the feel good factor, might not be the best

form of happiness all round. We need something more manageable. A village fête

is definitely more manageable. Yes, a village fête might be fun, but somehow it

lacks that something special.

A group of close friends is always a good place to start looking for happiness

and for once the idea of intimacy appears on the horizon. But then again the

ultimate intimate experience is with one's self. I mean, why share when one can

have everything, but I'm not going to advocate hedonism nor self gratification.

Especially when it takes two to tango. Maybe the feel good factor can be

re-interpreted as the good feel factor?

take care


* Financial Times 3rd December 2004

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