Leonard Simmons


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Is our model for happiness outdated?

We have long defined our personal utility in terms of happiness, but has this word stretched too far in our modern vernacular? We now use happiness to describe all positive emotions, even loss of bad emotions. Is there not a better structure that we can use to define our personal utility, one that differentiates different types of pleasure gained through interaction with our environment? I recently did research on the availability of a model that uses five positive and five negative "utilogies" to explain how we can estimate our pleasure. Personality, I argued, is based on multipliers that each person intrinsically has for each of these utilogies, which determines how much pleasure they get from related activities. The five positive utilogies are Superiority (utility gained from winning, whether it be against another or a past self, such as weight loss), Excitement (utility gained from expected future utility), Sentiment (utility gained from being around friends, significant others, family, etc.), Stimulation (utility gained from mental pleasure, such as reading a good book or learning) and Sensory Pleasure (anything positive relating to the senses, such as eating good food or listening to good music). The five negatives are the reverse of these, and are Inferiority, Dread, Ostracization, Distress, and Sensory Pain. For instance, if one reflects on their daily activities and learns that they love music and sports, but isn't a fan of academia and extroversion, we may conclude that this person has a multiplier to utility of >1 for Sensory Pleasure and Superiority, while they most likely have a multiplier to utility of

  • Mar 10 2011: It seems to me that the definitions provide an option to consider the balance of your present state and I am intrigued by the list outlined. With that in mind a practical assessment can be made of what ones present state is comprised of. But happiness then can exist without the boundaries of positive or negative reports of status which are inherently a comparison to a standard defined by others. Whereas I believe usually in life comparisons by or to others precludes self-assessment within your own sphere of experience. Ego drives us to overachieve. As Ms Steen points our contentment seems to come with less clutter of comparison to some ever-changing standard imposed by influences outside our own experience. "Don't worry, be Happy"
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    Feb 24 2011: There are some good comments in this thread already:>) Whether or not our model for happiness is outdated depends on what model we're using. I like to use the word contentment, because I think it varies quite a lot with different people in the same culture, and even more in people from different cultures. I say this because in my travels, I percieve more contentment in rural, mountain villages for example. People who have very little materialistically often seem more content than those in more developed, affluent areas. I have often returned from explorations in very impoverished regions, feeling that the people I met there are more rich with happiness and contentment, while some people who are materialistically rich seem to be struggling to find happiness.

    My happiness or contentment with life stems from being fully present and mindful in each and every moment, with acceptance for the reality of the moment. Going along with acceptance, is the knowledge I have in and of myself, in knowing what I cannot change, changing the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. I believe it is an honest exploration of all parts of our "self" that creates contentment. Many people are looking outside themselves for happiness, when we have the tools in ourselves to create and experience happiness.
    This is a very basic idea, that in my perception is timeless:>)
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    Feb 16 2011: happiness is inherently subjective. beyond that you can come up with any models for describing or measuring it that you want.
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    Feb 15 2011: I think that the view of happiness should not come from a single data, like GDP. As in fact this would only mean that the more we have, may it be money, items, or whatever is what is making us more happy.
    I think that having a good work that you enjoy, and that doesn't stress you, is just as important if not more.
    Then having a good environment, will make you live happier, healthier life and go less to the doctor/hospital.
    It really should be considered as the most important thing for productivity, as happy people are more productive.