Which is more important happiness or contentment
Today it seems that a successful, happy life is an independent, self-determined and controlled life, but above all a life without suffering. Disabled, old or sick people therefore overwhelm us. Do you see this trend too?
Yes, there is a tendency. With regard to suffering, there is only one thing: wherever there is the opportunity to alleviate the suffering, do it. This is a practical solution, not a theoretical one. You don't have to explain why someone is actually happy when he is doggedly miserable. But there is hardly a completely pain-free life under earthly conditions. A completely pain-free life would probably not be what we strive for if we strive for happiness. Pain is part of the wealth of human experience of reality. And the lucky one is absolutely in tune with this reality.
What are the consequences that we as human beings are able to see our life as a whole? How does the ability to think ahead and remember affect our happiness?
The human conditions have a vector character. Let's take a person who has a lot of happy moments in life, but who ends up in a catastrophic way, and another, who is the other way around: He was always bad, but gradually it gets better and in the end his condition is Well. Which of the two is happier? It is the wrong way to build a calculation by stringing together the moments of happiness. It depends on the direction. The one who gets better and better is happier in the end than the one who goes downhill.
That means the direction of the course and not the amount of happy moments is decisive?
Yes, it depends on the vector character. That has always been the teaching of the wise and religious teachers, the rescipe finem: Think about the end. What it comes down to in the end. It is not about a sequence of states, but about a basic tendency. For example, if you have been looking forward to something for weeks, months, and then it turns out that it was all an illusion and that a person was really cheating on me all along. The neurophysiologist would have to say that everything is fine. Now at least you had the anticipation. If you ignore this vectorial character, you don't understand what it is all about. The anticipation is also about the fulfillment of what you were looking forward to.
What role does conscience play? Is conscience a spoilsport looking for happiness?
Well, if you act against your own conscience, you can't be happy. But not everyone is happy who follows their conscience. On the one hand, it is trivial to say that you cannot be happy if you act against your conscience. At the same time, if you follow your conscience, you can also be the greatest criminal, a terrorist for example. The terrorists here in Germany in the 1960s, who partly followed their conscience, were inspired by hope. You do not know exactly. This means that there is good and right action and that includes following conscience. But not every action that follows conscience is therefore good and right. It is important to see that conscience is not an oracle that reveals to us what is good and what is bad. Reason tells us. Practical reason that teaches us to distinguish between right and wrong. Because the question is, what is your conscience based on? It is formed from an objective norm. My conscience reminds me inwardly to follow the insight I have gained. That is the voice of conscience. But the voice of conscience is an echo. I may not even hear the actual call. And the echo can deceive me too. You cannot do the right thing when your conscience tells you it is wrong.
I recently read in an interview that everyone has a right to the greatest possible happiness. Would you agree with that?
No. There is no right to be bliss. There is a right, as the American Constitution says, to seek happiness: “the pursuit of happiness”. There is a right not to be hindered in one's quest for happiness. This includes providing conditions that favor a happy life. Whether someone is really happy then no longer depends solely on these conditions. It is interesting that in modern ethics handbooks there are hardly any two terms that have to do with luck, but that are just as undeniable. The first is friendship. There is a long chapter on this in Aristotle. In modern ethics, on the other hand, this is not a prominent issue. The other is forgiveness. Forgiveness is something creative. It means forgiving something that was completely wrong. It is the greatest human ability to be able to forgive. In this way one recovers reality, but not through deception, not through deception, but through a real change in the situation. As with bliss, there is no entitlement to it.
You brought the issue of friendship into play. Can man be happy alone? What role does the other play in relation to happiness?
A very big one. Man can neither be happy alone nor alone.
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