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Happiness
Posted: 05 August 2008 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]  
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Hi, Shane ...

Shane - 02 August 2008 04:13 AM

Or better yet, “We will never reach complete and perfect happiness until we are home.”  We see in the quote from Augustine, and in many other of his quotes, that it is possible to be pleased by the things in this world, but they do not make us entirely happy.  I believe it was C.S. Lewis who summarized Augustine’s point

Shane - 02 August 2008 04:13 AM

this way, “The problem is not that we seek pleasure, but that we are too easily pleased.”

Your comment takes us away from the point I was making in contrasting the Augustine’s view of happiness and that of Aristotle.  The Greek view of the afterlife makes entrance into a state of bliss (as opposed to woe) a function of virtue.  For example, here is quote from Plato’s Phaedo:

But he who is a philosopher or lover of learning, and is entirely pure at departing, is alone permitted to reach the gods. And this is the reason ... why the true votaries of philosophy abstain from all fleshly lusts, and endure and refuse to give themselves up to them-not because they fear poverty or the ruin of their families, like the lovers of money, and the world in general; nor like the lovers of power and honor, because they dread the dishonor or disgrace of evil deeds.

We can see indications of this theology in the NT.  For example, Galatians 5:21b “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Another example is the letter of Peter which I quoted in my earlier post.  Peter connects “life and godliness” together and urges his readers to “make their calling and election sure ... if you do these things ... you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v10-11).

In contrast to this, you hold a view similar to Augustine’s:

Shane - 02 August 2008 04:13 AM

Well since I cannot fulfill this law, my only hope is in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  It is through this that I have any relationship with God at all, and it is through this that I place my hope and my joy.  My righteousness that brings me peace is not my righteousness, but Christ.  Therefore, whether I love others or not, I look solely to the cross of Christ.  If I do not love others, I find joy in the mercy of God.  If I do love others, I find joy in the power of God working in my life.  Therefore, the extent to which I love others has no bearing on my joy in Christ, because, either way I rejoice.

I understand that this is the classic Christian view.  Are you able to support this view beyond an appeal to dogma? That is,  I am claiming that Augustine reinterprets the biblical text in order to support a Manichean or dualistic doctrine whereas the earlier Christian view did not make the disconnection between one’s love for neighbor and the blessing of God or happiness.

For example, Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16 in his first letter:

[color=green]Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.  He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

There are many clear instances in what Peter considered to be the scriptures which clearly make the doing of good the condition for the happiness described by ‘love life and see good days.’  Can these conditions be fulfilled?  Deuteronomy 30:11 says “what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach ... the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”

The Deuteronomy text is important because of Paul’s midrash (or ‘commentary’) on this text in Romans 10:5ff.  He makes Christ the word that is in those who believe:  “if you confess with your mouth ... and believe in your heart ... you will be saved” which in the deuteronomic sense would have to include doing what is required through the power of Christ within.

Your statement in the above quote separates what you do from what you believe:  “whether I love others or not, I look solely to the cross of Christ.”  Which creates a host of problems in terms of interpretation of the biblical text.  For example, one has to explain why the OT view is being abandoned especially in view of the OT theology of Peter and others.  Paul’s theology can, also, be seen in light of the OT but the Augustinian paradigm turns the OT theology on its head in Paul and then uses what it takes to be Paul’s theology as a standard against which to interpret the other NT writers.  Thus, the exclusivist position has to start with a reinterpretation of Paul whereas the inclusivist position retains a harmony between the OT and the NT theology of salvation (under which comes what Augustine will call happiness).

Shane - 02 August 2008 04:13 AM
John Brand - 31 July 2008 02:56 PM

Let me propose, then, as a definition of happiness that we consider Aristotle’s:  “happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with perfect virtue.”  But, to link it back to the scriptures which Augustine used as the basis for his own idea of happinesss, let’s consider the following quote from 2 Peter 1:3ff

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him ... through these he has given us his great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires

This definition is a better link to Aristotle than what we find in Augustine.  Happiness is a state of the soul where we ‘participate in the divine nature’ through the application of the truths found in scripture.

Does that sound alright, Shane?

I do not see the definite connection to happiness in 2 Peter 1:3.  I see that perfectly applying all of the commands of God to ones life, something impossible to do, gives one access into the divine nature.  Which is an exceedingly great thing, but I cannot argue that Peter has happiness in mind when he penned this.

If we go back to the quote from Deuteronomy 30 which I included in my statement above, the law was given with the express statement that it could be fulfilled.  If we look at the history of Israel, the forgiveness of God accepted their obedience even though it was not perfect.  For example, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 quoted in Romans 4:3).  Abraham’s belief certainly was not perfect (i.e. he faltered in, for example, taking Hagar as his wife).  But God’s grace overlooks his failure as part of the covenant.  A NT example of how God overlooks our failures might be the Parable of Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:15ff).

