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Ethics / Philosophy

Happiness and Mistaken Judgment

In my previous post, I explained that some things make us happy, but the only secure form of happiness is one found in an activity, particularly one identical to or arises from our life. But there were two further sources of unhappiness. One of them is error. When we believe that something will make us happy and it does not, we are unhappy because we were mistaken about what would make us happy. There are four kinds of mistaken judgments that can prevent us from being happy.

Mistaken judgments cover all kinds of unhappiness and in various ways. We can be mistaken about a current change continuing to make us happy or a future thing making us happy. We could even be mistaken about a current activity continuing to make us happy.

Mistaken judgments can occur because of a number of reasons. First, such judgments can arise when we do not understand what we desire. We may believe that we desire chocolate ice cream, but wrongly associate the taste we are desiring with chocolate when it is really the taste of vanilla. Our desires are not met by the chocolate and we are unhappy when we eat it. This mistaken judgment applies to desires and desires about desires. Second, we can be in error in our beliefs. We might expect to receive a chocolate bar from the store, only to go there and find that there are no chocolate bars left. Third, we can fall into error because of an unwillingness to accept what we know to be true. We might suspect that eating too many chocolate bars will give us a stomach ache, but do so anyway. If we get a stomach ache, then we will feel unhappy and the mistake will be our own fault. Fourth, we may perceive our desire as good and be mistaken. For example, someone might continually desire too much food. Given his situation, that will lead to obesity. Obesity is not the path to happiness. However, he truly and without conflict desires too much food, knows where to get food he likes and accepts his own desires. So his mistake is different.

Given this enumeration, an examination of the nature of belief and desire is necessary in order to understand happiness. We want to avoid error in both places and to correctly perceive what is good so that no mistakes are made. But we cannot avoid or minimize mistakes unless we know what desire and belief are and how they are properly understood.

Without going further into issues of desire and belief, there is one further way that happiness is not found in the modern situation. We are not happy when we act irrationally – and this includes immoral action. An explanation of why this is so is necessary before further investigation into the nature of belief and desire can be done.

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