This conversation is closed.

Happiness Vs. Nihilistic viewpoint

Both emotions and states of mind are within the mind and from an "atheist" point of view such things wouldn't exist. Objectively speaking, is it worth pursuing happiness understanding that it is only within the mind? Yes it is and understandable argument that we should try to best enjoy the life that we live rather than live painfully but is it really morally correct to idolize happiness and make it the center of life? I would think that any type of answer besides criticism would help in satisfying the question.

  • thumb

    . .

    • +2
    Nov 3 2013: Dear Gabe,

    Matthieu Ricard's TED Talk is amongst my top favorites. I had to look up the word to know what "Nihilistic" means!! And now that I do, I consider myself most fortunate for never having had this word in my vocabulary:-) maybe a sign of my having successfully averted teen age-hood ;-) I can not see how this is in any way a "theist" /"non-theist" matter. Happiness is a very passive state. It comes and goes. So we can not set that as our "target" for life. When / if we do that, then as soon as the "happy" moment passes, we are sad and lost. He uses the chocolate cake example, which is a good one to keep in mind. Our target for life, as Matthieu puts it, is wellness; an overall comprehensive state of wellbeing.

    I hope this will help:
    1.rejecting all religious and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless.
    "an embittered, nihilistic teenager"
    • thumb
      Nov 3 2013: Wow thank you for your response, the video in the link that you posted really gave me the answer that I was looking for. I don't really think I have many words to describe my feelings and opinions around it, but in the least of words it made me feel very positive. This may sound a bit odd but I really cant thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to experience that which I had just experienced.
    • thumb
      Nov 3 2013: Thank you for the link to Louie Schwartzberg. It was right on time for me as I am trying to recapture the sense of wonder and gratefulness I had as a child - I'll be watching each day for a bit.
  • Nov 6 2013: Can you clarify what you meant here?:

    "Both emotions and states of mind are within the mind and from an "atheist" point of view such things wouldn't exist."

    The part about atheists. What would not exist from the point of view of an atheist and why? Very clearly please.

    Also, your paragraph does not seem to be related to the title question, and I truly don't understand what the question is. Happiness versus nihilism? What do we prefer? What? What's the question?
    • thumb
      Nov 6 2013: I guess what I was thinking when I wrote atheist was that someone with a view of god would take happiness as something eternal and all around, something worth pursuing and even praising. A nihilist would view happiness as something inside of the mind, a sensation fueled from the brain rewarding the body with a feeling of satisfaction, maybe even similar to a drug. One may say that "oh well this ted talk is all about happiness being a sensation of fulfillment and pleasure being more similar to a drug" but think of this, how unsatisfying would life be with only misery and suffering, I don't know about you but if that were the case I believe that many people would scramble to find happiness as if it were a drug.
      • Nov 6 2013: But why wouldn't someone without a view of gods take happiness as something worth pursuing and even praising? Nihilism is not the same as atheism. Nihilism is the one who has problems finding meaning. Atheist is the one who does not believe in gods.

        So, no, a nihilist would not necessarily view happiness "as something inside of the mind, a sensation fueled from the brain rewarding the body with a feeling of satisfaction, maybe even similar to a drug." That would be more of a person learning about something like the physiology of happiness. But that is far from meaning that such person would be a nihilist, or find no meaning in happiness beyond the physiology. Understanding the physiology of emotions does not mean that emotions will therefore be considered meaningless.
  • Nov 4 2013: These sorts of questions always depend on how you perceive and define key ideas. From my perspective, nihilism and the experience of happiness aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. The nihilist would only see happiness as one kind of state within the illusion that is our reality. Since even the nihilist is subject to the conditions of that reality (unless he has managed to completely free himself from the illusion), then he will experience something hat will feel like happiness.
    I believe that humans are fundamentally choice-making creatures. Everything we do represents a choice made among infinite possibilities. The primary aim of all our choices is to get our needs met (I'm using "need" here in the broadest possible way across the full spectrum of Maslow's hierarchy). Sometimes we get our needs met adequately, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we chose in ways that are healthy, self-actualizing ad supportive of our relationships with other humans and the natural universe; sometimes we choose in ways that are self and other destructive. We experience a state of happiness when the combination of our strategies and the relative satisfaction of our needs is optimal. That is, if our strategies are healthy and our needs are adequately met, then we are happy.
    For me, morality enters into the equation as a judgment we make about the strategies we employ in our pursuit of happiness, not abut the pursuit itself.
  • thumb
    Nov 4 2013: Happiness is in the mind but so is everything. The reality of human beings is "thought". Happiness is a symptom that our "thought" and "reality" are consistent and unhappiness is a symptom that our "thought" and "reality" are inconsistent. There are times we need to change our social reality to become happy and many a times we need to change our thought to become happy and deciding when to change the "thought" and when to change (and how to change) "reality" is wisdom we need to gain.
  • thumb
    Nov 3 2013: Hi Gabe,

