Followup to: The Moral Void
A widespread excuse for avoiding rationality is the widespread belief that it is "rational" to believe life is meaningless, and thus suffer existential angst. This is one of the secondary reasons why it is worth discussing the nature of morality. But it's also worth attacking existential angst directly.
I suspect that most existential angst is not really existential. I think that most of what is labeled "existential angst" comes from trying to solve the wrong problem.
Let's say you're trapped in an unsatisfying relationship, so you're unhappy. You consider going on a skiing trip, or you actually go on a skiing trip, and you're still unhappy. You eat some chocolate, but you're still unhappy. You do some volunteer work at a charity (or better yet, work the same hours professionally and donate the money, thus applying the Law of Comparative Advantage) and you're still unhappy because you're in an unsatisfying relationship.
So you say something like: "Skiing is meaningless, chocolate is meaningless, charity is meaningless, life is doomed to be an endless stream of woe." And you blame this on the universe being a mere dance of atoms, empty of meaning. Not necessarily because of some kind of subconsciously deliberate Freudian substitution to avoid acknowledging your real problem, but because you've stopped hoping that your real problem is solvable. And so, as a sheer unexplained background fact, you observe that you're always unhappy.
Maybe you're poor, and so always unhappy. Nothing you do solves your poverty, so it starts to seem like a universal background fact, along with your unhappiness. So when you observe that you're always unhappy, you blame this on the universe being a mere dance of atoms. Not as some kind of Freudian substitution, but because it has ceased to occur to you that there does exist some possible state of affairs in which life is not painful.
What about rich heiresses with everything in the world available to buy, who still feel unhappy? Perhaps they can't get themselves into satisfying romantic relationships. One way or another, they don't know how to use their money to create happiness—they lack the expertise in hedonic psychology and/or self-awareness and/or simple competence.
So they're constantly unhappy—and they blame it on existential angst, because they've already solved the only problem they know how to solve. They already have enough money and they've already bought all the toys. Clearly, if there's still a problem, it's because life is meaningless.
If someone who weighs 560 pounds suffers from "existential angst", allegedly because the universe is a mere dance of particles, then stomach reduction surgery might drastically change their views of the metaphysics of morality.
I'm not a fan of Timothy Ferris, but The Four-Hour Workweek does make an interesting fun-theoretic observation:
Let's assume we have 10 goals and we achieve them—what is the desired outcome that makes all the effort worthwhile? The most common response is what I also would have suggested five years ago: happiness. I no longer believe this is a good answer. Happiness can be bought with a bottle of wine and has become ambiguous through overuse. There is a more precise alternative that reflects what I believe the actual objective is.
Bear with me. What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this. The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is—here's the clincher—boredom.
Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. When people suggest you follow your "passion" or your "bliss," I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement.
This brings us full circle. The question you should be asking isn't "What do I want?" or "What are my goals?" but "What would excite me?"
Remember—boredom is the enemy, not some abstract "failure."
Living like a millionaire requires doing interesting things and not just owning enviable things.
I don't endorse all of the above, of course. But note the SolvingTheWrongProblem anti-pattern Ferris describes. It was on reading the above that I first generalized ExistentialAngstFactory.
Now, if someone is in a unproblematic, loving relationship; and they have enough money; and no major health problems; and they're signed up for cryonics so death is not approaching inexorably; and they're doing exciting work that they enjoy; and they believe they're having a positive effect on the world...
...and they're still unhappy because it seems to them that the universe is a mere dance of atoms empty of meaning, then we may have a legitimate problem here. One that, perhaps, can only be resolved by a very long discussion of the nature of morality and how it fits into a reductionist universe.
But, mostly, I suspect that when people complain about the empty meaningless void, it is because they have at least one problem that they aren't thinking about solving—perhaps because they never identified it. Being able to identify your own problems is a feat of rationality that schools don't explicitly train you to perform. And they haven't even been told that an un-focused-on problem might be the source of their "existential angst"—they've just been told to blame it on existential angst.
That's the other reason it might be helpful to understand the nature of morality—even if it just adds up to moral normality—because it tells you that if you're constantly unhappy, it's not because the universe is empty of meaning.
Or maybe believing the universe is a "mere dance of particles" is one more factor contributing to human unhappiness; in which case, again, people can benefit from eliminating that factor.
