20 January 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Joy

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Joy.

We usually use the word happiness to discuss joy; indeed in most
discussions they are treated as synonyms. Except that a more fine tuned
definition of joy links joy to feelings of great pleasure or happiness,
whilst happiness is defined as a state of being happy (e.g. search both
"define joy" and "define happiness" in Google).

Whilst these two definitions do not really help us, searching Google to
find out which term is more common in language will equally take us
nowhere. A search for joy will result in approximately twice the number
of appearances in Google than happiness. This is not because joy is a
better term in English than happiness, but rather that the word joy is
much favoured with business establishments and artists; it has a punch
to it that happiness doesn't.

So for those who really want to identify the differences in meaning, we
might argue that joy includes the idea of pleasure, maybe even physical
pleasure such as titillation or eroticism. Happiness is an agreeable
state of mind over time which we would describe ourselves when we are in
this state as "being happy".

From our perspective, I will consider these two questions as more or
less the same: what makes me happy? And what brings me joy? To these
questions we might add: is pleasure the only cause or at least source of
happiness and joy? Must there always be pleasure for there to be
happiness or joy?

This third question is probably more important than the previous two
since pleasure is more associated with physical than metaphysical
phenomena. Very often we say things like "it's a great pleasure to see
you again". However, it sounds a bit odd to say that "I get a lot of
pleasure thinking about the saints in heaven," but not so "I derive a
lot of joy or happiness thinking about the saints."

But if pleasure is always associated with joy or happiness then surely
joy and happiness are more associated with empirical experience rather
than a spiritual elation. And I don't mean spiritual is a religious
sense but more in the sense of something over and above the vulgarity of
physical perception. Thus joy, happiness and pleasure are basically a
language description of different levels of physical stimulation that is
not pain but something agreeable.

But this perspective has its own dark side. Firstly, there would be
nothing lofty about Plato's rational person achieving happiness by being
moral. There is simply no reason why evil people couldn't be happy or
derive joy from their deeds, than us ordinary people. And if evil people
are sick so they do not qualify as rational people, what qualifies us as
rational people? Doing evil can be no less joyful than doing what is
good. This suggests to me that joy and happiness have nothing to do with
morality at all.

And another issue is: how do we know that we are intentionally feeling
joy or being happy. In other words, is feeling happy an intentional free
act? And must states of happiness also be conscious states of mind
(brain)? I started writing this essay listening to Beethoven's Symphony
No. 9 (Ode to Joy), so when I was listening to this music was the joy it
was giving me a free conscious act of mine or was Beethoven manipulating
my brain from beyond the grave so to speak? And if Beethoven can
manipulate my brain to feel joy, why can't an malevolent manipulator
affect my brain to feel joy as well? Indeed would joy caused by a
manipulator count as joy?

Thus, what is joy (happiness) should not be mistaken for the question:
how to be happy? But whatever joy means I am not confident that this
will help us answer the question: should I be allowed to pursue what
gives me joy, pleasure or happiness?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Joy

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