Does happiness exist? Is there a way to happiness? What happens after happiness? What is unhappiness? What is the danger of own happiness? Is there an ethics of happiness? Does religious ethics bring happiness? What are ethics? What kind of happiness should you strive for?
A unique review of the recently presented book by Ukrainian intellectuals led by Oles Donia “Ukrainian dream. 25 steps to public happiness”.
Does happiness exist?
Happiness is an individual resonance of the real with the deep origins of the soul as manifestations of the self.
Therefore, the very idea of happiness comes from the orientations of the self. Happiness is not just lonely, it is deeply selfish.
The idea of happiness comes from the statement that the soul of the self and the individual life are connected, and this connection can transform the self as the self desires.
DJ Groove made the famous Russian hit “Happiness is there, it can’t be without it”, for which the voices of M.S. Gorbachev and his wife Raisa Gorbacheva were specially recorded.
What does it mean that there is happiness? How is it? Around us, far and unreachable from us or close to us?
There is no storm for a warrior, because he is this storm. There is no good for a saint, because he is this good. There is no truth for the thinker, because he is this truth. There is no power for the ruler, because he is this power. None of them reaches a meaningful state, because he is in the environment of this content. A meaningful and promising environment of the self can be achieved by transformation-transformation.
Conversely, the environment of social inequality is insurmountable. There is always a greater mind for the foolish and the wise. There is always more wealth for the poor and the rich. There is always more oppression and abuse for the slave and the slave owner. The social environment is unchanged in its content. To aspire to be the same as others is to be as miserable as they are.
There is happiness, because we see the possibility of reaching the self, at least in everyday reality, and receiving feedback from this self, if it undergoes transformations-complications-transformations (all words are imprecise). Only such a changing self resonates. Self-reflections in themselves are happiness. Confidence in the possibility of such feedback means “There is happiness!”
What is happiness?
Happiness is first and foremost a measure of human beings. But let’s assume that happiness is a measure of all kinds of creatures, including people.
For some, happiness is an otherworldly nirvana, and therefore it is unattainable in a life of suffering. Achieving such happiness is connected with the exit from sociality and special psychopractices of prayers or meditations.
For someone, happiness is a path, changes, transformations that reach the self. Such happiness is non-static, fleeting, often beyond our attention. That is why happiness is often invisible, it is always scarce and short-lived. In this sense, happiness is a path, like the Tao. Whoever has learned the Tao, set out on the path, is happy. For him, there is no path to happiness, because the path is happiness.
For someone, happiness is a state or even a moment of special joy, elation and satisfaction in self-evaluation of what has been achieved.
Happiness-a path or happiness-a state are equally impersonal, even non-individual, but personal. Happiness is an intuitive entry into the long-term transformation of the self, which is only experienced in the manifested world as joy, elation, pleasure-in-the-moment.
Therefore, the very first right of a creature is the right to happiness in its own sense. Not the kind of happiness that someone invented in religion or ideology and that others around believe, but one’s own unique happiness, which may not be similar to the happiness of others and may even be denied by them and perceived as unhappiness.
But for the majority of happiness, these are, most likely, islands-moments of a special state, which is perceived as a dream come true, at the same time meaningful and promising in society, but which still has an individual deep origin.
It is for the majority that there are insidious questions: is there a way to happiness and what happens after happiness?
Is there a way to happiness?
For most beings who have chosen the concept of happiness as a state, there are very unpleasant questions.
What will you do when you achieve happiness: will you stay in this happiness or will you look for another happiness? If there is another happiness, then happiness is not absolute. And if so, then happiness is devalued, happiness inflation occurs.
Devalued happiness is dangerous because it becomes formal, and within the limits of imagination it is replaced by a narcotic high of any nature: alcoholism, sexoholism, workaholism and other all kinds of “-holisms”.
Renunciation of the idea of a path or changes is also formal. Happiness in not knowing, in ignorance, or happiness in carelessness, thoughtlessness, willlessness, or disbelief means that it is better to see neither change nor state. Unawareness is a kind of nirvana-for-life. Drink and party, don’t think about anything, you are already in nirvana, you are already in happiness.