If it seems to you like nothing you do makes you happy, and you can't even imagine what would make you happy, it's not because the universe is made of particle fields. It's because you're still solving the wrong problem. Keep searching, until you find the visualizable state of affairs in which the existential angst seems like it should go away—that might (or might not) tell you the real problem; but at least, don't blame it on reductionism.
Added: Several commenters pointed out that random acts of brain chemistry may also be responsible for depression, even if your life is otherwise fine. As far as I know, this is true. But, once again, it won't help to mistake that random act of brain chemistry as being about existential issues; that might prevent you from trying neuropharmaceutical interventions.
Part of The Metaethics Sequence
Next post: "Can Counterfactuals Be True?"
Previous post: "Could Anything Be Right?"
Eh, I'm not annoyed about the universe being a meaningless dance of particle fields. I'm more annoyed about the laws of thermodynamics, which, among other things, guarantee that, eventually, everything turns into garbage. (Heat death of the universe and all that.)
The laws of thermodynamics prevent me from getting something for nothing. For example, in order to continue to live, I need to eat. If I were to be in a situation in which I did not have access to food for a sufficiently long period of time, I would die. My computer requires an external power source; someone has to pay the electric bill.
Someone needs to go hack the Matrix and repeal the laws of thermodynamics. :P
"You do some volunteer work at a charity (or better yet, work the same hours professionally and donate the money, thus applying the Law of Comparative Advantage)"
Better for the charity, maybe. Better for you and your angst, probably not.
Better for the charity, maybe. Better for you and your angst, probably not.
That (Western?) concept of so-called altruism is incredibly self-centered, which may explain why it brings little comfort to some. If you're just doing it to make yourself feel better... salivating over the spiritual benefits you expect... then small wonder it doesn't do much to take you out of yourself - not that that's the point.
How funny. My response to the article was all about that - charity, for most people, is about being good, not achieving good.
This may be the rare case where I'm more of a materialist reductionist than you, Eliezer. I think unhappiness is just brain structure/chemistry. I'd go further than Ferris and say excitement is too. The flip side of this is that you may be giving a lot of people bad advice and unrealistic expectations in this post. For a lot of people their unhappiness is a complicated unsolved challenge of bioengineering. With better technology, perhaps we'll be able to solve it. Until then, they may spend a period of time being unhappy, not due to the fuzzy advice you give in the last paragraph. And not due to anything about "morality".
If life is great and then you die, there's no existential problem: nothing needs to be redeemed.
On the other hand, if life sucks and then you die, the prospect of an omni-delightful life after death might be the only thing to take the edge off. In that case, rationality is a real downer.
@Hopefully anonymous There are different levels on which the gears of nature operate. The fact that happiness and excitement are rooted in biochemistry is common sense these days and but that is on a totally different level than Eliezers argument. The structure of how our mood works, how it reacts to different environmental situations, how some things make people happy or sad is not arbitrary. We can take advice and get better at solving the right questions.
What could be more exciting than embracing nihilism?
I don't know, it has not been my experience that the belief that life is meaningless is incompatible with happiness.
I'm bothered by the mention of cryonics here for three reasons. 1) cryonics, it seems to me, leaves death inexorable, just substantially delayed, 2) cryonics does not, as far as I can tell, actually increase my life expectancy much, as anti-aging tech and especially UFAI make most traditional causes of death irrelevant, 3) if someone finds life meaningless, how could more life help? I also worry about the 'unproblematic' part of the relationship. Shouldn't a genuinely loving relationship contribute to happiness/fulfillment/excitement even if it IS problematic? Finally, I worry about the positive effect on the world. I think that people should try to have such an effect, by which I mean that upon sufficient reflection almost all people would decide to (though most people might, upon less reflection, decide to stop reflecting), but that their lives should stay meaningful even once the world's problems are fixed. Preserving suffering so that you can asymptotically relieve it seems like a slightly plausible and horribly insane outcome of the wrong volition extrapolation dynamics.
On the up side, if life is meaningless and a happiness pill without any grave side effects (unfortunately not true for present day anti depressants) becomes available, there is absolutely no reason not to take it.
And before that, it probably implies you can do whatever makes you feel best, provided you have proper discounting in place.
Forgive me if i've misunderstood but I get the impression from your writings here that you believe no claim can be about reality unless there is some physical configuration of the universe, some state that can be described at the quark level, which would count as evidence against that claim. Claims about morality, by such a standard, cannot be about reality.