Shane - 02 August 2008 04:13 AM
John Brand - 31 July 2008 02:56 PM

Note that I am making relationship a function of relationship: Christ can only make you happy to the extent that you are involved in meaningful relationships with others and especially those from outside of your own comfort zone.”

I have no clue what you are implying in this.  If you are saying that our relationship with others is a function of our relationship with Christ, I would agree.  If you are saying that a relationship with Christ is a function of our relationships with each other, I would say that I affirm a historical Jesus who is currently personable, and do not find Barth’s mystical Jesus convincing.  If you are implying that our relationships with others is a necessary function of our relationship with Christ, to the extent that apart from others we cannot commune with Christ, I would need evidence of that.

I don’t want to challenge your view that Christ is “currently personable” nor do I want to support Barth’s mystical Jesus.  However, I am arguing from the biblical text (as opposed to church dogma) that “our relationship with Christ” is vitally connected with “our relationships with each other.”  For example, the two greatest commands are “Love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”  In John 15, Jesus makes fruit bearing the evidence of being in the vine so that those who do not bear fruit are “thrown away” (v6).  This is compatible with the OT view that the word is in us and, therefore, we are able to do it.

Shane - 02 August 2008 04:13 AM
John Brand - 31 July 2008 02:56 PM

The other aspect of your question concerns the matter of who Christ is.  If we go with the early Christian view of Justin Martyr, for example, Christ is a great deal wider than a midiatorial role would imply:

We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably [i.e. ‘in accordance with reason’] are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists (First Apology.XLVI)

Well, I can not say that this is the classical view of Christ.

It isn’t the classical view.  How are you able to prove that the classical view is the view of the early apostles?

Shane - 02 August 2008 04:13 AM
John Brand - 31 July 2008 02:56 PM

So, full enjoyment of Christ would be found in relationship with atheists, wouldn’t you agree?

I do not know, what exactly you wish to prove with this whole argument, therefore, at this point and time I wish to decline from answering that, until I can be sure that my answer either which way will not trap me.

You don’t have to worry about my “trapping you” in this argument.  What I am saying above is an extension of what I have clarified in this post:  If love is the requirement that God is looking for in us, then this would include those who would classically be viewed as outside the box.

Hopefully I have clarified matters for you, Shane.

All the best,

John

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Posted: 05 August 2008 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]  
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Salt Creek - 05 August 2008 06:48 PM
John Brand - 05 August 2008 06:32 PM

Seems like evasion ...

John Brand - 05 August 2008 03:01 PM

During the period of the resolution of revolutions, it is necessary to use the values of scope, accuracy, consistency, fruitfulness and simplicity in order to judge the better of two pardigmatic claims. 

What are some of your thoughts on the above?

Kuhn treats what he calls scientific revolutions as historical events. Certainly if you want to think of the acceptance of a scientific idea as a political process that decides between two paradigmatic claims, nebulous criteria like those Kuhn brings up will be part of the discussion. ]In general, scientists do not have that kind of discussion. Historians of science view the evolution of scientific theories as political events. Certainly the discussion about the theories of organic evolution are treated that way by people outside the profession of science. Those five terms can be summed up in one: Elegance.

I am not saying that scientist don’t currently have a paradigm in which they agree. However, you realize from my use of Kuhn that I am applying his values to the discussion of theism, etc. because there isn’t a common paradigm, for example, on this forum.  I am not arguing against the theory of organic evolution.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 02:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]  
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Jefe - 03 August 2008 01:22 PM

Ok, I’ll go back to your originally offered description for happiness.  Lets take just one simple aspect of my life that makes me happy.  Lets analyze it per your definition.  Lets start with the assumption that my chosen example does indeed make me happy, and that there is no hedging of emotional response on my part.  Lets assume that my example is able to provide measurable symptoms of happiness, from physical response in facial features, laughter, stress reduction, blood pressure and pulse speed, ocular dilation and endocrine system changes.  Lets assume a lasting feeling of well-being after the event, as well as chemical production in the brain, and measurable activity within the synapse structures that are generally attributed to positive emotion (happiness) and dopamine production (happiness).

 
I have no problem doing this, especially since I can trace such things to my response to watching puppies play. 

