Experiential definition of happiness

Polly Young-Eisendrath defines happiness as the state of experience in which you have no desire to be doing something else. She sees the state as occurring in lovemaking, absorption in a hobby or practice of a skill, etc.  She designed the definition to dovetail with the larger research into flow, though the Buddhist influence on the definition is apparent, sc. through her highlighting the loss of a sense of self.

1.) The first value of the definition is that it ties what we are targeting in classical ethics to a concrete experience. Aristotle’s account is that happiness lacks this reference to a sample or foreshadow of the thing we’re striving for.

2.) Heraclitus, seeking to give an account of nature, said moving, it rests. It’s facile to see this as the account of some continual flux – it’s rather an account of immanent action or of total self-absorption in activity.

3.) It’s easy to forget that the division of act and potency makes operation the act of existence. Operation is more intended by nature than substance. This is common to art and nature – when we make a car we simply want whatever can do car-like activities – and if we could get a feather or a pile of pebbles to do it we would just as soon use them as two tons of steel, rubber, and wires. Artists want what an artifact does – the substance making it up plays a purely functional role to this end.

4.) We have no name for the perfect immanent operation in anything but humans. Persons have virtue, but what about iron or orange trees? But this unnamed activity is what nature drives at in making what it makes.

5.) The cyclical character of nature is given, and therefore its intrinsic eternity. For Aristotle, this eternity was homogeneous – oranges from oranges and chimps from chimps forever. For us, the eternity is heterogeneous – animal populations are not homogeneous forever; the elements can be made heavier or broken apart in stars, etc. One of the shortest definitions of evolution is heterogeneous natural eternity. 

6.) Nature absorbed in its work = monad = perception without (self) consciousness.

7.) The eternity of nature is given even if its cycles only can be wound back so far or extended so far. A clock is intrinsically eternal, even if made at some time past and doomed to crash at some time future. A clock is not a lit fuse or a timer.

8.) It is against nature to rest in existence. Existence is lost or fulfilled in operation.

9.) Honestly, the first thing I thought about when getting lost in a task was blogging. I tested the hypothesis by trying to find myself in the action. I honestly don’t know what to say in response. In being absorbed in the problem one is both a conduit of the solution and a source of it. The solution is both found and made. So… “Lost and fulfilled” and now “found and made”? Egad, what is nature?

10.) The analysis of four causes opens up a greater unity of nature than we usually appreciate: all becoming involves both extrinsic and intrinsic causes.

11.) STA argues that there is an identity of operation and existence in God. Is this a consciousness always active but never lost in the action? Or is it an existence having no need of an action to complete itself, and so being an “action of itself”?

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