No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change.

-Barbara de Angelis

This is an instrumental rationality quote.

"You can’t just decide to be happy."

"No, you can’t. But you can sure as hell decide to be miserable."

-- Quentin and Alice in The Magicians by Lev Grossman

5Glen4yThat's not even true, though. If you are kidnapped and then tortured, you are not remotely in control of your own happiness, just to take the most obvious extreme answer. Even for more mundane situations, people can be trapped in terrible situations, where cruel people have power over them. If you are working at a minimum wage job with bills coming seemingly every day and which you only overcome by working 18 hour days before collapsing exhausted and doing it all again in the morning, there is very little you can do about it. Now if one of the supervisors at one of your jobs is a petty tyrant who makes you miserable, what choice do you have that would increase your happiness? I see what the quote is trying to say, as a call to action to change your own life, but it simply isn't true. It also fails the false wisdom reversal test, in that a quote saying "You have no true control over your own happiness; therefore, you must accept your lot in life with all the grace you can muster" sounds just as deep and helpful.

Rationality Quotes Thread February 2016

by elharo 1 min read2nd Feb 201697 comments


Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.
  • Post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.