On a somewhat unrelated note, do you think the critics of logical positivism were wrong? As I read what you have written here it seems like the philosophy you are expounding is more or less the same old logical positivism, just with special emphasis on bayesian updating and (in the case of this post) palatability.
Michael, life doesn't have to be "meaningful" for people to be happy. Nor do "genuinely loving relationships" seem to be necessary. It seems to me to be just a neurochemical state that can probably be induced by a variety of methods, not all of them social.
Like you, I noticed the cryonics throw-in. I thought it was problematic for a different reason. It's a bit of a tell IMO that cryonics serves at least (if not only) as opiate for Eliezer. I look at cryonics as just a persistence maximizing hedge against information theoretic death, an... (read more)
That universe if "mere" dance of particles is the most exciting feature. It means that anything one strives for can actually be achieved by a non-mystical operation of rearranging the matter, that nothing is beyond the reach. We only need to figure out how to establish our kind of the universal dance.
Hopefully and Michael,
Whatever your current estimates of the probability of success, Eliezer here has a point that seems to have been missed.
His line is: There are reasons why one would legitimately be depressed. Unhappy relationship is one. Frequently those reasons underly claims that life is meaningless. We would need to assuage most such issues in order to have a legitimate case to consider whether life is meaningless
Some other legitimate depressors: obesity poverty lack of health lack of efficacy etc. and Fear of Death.
Since all of those could lead to ... (read more)
I've suffered from clinical depression with absolutely zero correlation to social factors and life circumstances. Between onset at age 11 and my early 20s I experience pervasive, uninterrupted despair. Oddly enough, it never affected my goals or terminal values, just my ability to achieve them. Then again, many people (perhaps the majority) die with many of the same goals they had in their youth, having done absolutely no work toward achieving them; so I'm not convinced explicitly held goals have a strong causal relation to behavior; perhaps having a goal is like getting a tattoo. But I digress. Biology matters a lot. I wouldn't say clinical depression is the same as being unhappy about something; even at the most basic level, there's obviously a lot more going on when someone's unhappy about a life event than if they have wonky receptors for some neurotransmitter or another. (I never experienced the sort of confabulation that makes the clinically depressed try to attach their depression to life events though; perhaps because I was young.) I think we could achieve some working simulacrum of happiness biologically though.
"Life is meaningless because it's all just atoms in the void and nothing we do matters"
But, but ... concepts must have referents to actually mean something, so to simultaneously say meaning is X, and by the way there's none of it, does not compute.
I'm just curious - was the despair about anything? Did it have no referent at all? You had a stable environment, good relationship with parents, self-confidence, social success, and yet still despaired? Was there no consistent content in your despairing thoughts?
I ask because this has always been a great interest of mine. I have been hospitalized for major depression a few times, but I have always been able to identify the circumstantial causes, even when others have not been perceptive enough to acknowledge them. I'm not saying that my case need be e... (read more)
Today, in the West, people think that atheism leads to an existential crisis of meaning. But in ancient Greece, people believed in creator gods, and yet had to find their own sense of purpose exactly the same as an atheist.
We assume that the religious person has a purpose given by God. But Zeus would have said that the purpose of humans was to produce beautiful young women for him to have sex with. Ares would have said their purpose was to kill each other. Bacchus would have said it was to party. And so on. The gods ignored humans, had trivial purposes for them, or even hostile intent towards them.
Every believing Greek had to find their own meaning in life; often based on a sense of community. This meaning, or lack thereof, bore no relation to whether they believed in the gods or not.
The reason for practicing discipline is to be able to solve problems. It would not be rational to avoid a quick solution to your life's biggest problem, in order to gain experience that might possibly be useful in solving smaller problems later on.
Andy: I'm currently experiencing pretty much the same thing as poke--chronic depression from my early teens up to today (my early 20s). (I've currently found a treatment that's helping some, after going through several meds.) I think that there was a period of about five or six years in there that I thought there was something about my life I could change to fix the depression, but in the past couple years, my viewpoint has changed to match poke's.
I think it's important to note that we don't have any direct perception about what causes depression. We can't... (read more)
Phil: A conversion to atheism in the West can indeed be associated with existential crises. Most people converting to atheism convert from a religion, like Christianity, that strongly asserts its place in providing all true meaning to the lives of its followers, and often experience a whole lot of social alienation from church leaders and family. It's those things that come along with the switch, rather than the philosophical content, which precipitate the crisis.