The limitation of such happiness was denied by several thinkers in the metaphorical fable “Russell’s chicken”, aka “Taleb’s turkey”. Every day the owner feeds a chicken that does not ask the questions “is my life happy?”, “is my happiness eternal?”, but one day the owner comes and cuts such a chicken for his own food. Such happiness very unexpectedly turns to misfortune.
On the other hand, uncertainty after death, the fear of which is defined in Hamlet’s monologue “To be or not to be” as the main compelling motivation for life, is directly opposed not to the desire for certainty at all, but to the desire for change-path-transformation, which generates its own uncertainty.
The secret of the path of happiness lies precisely in the fact that with the uncertainty of our own transformation we overcome the uncertainty of non-existence. Certainty in this sense is only a moment of such changes and transformations, which in a rather simplified understanding can be considered as a state of happiness.
That is, both happiness as a path and happiness as a state are not a certain level that can supposedly be reached or to which there are steps. Happiness is generally immeasurable: it cannot be measured by the amount of money, power, fame, comfort or the implementation of any projects, even very large-scale ones.
What is unhappiness?
Unhappiness is being unchangeable, wishing unchangeable and not being able to change it.
The Universal Rule of Unhappiness: Look for answers, but don’t ask questions. Because only questions lead to happiness.
Asking yourself means you are ready to change. Asking someone else means you are lying or lazy. Looking for answers means you are ready to live unchanged. Answering others means you don’t know.
Some questions are better to think about in order to change than to remain unchanged by answering them.
To give answers to questions that have not yet arisen, as modern school education does, is pure evil and real misery.
What is the danger of own happiness?
The danger of one’s own happiness is that in society it can be ignoble, unworthy and evil from the point of view of the majority of society. But for the most part, people include the happiness of others in the conditions of their happiness, so social contradictions in happiness arise not because of direct relationships between people, but because of the intervention of radical resentment ideologies, where happiness becomes a zero-sum game, so that the happiness of some is always the unhappiness of others.
You cannot build your happiness on the unhappiness of others, even if they build their happiness on our unhappiness. It is impossible to be happy alongside the misery of others, except in nirvana. But happiness is a path and happiness is a state, if we are at least a little social, always connected.
Individuals create forms of change for their selves, and therefore all forms are connected in sociality as relations of individuals. We can single out one form, for example the collective-Ukrainian form, but then it will be an accentuation on such a form and many essential changes of the self will simply be impossible.
In this understanding, ethics is called to balance the happiness-state of some people with the happiness-state of others. But ethics does little for someone who has chosen the path as a path of happiness.
Is there an ethics of happiness?
Does happiness have an ethical dimension? It is often heard that believers are happier than non-believers. But the same can be said about people of all prejudices: the strong-willed are happier than the weak-willed, the thinking – than the non-thinking, and those who sympathize – than those who do not sympathize.
There is no such thing as an ethics of happiness, that is, an ethics that brings or guarantees happiness when followed. At the same time, there is an ethics that, in one way or another, in different conditions can, to a greater or lesser extent, generate a path of change, which for a few can be happiness in itself or for the majority can generate moments of experiencing unity with the aspirations of selfhood as a resonance with achievements in reality.
Moreover, it happens that one ethics brings more conditions for happiness-changes, and sometimes another ethics. There is no universal ethics that would increase the probability of equilibrium changes for all as happiness-path or happiness-state under all conditions.
Decisive in the life of a being is its soul, its self. Individuality is already the uniqueness of social manifestations of selfhood, which change depending on social conditions. In general, personality is a set of social masks that somehow correlate with individuality and always come into conflict with it.
The more deeply rooted ethics are, the more significantly they can program the individual and can constrain or guide individuality. But no ethics reaches the self. We are what we are in the depths of our souls, and no amount of socialization can change us on its own, it can only force us into mimicry. The self changes independently, not socially.
Does religious ethics bring happiness?
Ethics is designed to create a balance between different experiences of happiness, not happiness itself. Neither Jewish, nor Christian, nor Islamic, nor Buddhist, nor Confucian ethics guarantee happiness. Moreover, they were created in different conditions for different, but historically quite limited, purposes and cannot be universal. Some of them have completely opposite instructions.
