Saturday, 3 May 2014

changming yuan: towards happiness -11

among the three major categories of happifiers, those belonging to physiological stimuli can readily give people a sense of happiness. indeed, you will feel immediately comfortable, positively excited ,or more-or-less happy whenever you eat, drink, sing, dance, listen to music, watch a movie, play a game, perform sports or make love with your sweetheart. as these physical activities stimulate your one or more of your five senses, you get a sensation of happiness.

what should immediately be noted here is that this sensation is not happiness itself; rather, it is a sensual pleasurable experience. for one thing, this sensual experience is only a 'temporal' sensation, not a 'perpetual' condition according our definition of happiness. although it may contribute much to your sense of happiness, or serve to endorse it, sensual experience is never sustainable - you may be stimulated by these stimuli constantly but never continuously as we mentioned earlier. furthermore, a pleasurable experience is a physiological experience instead of a psychological one. it is true that our psychological experience must have a physiological foundation - it is unthinkable to have a psychological experience without use of any physical sense; however, physiological experience is not psychological experience; therefore, pleasurable sensations are not happiness per se.

there are another two important considerations. on the one hand, every human is an intelligent creature that, unlike all other animals, has a highly developed mind. this being so, all humans have more desires that just immediate physical needs. as Maslow has made it clear, we humans have different levels of needs to be satisfied. without such satisfaction, we cannot become really happy. on the other hand,  we humans are all social beings; as a result, our feeling may often be conditioned by the way we look at others, or at ourselves in relation to others, or simply the other way around.

in a word, pleasurable sensations are theoretically not happiness per se, nor can we feel really happy simply because our basic physical needs are met, or because we get enough physiological stimuli.


in practice, many (especially 'poor') people do feel 'happy' as long as they have a place to live, where they do not have to worry about food or clothing every day. does this fact mean that their feeling of 'happiness' is different from that of others who are much more educated and enjoy a much higher standard of living?

can 'happiness' be divided into different kinds?

is our sense of happiness adjustable in theory as well as in pracitice? 

is there any special psychological agent functioning to adjuster our sense of happiness?

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