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Kraut on Russell on Aristotle on Happiness

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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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Interesting review here of Daniel C. Russell, Happiness for Humans. An interesting passage:

Suppose that songbirds as they are presently constituted are not receptive to the beauty of their chirping, but that genetic manipulation could give them an enriched awareness of the musical features of their songs, with the result that they get much more enjoyment from their singing. Assuming that this had no ill side effects, their lives would be better — it would be better for a songbird to be a songbird than it was before. This thought experiment suggests that the appreciation of beauty would be a good thing for any creature who can be made receptive to it. So, it is not someone’s membership in the human family that makes it the case that it is good for him to appreciate beauty and bad for him to lack this receptivity. Rather, the appreciation of beauty is a good thing — good, that is, for the creature, of whatever species, who has it.

I wonder: what if, through genetic manipulation, I could be enhanced so as to view with aesthetic pleasure something truly and intrinsically ugly – that is, to incorrectly view it as beautiful. Would that be a good thing?



  1. Al says:

    NO: You are doing yourself harm. At worst your actions are a vice, at best incontinent; either way, not a road to happiness. Real human happiness is not just aesthetic pleasure at the expense of truth, but a more complete pleasure that takes into account higher things that are even more pleasurable than such a genetic experiment, like the contemplation of truth. Humans don’t find happiness by enhancing our range of aesthetic experiences, or dulling out painful things, but by enjoying the habituation of virtues, like courage and truthfulness (which clearly you are not concerned about if you abandon the “inherently and truly” so quickly). We don’t need to manipulate dogs to love one another, because dogs are happy qua dogginess, without love; similarly we need no genetic modification to find happiness, because we have that opportunity qua human. You are shooting yourself in the foot, Huenemann. *sorrowful head shaking*

    YES: Oh, bullshit. The “truly and intrinsically” is just an old grammatical habit of the herd. They know even less about ‘ugly’ than they do about ‘true’. These resentful weaklings have tricked you into believing false dichotomies and so you have lost a sense of your very own robust health, which would be greatly enhanced by this new and powerful science. Enjoy this more bounteous aesthetic value looming in greatness above *all* of life. Why shouldn’t dogs revel in the same beauty humans have access to? There are no categories between man and mammal either (I like this Kraut guy!) Yes,modify them all! (Just not to the point that they overcome you.) So intoxicate yourself and have some fun with the power of new sight gained from this ability to enjoy and fortify existence. Take advantage! *manly chest-bump*


  2. Huenemann says:

    Tarbet! You forgot MAYBE.


  3. Al says:

    MAYBE: Well, it’s probably circumstance-dependent. Is it just one ugly thing that you will be modified to see beautiful? Or is it everything? Theory hardly matters as much as practice, so do the math: If the modification lowers the happiness for yourself and those around you, consider it a bad choice. If it’s just a single thing you now see as beautiful, like a particularly terrible song, then the consequences may not be so severe or even beneficial. (But if it’s a burning orphanage… well, that creates tension.) Seeing everything as beautiful may lead to serious discomfort and a general lowering of happiness for the world – or maybe not! – but the important thing is that you plan ahead!

    While I think I agree with NO that happiness in some way has to do with seeing the truth in things, I care a lot less about truth than I do about the outcome of this situation for everybody. *pulls out calculator* If you can think of a way that illusion causes more happiness in the world, consider me on the side of YES. But if truth somehow leads to an increase in our well-being, as NO says above, then don’t do it…just let me prophetically apply value to these outcomes and do some calculations… *twenty years pass*


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