“If it seems to you like nothing you do makes you happy, and you can't even imagine what would make you happy, it's not because the universe is made of particle fields. It's because you're still solving the wrong problem. “
Imagine being offered an option of spending the remainder of your natural life-span inside a virtual reality machine where all your material problems (poverty, obesity, loneliness etc) are solved. Plus as an added bonus you would be able to consume unlimited quantities of virtual heroin without damaging your health or your virtual social life.
If the “meaning of life” is a meaningless concept, shouldn’t every reasonable person jump on this offer? Would you?
I had all those things. Before I became depressed I stopped being sociable and started having problems with school attendance; I don't know if that was the cause of my depression or just an early development of it. I was certainly very bored at school and my home environment didn't off... (read more)
Hopefully, Poke: I totally agree with Poke here.
Kyle: Not that much money in cryonics. Horrifically little I'd say, even though I don't think it's the best current solution to rational fear of death. I think that life extension research, calorie restriction, re-perfusion research, and simply wearing biomonitors and developing better ones probably offer risk-reward payoffs exceeding cryonics, but all are grossly underfunded. Above all, FAI development is a vastly more efficient lever than cryonics, but not one that is terribly easily invested in usefully (you can't exactly fund an X-Prize).
Reminds me of a quote by Einstein:
"We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when a ll that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about."
As with most Einstein quotes, that seems to have actually been written by another - Charles Kingsley.
Caledonian, yes, I simplified to the point of inaccuracy, but thanks for providing the footnote.
The interaction between brain and environment is complex, but reactions are variable enough that I think it's difficult to say X environmental stimulus (or lack there of) produces Y emotional state in a human brain. That goes for obsety, poverty, the range. This is minus some extreme and developmental examples many people here could conjure up. But "rational fear of death", "existential angst", it's entirely possible to go through life happy ... (read more)
Is there any data on whether atheists or more rational/intelligent people self-report lower levels of happiness?
I forget if I've said it here before, but I would have no problem entering Nozick's experience machine or becoming a wirehead if given the option.
pdf23ds: The claim that atheism inevitably leads to nihilism, and that belief in god inevitably relieves it, is made regularly by religious types in the West as the core of their argument for religion.
Some people are vulnerable to wireheading. Just as some people become heroin addicts. However, not everyone chooses such paths - some people deliberately avoid them.
Phil, which is why for people who do choose to become atheists in the west, it takes extra work for them to separate what their religion told them about atheism and what atheism actually entails.
"I bring this up because Eliezer seems to be proposing large social undertakings [...] which would seem to me to come at an economic cost. If a pill or a treatment is cheaper and accomplishes the same outcome..."
If you're referring to FAI development, then that's not the argument at all. The argument is that most people doing AI don't seem too concerned about the F part, which is very dangerous, so focusing on the F part needs to be the top priority. If you're referring to something else, then I have no clue what.
I wouldn't want to be a wirehead. I do things like exercise to keep my mood up now but I think of it terms of wanting to be productive rather than happy. (I find that exercise, health and regular sleep/wake cycles are essential for this.) If you could wire me up to be smarter and more productive (intellectually), but the cost was chronic pain, I'd probably sign up for that. (I can't really imagine how you could reconcile higher productivity with chronic pain though; the experience of pain seems to necessarily involve restricted attention.)
Are there people who say they're depressed because life is meaningless? I'm not an expert on the subject, but I've never heard of any.
There've been several mentions of obesity as a primary cause of depression. I haven't heard of fat people tending to be more depressed than non-fat, but maybe I've missed something. Do you mean obesity in the medical sense? That's actually just fair-to-middling fat. (See The BMI Project for what those numbers mean.) Or do you mean being incapacitated by one's weight?
Good Mood by Julian Simon might be of interest. He beat bac... (read more)
pdf, no I don't mean the FAI project. I mean the things Eliezer discussed specifically in the OP and follow-up comments. He gives a long catalog of recommended actions to solve individual unhappiness. I'm pointing out that in many instances pharmaceutical or other solutions might be cheaper.
Apropos of some of the comments, there is a growing literature on positive psychology, which instead of training focus upon what's amiss, aims to move beyond "psychic entropy" (a cognate concept of existential angst?)