The distinction between the ethics of Judaism and Christianity is made by Jesus himself. For example (Mt. 5:38), “You have heard that it was said: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you do not resist evil, but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other.” In other words, in one case, happiness is in the symmetry of evil (evil for evil) or good (good for good), and in the other, evil must be answered with good to break the chain of evil.
Christianity includes suffering in the improvement of the soul, while Buddhism teaches to avoid suffering in all improvement. Therefore, happiness in one case comes from suffering, and in the other – from its avoidance.
Christianity teaches to focus on the search for peace and harmony within oneself as the kingdom of God, and Islam teaches to wage a spiritual struggle internally and externally – that is, jihad as diligence-perseverance on the way to Allah. That is, in one case, happiness is peace and harmony, and in the other, happiness is an eternal struggle-war.
In Christianity, the most important condition of harmony is the individual choice-decision of everyone, so the individual is free, and in Confucianism, the most important condition of harmony is the social choice-decision of everyone, so the individual is rather socially noble.
All these are different ethics for different civilizations, in different conditions of their formation and transformation. Therefore, happiness depends not so much on ethical guidelines as on attempts to achieve equilibrium within societies in the existing historical conditions for the sake of individual changes, which reach self-transformation up to transfiguration.
Religion does not bring happiness. Religion is not faith, it is a union of believers for the sake of faith. If we assume that religion creates some conditions for happiness, then we will have to recognize any accentuation of faith as a condition of religion, and the unification of such believers as religion. That is, thinking as a religion, will as a religion, passion as a religion, Tao- (contemplation) as a religion, but also evil-aggression-destruction as a religion.
Why then should we recognize one religion as better than others? After all, it is enough for us to agree that religion is only such a belief, where everything is explained through the Absolute, a very unpleasant thing arises: the Absolute can be anything and answer all questions in the same way. Not only God is absolute, but also: thinking, will, passion, Tao, Emptiness, Potency, etc. You can imagine a world where the Absolute is Chaos.
An unpleasant hypothesis, isn’t it? Any tricks will not help us, because even Chaos can create the World, Goodness and Goodness, we should only build the discourse and the metaphorical narratives corresponding to it in this way.
I’m going to ask a question that doesn’t have a clear answer, but one that will confront you if you’re a Christian.
Was Christ happy? Or even more radical. Did Christ die happy? Was his despair, remorse and humility happiness in the last hours of his life? Any answer, even a sly one, depends on whether you are a Christian.
After all, it is difficult to believe in someone who was unhappy and be happy.
It seems to me that Shakyamuni Buddha, Moses, Confucius and Mohammed were much happier than Christ.
What are ethics?
From the point of view of happiness-the-way, there are only two ethics: the ethics of action and the ethics of inaction . Only the moment of choosing between them is significant in Eastern civilizations, everything else depends on this choice.
The ethics of action, or more precisely, the ethics of social action, has approaches theorized in the tradition of Western civilization. Therefore, there are many ethics. And it is convenient to divide them into certain paradigms, that is, some theoretical constructions that are arranged in different ways.
Ethics of restrictions and prohibitions (“don’t do that”). It is, for example, presented in the Christian decalogue of commandments.
The golden rule. Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
How does it work?
Everything that is not forbidden is allowed. This paradigm leaves the creature the most freedom. It is this paradigm that makes beings most happy.
Ethics of positive prescriptions (“do so”).
Human beings fall into tribes, families, clans, dynasties, denominations, classes, corporations, states, nations, empires, civilizations. Group ethics gives rise to law with its constitutions, laws and codes. Most of the famous religious, philosophical, corporate, class, state, national and civilizational ethics belong to this paradigm.
Kant made a famous attempt to formulate the main principle of positive prescriptions: act so that your act is a general rule – ideally: for everyone, in all conditions, in all spaces, at all times.
How does it work?
It works very poorly. A multitude of prescriptions that contradict each other, mislead, oppress life and bind the will, mind and spirit. Machiavelli in his time describes the freedom of power, which allows bypassing ethical prescriptions. Machiavellian rich and powerful, with the help of lawyers, always circumvent the inconvenient prescriptions, leaving the rest in ethical oppression.