Watching my puppies at play makes me happy.  That play time may be inherently valuable to my puppies, because they develop social skills out of it.  It may be inherently valuable to me due to the cathartic effects of experiencing happiness as an emotion and chemical interaction in the brain.  But for anyone else not involved in the experience, that happiness has relatively null value - with that value be reduced relative to the other person’s distance from the event.  Thus the value becomes purely relative.  I might relay the fun to another who did not witness that play time, but the experience would not translate in full, and further passing on would further dilute the happiness effect until we get the simple “oooo ahhh” response from the phrase “puppies playing” as it was related to some stranger completely disconnected from the specific event.

Can we really conclude that the relating of the event is similar enough to the event that we could call it the same thing?  If such is the case your argument would only go to prove that the relating of the event is not as valuable as the event itself.

Further complications ensue from culture to culture depending on the social attitude toward dogs.  Some cultures consider dogs dirty, some consider dogs to be simply food.  Those cultural responses may be vastly different to my related story of puppies playing than my own.  Further, some individuals within my culture of “Puppies are cute pets” are not dog-lovers, and simply wouldn’t be moved by my evaluation of the play.  Thus the value becomes an individual measurement, relative to the person’s personal opinion of the event under discussion.

It would, if it was necessary for dog’s playing to be the thing that is valuable itself.  What would change if dog’s playing was only a connection to something valuable and not the thing valuable itself?  Well it would mean that your ability to derive joy from it depends on your ability to see the connection.  Such ability would decrease greatly if you were trained to not view the animal as something significant enough to learn from or enjoy, but just food.  An example of such obstructions is that I do not expect God to make you happy.  This is because your ability to see the connection between God and value is obstructed by the fact that you consider him imaginary. (P.S.  It makes it clear that I would have to first assume that God exists in order to claim that he makes me happy.  This is why it cannot be used as an apologetic debate, and this is why I have done my best to avoid such a discussion on this topic).

Note, that this argument does not support the idea that the other cultures should find pleasure in watching dogs play, because it does not conclude that dogs should not be viewed as the other cultures view these animals.  Those things are not necessarily condemnable, and if they were, they could not be condemned on there obstruction of happiness, because your happiness is based on your assumption that dogs are to be viewed the way that you view.  This would cause you to prove an assumption with the same assumption. 

Which brings me to my reason why watching dogs playing can be valuable, assuming you view dogs as pets and not food.  I will argue that watching dogs play connects you to happiness itself.  You see happiness, and because it is itself valuable because it, 1. is its own end, 2. is worthy of honor or respect; 3. the happy man is worthy of honor or respect; 4. it is good; 5. and upon receiving it, it makes you want to gain more of it, and since a happy man is worthy of honor or respect, it makes you strive to be better by obtaining more happiness.

Since you agreed that it fits the first element, I will not defend it. 

Watching my puppies play together makes me happy, but there is not very much contained in that that fits with “dignity”.  In fact there is a whole lot disconnected from my understanding of what the word ‘dignity’ should contain, in that play.

Yes, but if you see it as connecting you to happiness, then you would agree that it is very dignified.  Your participation in this discussion proves that you find happiness worthy of honor or respect.

In what way does watching my puppies play bring me dignity and honour?  Or bring them dignity and honour if you describe them as the possessors?
If watching them play does indeed bring me measurable happiness, but no dignity or honour, nor dignity and honour to the pups, what then becomes of this portion of your definition?

In viewing how playing is an expression of their happiness, you see their tails wagging, and many other expressions that clue you into their emotional state.  However, this is all you can only conclude that they display signs of being happy, and you cannot know what happiness truly is, unless you first look back at your own experiences of happiness.  You compare their reaction to past experiences of yours and conclude that both are good experiences.  By which you determine happiness is good, and worthy of honor or respect.  However, in doing this you also give honor to your past experience and even yourself.  Therefore, in watching your puppies play you are honoring yourself, and your ability to be happy.  Therefore, it brings you dignity.

In what way does the joy I experience in watching my puppies play cause me (or even encourage me) to be a better person?

It causes you to be happy, and search for more ways to be happy, which makes you a better person.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]  
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Shane - 06 August 2008 06:17 AM

Your participation in this discussion proves that you find happiness worthy of honor or respect.

Here’s how it works, Shane: I’m all for others being as happy as they can without stepping on my toes. Is that concise enough for you? Some people smoke meth to get happy. If someone wants to be a meth addict, I’m willing to live with the fact that my house might get burglarized in order to feed his habit, and I’m willing to defend myself and my property with lethal force if he tries to do it while I am at home. I’m also in favor of legalizing narcotics and making them cheaply available, so that people do not have to take up a life of crime in order to narcotize themselves. I’ve been a crime victim several times in my life by now, and I think that the kind of crime perpetrated by theologians is much more insidious than the kind perpetrated by meth addicts.