As to happiness, the ancient tao philosopher Chuang-tzu wrote to the effect that a superior means of finding happiness is to stop looking for it. What he actually said is, of course, open to analytic interpetation or outright rejection on any number of grounds, but its spirit seems to jibe with the quote above attributed to Albert Einstein. Getting enthusiastic about something (hopefully something moral and constructive) would be the opposite of lapsing into psychic entropy.
If you concentrate on sleep, the awareness of sleeplessness inhibits the relaxation and release necessary to fall asleep. If you take your focus off of the qualities needed to fall asleep and concentrate on staying awake, you'll tend to nod off.
It's almost as though thought processes must be "taken offline" in order to be examined. Bringing the process into awareness interferes with its functioning.
Worrying about happiness tends to be incompatible with happiness.
Your problem, I think, has not to do with nihilism, but rather with narcissism. (If none of it's about anything, then certainly none of it's about you.)
Regarding the quest for mind-altering experiences I lay that at the feet of the same drive that causes us to want to control our environment, including that of our mind. Some folks just don't know when to quit. Depression is simply self-flattery. Get over it. If you're able.
And then back to the point: one trap laid before us by our narcissism is that we think we "know" as much as those who came be... (read more)
"Imagine being offered an option of spending the remainder of your natural life-span inside a virtual reality machine..."
This isn't what people want because people don't simply want "to be happy." They want X (where X could be something like "my children are healthy and happy"). Simply believing X, if it's not true, is not enough for most people, they desire for X to be ACTUALLY true. And since you can't affect the real world to bring your desires into existance from within the virtual reality machine, most people will reject... (read more)
Our problems are “real” only because they make suffer us or those we care for. Our looks or income, for instance, seem to be a problem only when they fall behind the common standards of beauty/average salary. In a world where obesity considered attractive and is not a danger for your health, it stops being a “real” problem. Thus if, together with our friends, children and all those we care for, we could move to the idealized virtual reality, we would solve all the “real” problems that Eliezer described.
The fact that such a move does not appeal to many rational people suggests that Existential Angst is no less “real” problem than poverty, obesity etc.
Hopefully Anonymous- Agreed. It is ALL just brain chemistry. THIS is where existential angst comes from, the fear and repulsion at the aesthetically displeasing idea that all of these intense, exciting, horrible, wonderful, all-consuming, passionate feelings have NO REAL MEANING, could be induced with a savy enough pill, a simulation, or a puppet show, that your lover and your connection is an emergent phenomenon of evolution, and then you disintigrate into heat and die and narry a memory of what you experienced exists to reverberate throughout a cold, c... (read more)
My experience with depression was brought on by a myriad of environmental and existential factors... However, once it started, it was nearly completely a physiological problem. First, I stopped sleeping (at least in any reasonable way, though to me I really thought I wasn't sleeping AT ALL- this went on for 5 months). I lost 20 pounds because I couldn't make myself eat- the act of eating was repellent and completely non-reinforcing. My body temperature was always about 99 degrees, and my pulse was always somewhere over 75. Yet, I didn't want ... (read more)
Exogenous and endogenous depression are not distinguishable in their clinical properties, which is why the categories ceased being used - they weren't useful.
Caledonian: I think you misinterpreted what Lara Foster was trying to say with the word "physiological"; that once the depression started, it became a self-sustaining collection of symptoms that were unconnected to their initial causes, because the depression was a "physiological" problem within brain.
I think your comment bridges the gap for me between the "bodily condition" and "life's condition" aspects. Your description matches my experience: prolonged period of increasing stress, followed by a tipping point marked by cessation of sleep, followed by basic inability to function, medical intervention, and a gradual recovery period of several months.
So, once I had crossed a critical line, yes, it certainly became a physical problem (of brain state, brain chemistry, hormonal state) that I could not think my way out of without a l... (read more)
I really enjoy your articles, but one petpeeve I have is that you sometimes seem to endorse certain medical treatments.
In this article you mentioned:
stomach reduction surgery Based on what I read this procedure is quite dangerous and based on statistics generally bad although doctors make good money with it. Google for it.
neuropharmaceutical interventions. Also highly controversial. Psychiatry has it's own set of problems. Google Thomas Szasz and anti psychiatry.
Eliezer never forget that for many readers you are an authority figure and so be careful with what you endorse.
Ironically, based on what I know Psychiatry is perhaps the biggest Existential Angst Factory in existance.
Neurology would fit that bill much better. Or physics, if we want to be play reductionists and I know the temptation is huge :D.
Data point of one for those who bash psych meds...