In this paradigm, the being is the most unfree, because he is always guilty of everything: tribe, kind, clan, dynasty, denomination, class, corporation, state, nation, empire, civilization. This is the paradigm that takes away the most freedom and makes beings the most miserable.
The world of free will is quite cruel, but happy people live there. The world of positive precepts seems to be cruel only to their violators, but in reality, unhappy people live there.
Reflective ethics(“build reflective models of your actions in difficult situations”).
Human beings seek freedom in the social world between different ethical systems, obligations, requirements, etc. They play, develop and implement strategies, build complex programs, projects and plans. The ethics of prohibitions or prescriptions does not work very effectively here. An idea of reflexive ethics emerges.
I know of two books that directly address this. Eric Berg’s “People Who Play Games…” with his game ethics and Vladimir Lefebvre’s “Algebra of Conscience” with his ethical systems of trade-offs between good and evil.
How does it work?
It works for everyone who sees life as a game or the exercise of complex reflexive strategies, and it doesn’t work for others who only follow positive precepts.
(“in situations of interaction of different ethics, their relationship is compared according to similar norms”).
Contraflexion is a one-moment step-by-step comparison of different realities (processes).
Based on my works “Fundamentals of Civilizational Anthropology” and “Complex Individuation, Basics of Psychoconstruction”, I can say that it is the interaction of civilizations that are different in terms of ontology and transcendence that creates a situation of contraflexive ethics. That is, when every beginning, division or orientation of one civilization can be interpreted in the same units of another civilization.
This paradigm makes it possible to understand motivational limitations, ontological beginnings, transcendental orientations, and the interaction of ethical boundaries.
How does it work?
It is essentially a game of different civilizations, involving strategies of dominance, contractual interaction, or even observant disregard.
Contraflexive ethics is mostly the realm of prophets, thinkers, scientists, and diplomats. It can also serve as a means of avoiding wars between civilizations.
Transethics (in situations of change-transition, be guided by the predominance of some attitudes over others).
Transethics is intended for soft and gradual changes of individuals-groups-society and humanity as a whole. The theory of such ethics was developed by me in 2013, but the work was stopped due to the revolution and the war.
This is an ethics that focuses on the superiority of some attitudes over others. An example of guidelines for such ethics is the Agile Manifesto, aka the Flexibility Manifesto. Also, we at FFF have developed an expanded and more comprehensive version of the Agile Manifesto for any business-entrepreneur, but so far businessmen are not ready to accept and understand it.
How does it work?
This ethics once again restores freedom to beings and their groups, in the conditions of the world of ethics of positive prescriptions. For example, there are 10 different situations where ethical choices must be made between settings. In these situations, for example, 6 times a choice is made in favor of the predominant attitude and 4 times – in favor of the non-preferred one. That is, the transition to the predominant attitude is not made unambiguously, but in a statistical majority of situations. This allows you to make any changes more flexibly.
Such ethics underlie assets, including money, including fiat. The time of fiat money is coming to an end and after a great war, different assets will be generated by different orders-ethics. In this regard, transethics is very promising.
What kind of happiness should you strive for?
The scale for happiness-change and happiness-state is important. The Ukrainian dream is always smaller than the dreams of humanity. Therefore, Ukrainian happiness is always particular, compared to the happiness of humanity.
More than that. There is no Ukrainian happiness separate from American, British, German, French, Chinese, Indian and even Russian happiness.
Do you want some local, even Ukrainian happiness? So that the cherry orchard is surrounded by huts and the crunchy parasites buzz over the old cherries? Please. But this is not enough. We need something different.
The ethics of positive precepts no longer create happiness, because they continue to steal our freedom. Transethics is a good way to enter the Other World.
God is stingy with praise, even with regard to Himself. Having created this world, he judged it “It is good”.
And in my youth I was very critical – not so much towards God, but towards the world. Now I see great potential in him.
Because right now we have to create a complete humanity, and the Other world, and other Other worlds, and the Beyond.
Happiness is to change and create Humanity. Happiness is to create a Different World for Humanity, to search for Other Worlds and the Beyond. Happiness is not being alone and doing it together with other beings.