    Important question; thank you.
    The good things in life tend to come indirectly. Put in a different language we could say "it is in giving that we receive". By moving outwards in trust and compassion towards others, the inner roots of happiness (fulfillment) grow by themselves.

    The direct search for happiness has the habit of becoming a narcissistic approach to life whereby everything and everyone is viewed as a resource for the singular purpose of making me-myself-and-I happy. It doesn't work that way in my experience. I think many ancient sages would agree with that sentiment too.

    Some people are born with a strong pre-disposition to feeling that life is meaningless, and adopt a nihilistic viewpoint. However one can also, instead, adopt a viewpoint that life IS meaningful and embark on life's journey as a search for that meaning. From young teenager onwards I adopted this latter approach and can say that 40 years later through many times of despair and despondency, fulfillment and happiness are gifted as some kind of grace, partly I guess by never giving up hope. (In this respect I can recommend Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning").
  • thumb
    Nov 3 2013: I agree with Fritzie: emotions do exist. a Nihilist would not deny that.

    If everything is "just" in the mind, then importance is also there... so it would still be important.

    I think people who feel good are better of than people who feel bad. Is feeling good being happy? not completely, but being unhappy doesn't need to make you feel bad (or worse).

    Being an atheist (though I don't think that matters on the subject), I prefer to feel happy or good or any other positive emotion above a bad one... I even think that any emotion that I prefer is a good emotion... so if I prefer being nihilistic or gloomy or enthusiastic or relax or excited &c, then those feelings are not bad nor make me unhappy at that moment.

    As for the center of your life: If you stress your personal feelings over the well-being of others, you would be very selfish... I don't think that should be recommended. (Though on the other hand, being good towards others is one of the things that really make you feel good).
  • thumb
    Oct 31 2013: I have not, in my recollection, heard anyone, atheist or otherwise, argue that emotions do not exist. Could you explain what you mean by 'idolizing happiness?" Is that the same as being intentional about the choices one makes, with an eye toward feeling fulfilled as a person?
    • thumb
      Nov 2 2013: Right, what I mean to say is that emotions do not exist outside of living beings, a rock cannot feel happiness. And when i say idolizing happiness I mean that humanity values it as such a powerful and worthy emotion. Is happiness all that it is cut out to be and/or worth pursuing?
      • thumb
        Nov 2 2013: I think people who study happiness have moved on, often, to talking about and studying fulfillment.
        • thumb
          Nov 2 2013: Well this conversation is related to a talk saying that happiness and fulfillment are the same thing.
  • thumb
    Nov 30 2013: Why would anyone pursue happiness? I don't get it.
    Happiness unless factual, is like the rainbow that you can never get to.
    Beautiful but untouchable.
    Why do we not investigate the nature and causes of unhappiness?
    Why do we not eliminate unhapiness, and then we would be happy by default.
    Find out what makes you unhappy, inwardly, and removing the cause, you are free of it.
  • Nov 4 2013: You need the bad emotions to truely appeciate the good.
    If I have a stomach ache, it causes pain and unhappiness, but when it subsides, I feel a happiness that I would never have had if I didn't feel the pain in the first place.