Within a week of taking prozac, I was sleeping and eating normally. Within two, I was up and about jogging and I was claiming to my shrink that I had been miraculously 'cured'.
This wasn't placebo effect. The first stuff they gave me did jack shit, and I had been depressed for half a year.
There is instead an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that most psychiatric concepts are distinctions without differences. That is inconvenient for most, and correspondingly ignored - or left to ignorance.
"Is there any data on whether atheists or more rational/intelligent people self-report lower levels of happiness?"
Apparently they don't, judging by selected responses to the recent "Survey: What Do Atheists and Christians Believe (and How Strongly Do They Believe It)?" by Sam Harris. The relevant statement is probably: "All things considered, I am very happy with my life", the fourth one under "Survey Results: Psychological Beliefs".
Re: You're making an elementary mistake. The definition of clinical depression is not based on evidence, but consensus opinion. It is whatever it is defined to be. Anyone who is said to be in the state 'truly' is in that state.
"Now, if someone is in a unproblematic, loving relationship; and they have enough money; and no major health problems; and they're signed up for cryonics so death is not approaching inexorably; and they're doing exciting work that they enjoy; and they believe they're having a positive effect on the world...
...and they're still unhappy because it seems to them that the universe is a mere dance of atoms empty of meaning, then we may have a legitimate problem here. One that, perhaps, can only be resolved by a very long discussion of the nature of morali... (read more)
I don't know if you respond to comments added long after the post, but on re-reading this I remember that I was really curious about why you specifically disclaim being a "fan" of Tim Ferriss. What in particular do you object to about his writing(s) that you want to distance yourself from? I'm curious not because I am a fan per se, but because I happen to keep up with both of your writing and would like to know what points of intersection or disagreement you see. Even a short, point-form response would be much appreciated.
So...what if you are happy in your life; you enjoy your career, you love your friends and family and signifigant other, you still get excited by doing things that you love, but you are in a constant state of suicidal fear because it all seems hopeless? Just curious. Because that's how I am. I love life, still marvel at it with childlike awe and yet, I fight the urge to off myself constantly.
Nihilism may not be incompatible with happiness but after reading this post I still believe that I experience legitimate existential angst. It occurs at unpredictable moments, but more often exciting ones: during coitus, staring at a beautiful sunrise, listening to the climax of a beautiful piece of music; but also during mundane tasks like brushing my teeth. I experience an overwhelming sense of angst and meaninglessness. The feeling of arbitrariness, embodied as raw emotion, overwhelms all other sensation. Usually I am able to quickly recover, at least operationally.
I don't think I'm depressed and I've gotten better since the visceral discovery of nihilism back in high-school, but I suspect this will never go away.
I think that nihilism may be viable as a moral philosophy, in the sense that it's the default position, if you find that you reject all possible values you could have as "crazy" under sufficient reflection.
Does anyone have an argument why this is impossible or unlikely? For example, can anyone exhibit a clearly defined value and explain why (with high probability) this value would be part of one's CEV?
Isn't this just If you need magic, magic won't work all over again? It's a message that bears repeating, but am I wrong? How is this substantially different?
I am curious if any research has been done regarding, the effects patterns of thought have on brain chemistry? I am fully speculating here; it could be that in large part how we think determines how we feel. Furthermore that an existence which contains disagreeable circumstances in which no actions are taken to alter them, coupled with an inability to live with them are the root causes of depression and other chemically based brain disorders. Essentially behavioral change might be the key to correcting mood disorders and brain chemistry imbalances. If this research has not been done it should be.
I'm not sold on Ferris's excitement theory. Seems like we should throw ourselves into the tiger cage. Tranquility, contentment, pride, satisfaction, all rather sedate and unexcited, yet all very much about happiness.
To be brief, I think the Existential Angst Factory comes from a basic malfunction only possible in a conceptual being - believing that truth precedes value, and so engaging in a futile tail biting exercise that cannot succeed, while your value detection circuits continue to register the lack of value produced from the exercise.
There's something worse than asking the wrong question - asking a question that is not even wrong.
Hi, Yes..... this angst thing has haunted me for a long time. I find the argument that the opposite of happiness is boredom, very compelling. For some time now I've had suspicions that opposite of love is indifference. I would like to read more about Ferris' 'Solving the Wrong Problems' ideas, but the shortcut doesn't work for me. Can anyone tell me where to find it? Thanks, ..... john