You proselytize other people because it gives you “happiness”. I’m not yet willing to defend myself with lethal force to prevent you from doing so. This written reply to you is the next best recourse I have. I’m at home here, and if you post your drivel in public, I’m going to rip into it. On balance, I’d much rather you were a meth addict than a fundamentalist Xian.

[ Edited: 06 August 2008 06:14 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 06 August 2008 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]  
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Jefe - 06 August 2008 11:34 AM

Again, I’m just wondering if this is a valuable exercise or simply a flexing of your “philosoph muscles”.

No, it’s not. It’s merely a preamble for asserting that Jeebus/God is the ultimate and only dependable source of happiness. Many theists are very coy about introducing their thesis.

Working toward your own happiness and that of others is a worthy goal, but there are not a lot of valid generalities after that one, simply because, in far too many cases to enumerate, your nose ends where mine begins, and stipulations about being my brother’s keeper are specific to certain theisms.

Theists like Shane cannot get over the fact that not every word in their holy books is of universal validity, and that, in fact, very few of them are. If I could stand wading through all the bullshit, I’m sure I could find a few phrases that ring true.

[ Edited: 06 August 2008 07:45 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 06 August 2008 11:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]  
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Here’s a question for you….when you experience happiness, do you analyze it according to your list of criteria, or do you just allow yourself ‘the moment’?

Again, I’m just wondering if this is a valuable exercise or simply a flexing of your “philosoph muscles”.

It is just a mental workout, nothing more.  I do not make a habit of analyzing every one of my emotions, and definitely not the time I experience it.  There is no hidden agenda. If there was, I would have revealed it when I thought the conversation had ended on the second page.  I am only doing this because I want to flex my philosophical muscles, and I figured that you would also.  I stated three times now why I am certain that no man can use happiness to prove God, or convince any man to come to God.  I HAVE NO OTHER AGENDA, THEN TO THINK ABOUT MY FAVORITE EMOTION.

As to your comment that I am over intellectualizing the thing, I am quite shocked that any person on this form would discourage such activity.  Either it fits, or it doesn’t fit.

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Posted: 07 August 2008 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]  
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Shane - 07 August 2008 03:49 AM

I HAVE NO OTHER AGENDA, THEN TO THINK ABOUT MY FAVORITE EMOTION.

Uh-oh. Shane’s mad. He’s using the Caps Lock.

Well, let me brave the storm of anger, and propose that “happiness” is to eschatology as “ultimate reality” is to science.

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Posted: 08 August 2008 12:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]  
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Fair Enough.

I still think there are some outstanding qualifiers in your proposed definition.  I"m not entirely on-base with perfect quality, dignity, and bettering oneself with regards to a universal description of happiness. 

I’m not sure if its my hesitation to use such unspecific terms in formulating my own theses or whether its just that their inherent vagueness (arbitrary, relative) leaves the interpretation open to a variety of agenda-driven manipulation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of happiness.  I just don’t think that forcing a generalized description onto it serves a universal purpose.

Fair Enough.  I respect your position.  I was hesitant to use the last few in my description, but I think they are necessary in determining something to be valuable.  If I did not include that I think it would have left it to even more agenda-driven manipulation then what I have here.

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Posted: 09 August 2008 09:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]  
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I’m not even going to be tempted at weighing in on half the bullshit already smeared over this thread, however I am going to point out a variable that might be of some relevance. Since it in effect makes any in depth “analysis” of how to achieve happiness completely irrelevant.

It all boils down to this;
Happiness is in your head.

While this is likely very obvious to anyone, it seems that there is a staggering lack of people actually basing their thinking on it.

You see the key to being happy, is to convince yourself that you are happy. Thats it. Whatever goes on in peoples lives, whatever activities they engage in or don’t engage in. No external event is ever going to just trigger happiness. Because happiness is not out there for you to absorb.

It all comes down to how that juicy thinking sponge in your head deals with all that input, and law and behold you actually control that.

While there is surely lots of things that will trip you off the carousel, such as being robbed or loosing a loved one.
In general, it is in fact so simple as to just learn to be happy.

The emotional reactions you get from any input into your brain is completely void of meaning, meaning only arises in your head, and its you who decide what that meaning will be.

Its not as simple as turning a light switch, you actually have to spend time conscioussly changing your way of thinking. But it works, and studies are showing that its the key difference between people who are happy in their every day life, and those who are not.

Then people can be either miserable or happy if they want, although I sadly doubt that people will ever get rid of that desire to run around and tell everyeone else how to be.

I personally acknowledge anyones right to be as miserable or as happy as they want.

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