TED Conversations

Nicholas Lukowiak


This conversation is closed.

"What is happiness?"

Some say "ignorance is bliss" others will say "knowing is the ultimate enjoyment."

What do you say?

To me, happiness seems to be an acceptable cognitive bias. We find little joys in the world (through aesthetics) and never really question why they are joyful or beautiful or appealing to us. But why do we never question what we enjoy or what makes us happy?

There seems to be a battle in our minds of 'knowledge vs happiness'

We will sacrifice happiness to know more, and we will sacrifice what we know for happiness... What does this say about us as a thinking thing?

How does one 'know' 'happiness'?
Are you happy with your already knowledge? Why or why not?


One day I was at a Burger King and waiting online to order. The person behind me (about my age - 22) was speaking very loudly and said "I'm just happy, that's all there is to it. I am in a great mood, because I am happy." Or something like that, and I turned around and asked "Or do you think you are happy?" He responded "Wow, that was deep" and laughed and we smiled at one another and nodded and I turned back around to order. As I waited for my food I turned around to look at the person and he was no longer smiling, he was in a deep state of thought and even let the person behind him cut him in line to order ahead of him. He was no longer smiling but had no emotions on his face. I can only blame myself for changing his state of mind, but all I did was encourage him to question his own happiness... Which made him no longer happy...

Once we question (seek knowledge of) our happiness, can we be just as happy after that line of questioning? Can we always be happy while we question our own happiness?

Let's discuss!

* I know I ask a lot of questions, feel free to answer them or comment in a general response!
I've also asked in the past: "What is love?" "What is evil?" And soon "What is respect?"


Closing Statement from Nicholas Lukowiak

I didn't get to respond to a few individuals and if those individuals want - they are more than welcomes to e-mail me to continue. Or anyone else.

So, a closing statement on "what is happiness?" seems humorous! As it should never have a final say, but maybe a simple conclusion.

As my original summary suggested I do think happiness is (at times) a sort of cognitive bias, but that does not suggest I think of happiness in any 'negative' manner. In fact I believe it is a leading factor that guides our general thinking as a spirit, soul and/or mind - as a human being.

From the conversation you will see that majorly happiness was regarded as 1. momentary, 2. involves an idea of enlightenment, and 3. an interpersonal experience. We also talked about happiness involving A. choices, B. self actualization via individuation, and C. social altruism.

My final thoughts: We should all practice hard-hedonism as individuals, philosophers, freethinkers, etc. What I mean by 'hard-hedonism' is that we should lead our lives by pleasure, but to never let pleasure go unquestioned. I think of happiness as something similar to the practice of 'faith' and if happiness is worth having, it can stand-up to the scrutiny of a serious investigation. Find what is joyful, aesthetic, and pleasing in life, absorb it, store it, but do not be greedy and keep it to yourself! If there is anything worth calling 'beautiful' and 'breath-taking' it is worth being shared.

Ultimately, I don't think there is happiness without sharing happiness with others - hence this conversation!
So find pleasure, understand why it pleases you, then share it! Better yet, give it away! Good things should given away at no cost besides the smiles we take on credit!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Apr 3 2014: "Dan Gilbert discusses This Emotional Life, a PBS program he hosted. Gilbert offers an answer to the question “what causes happiness?” He points out that there is a set point for happiness, despite good or bad experiences. Humans are good at adjusting to their circumstances, and no matter what they experience they are likely to have a general level of happiness, independent of their experiences.

    Gilbert suggests that we should be more skeptical when considering what causes happiness. Much of what we think we know about happiness is wrong.

    In “This Emotional Life,” Dan Gilbert says there are three key findings on the science of happiness:
    1. we can’t be happy alone
    2. we can’t be happy all the time
    3. we can be happier than we are currently

    Humans are social animals; we need to socialize. The biggest predictor of happiness is the extent of our social relationships. A primary reason that our brains have evolved in the manner they have is so we can be social.

    Gilbert says “friendless people are not happy.” It is not realistic, nor is it desirable to be happy all the time. Negative emotions are natural. When considering negative emotions, what is important is learning to appropriately regulate those potentially damaging thoughts. Being happy all the time implies epistemic irrationality (holding beliefs that are not commensurate with available evidence).

    With a few minor changes you can probably be happier than you currently are. This adjustment doesn’t require much effort, and may be easier than you think."


    Personally, I know when I'm happy. I just feel it and oftentimes I can't even explain why I'm happy or unhappy. I believe the secrets to true happines are: 1) doing the right things even when no one is watching, 2) making the right choices no matter how difficult, even when making the easy ones is more convenient, 3) making positive contributions to other people in the community.
    • thumb
      Apr 6 2014: .

      The reasons of Dan Gilbert's keys:
      1. we can’t be happy alone ---- Symbiosis or keeping DNA alive.
      2. we can’t be happy all the time ---- a-step-better.
      3. we can be happier than we are currently ---- a-step-better

      The reasons of your secrets:
      1) doing the right things even when no one is watching, ---- For keeping DNA alive.
      2) making the right choices no matter how difficult, even when making the easy ones is more convenient, ---- For keeping DNA alive.
      3) making positive contributions to other people in the community. ---- Symbiosis or keeping DNA alive.

      (See also the definition just below)

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.