1 of 4
1
Poll
Do you know what the 'meaning of life" is?
Yes 9
No 1
I’m not sure... kind of... 0
I don’t know and i don’t care... 1
Total Votes: 11
You must be a logged-in member to vote
What is the meaning of life? How can we find happiness?
Posted: 17 May 2010 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  88
Joined  2010-02-04

Hi to my fellow CFI’ers,

Just a short note to tell you that I recently finished teaching a 3-series program on the topics of “Finding Meaning in Life” and “Finding Happiness in Life” for a local humanist group. I created the lesson plan by doing my own research. If you’d like to see and download the lesson plans, they are here:

Microsoft Word format:
http://files.meetup.com/1279214/cfi-meaning-in-life-course-outline.doc

Adobe Acrobat format:
http://files.meetup.com/1279214/cfi-meaning-in-life-course-outline.pdf

…Bernie
http://www.meetup.com/Westside-Science-Religion-Discussion-Group/
http://www.meetup.com/Vancouver-Science-Religion-Discussion-Group/

Image Attachments
h.jpg
Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1423
Joined  2010-04-22

Looks like good stuff.  It agrees with my self-reasoned path to happiness, which makes me happy.

grin

 Signature 

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

Hmm, I usually get very suspicious of people who think they can teach others how to be happy. I mean, there are people who can make us happy (for the moment), like, I don’t know, Jerry Seinfeld or Peter Sellers, but they actually do it instead of telling us how to do it ourselves. Sorry, not a big fan of this self-help stuff. If anything, I am inclined to believe it can even be harmful.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 08:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4573
Joined  2007-08-31
George - 18 May 2010 07:15 AM

Hmm, I usually get very suspicious of people who think they can teach others how to be happy

As I see it Bernie does not do that. He gives some ideas that can help to think about what happiness and meaning of life could be. I think reflecting about such things can be useful. A question must not have a scientific answer to be useful, and must not necessary be ideological when it has no objective answer, as long as you do not force an answer on such a question.

GdB

 Signature 

GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

How useful can the following be?

There is no pre-ordained trail for you to follow. There is a world of opportunities for you to choose from.

This is simply not true as happiness is one of the most highly heritable aspects of personality. To tell someone that he can choose from whatever destiny he desires also implies that he can be blamed if he fails. This can be very damaging to some people.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  88
Joined  2010-02-04
George - 18 May 2010 09:03 AM

How useful can the following be?

There is no pre-ordained trail for you to follow. There is a world of opportunities for you to choose from.

This is simply not true as happiness is one of the most highly heritable aspects of personality. To tell someone that he can choose from whatever destiny he desires also implies that he can be blamed if he fails. This can be very damaging to some people.

Genetics plays a part, but only a part.  Let’s not ever have a victim attitude.  We must play the hand we are dealt.  And happiness is available to all; fame and fortune are not required.  It is easier to find, on a regular basis, if you know what to look for and how to think.  As for a world of opportunities; should I be a lawyer, doctor, or future President of the USA? It is up to me, and not destiny.  Yes, I can take ownership and learn from my failures and my successes, as well as learning from others as they experience success and failures.  The great people of the past had many failures, and learned from them.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4108
Joined  2006-11-28

Of course, telling people they will either be happy or miserable depending on the genes they were born with and they might as well get used to it is a much more productive strategy! Seriously?! Even if I agreed with your extreme interpretations of genetics and behavior, I don’t see that you are offerring anything helpful here. Presumably if people are destined to be happy or unhappy from conception anyway, nothing we can say to them will “damage” them any more than it will make them happier. And so genetic determinism slides into nihilism, and we needn’t bother trying to change anything about ourselves.

FWIW, though, I do share George’s skepticism of “methods” to happiness. I think different strategies are useful to different people and different points in their lives. So there’s nothing wrong with offerring one approach, I just don’t think we should expect to find too many universal hard-and-fast principles. That seems to be a major theme of the course materials, so in that sense I like them. They do, however, seem to represent a pretty rationalist, formal method for working through the details of one’s individual path, and that in itself may only appeal to a subset (and, sadly, I imagine a small subset) of personalities.

My vote in the poll is “No.” Partly, that’s because I’m not sure the question is even meaningful, though I don’t want to derail the thread into a debate about temrs like “meaning” and so on. Partly it’s because while my own satisfaction with my life waxes and wanes, soemtimes with trly significant events and other times depending on how much sleep I’ve had lately or other trivial but highly salient corporeal influences, I can’t say as I’ve ever been seized with a sense of certainty concerning what it’s all about. I used to expect someday I would be, but as I get older I get more accustomed to the idea that I probably won’t ever know, and that there may not be anything aloing those lines to know.

[ Edited: 18 May 2010 09:42 AM by mckenzievmd ]
 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29
Bernie_Dehler - 18 May 2010 09:29 AM
George - 18 May 2010 09:03 AM

How useful can the following be?

There is no pre-ordained trail for you to follow. There is a world of opportunities for you to choose from.

This is simply not true as happiness is one of the most highly heritable aspects of personality. To tell someone that he can choose from whatever destiny he desires also implies that he can be blamed if he fails. This can be very damaging to some people.

Genetics plays a part, but only a part.  Let’s not ever have a victim attitude.  We must play the hand we are dealt.  And happiness is available to all; fame and fortune are not required.  It is easier to find, on a regular basis, if you know what to look for and how to think.  As for a world of opportunities; should I be a lawyer, doctor, or future President of the USA? It is up to me, and not destiny.  Yes, I can take ownership and learn from my failures and my successes, as well as learning from others as they experience success and failures.  The great people of the past had many failures, and learned from them.

Of course genetics plays “only” a part, but it plays a really big part when it comes to intelligence which will indicate if we become a doctor or a burger flipper, and it has about the same influence on how happy we can be. Genetics has about the same influence on our intelligence and our happiness as it has on our height and our weight.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29
mckenzievmd - 18 May 2010 09:39 AM

Of course, telling people they will either be happy or miserable depending on the genes they were born with and they might as well get used to it is a much more productive strategy! Seriously?! Even if I agreed with your extreme interpretations of genetics and behavior, I don’t see that you are offerring anything helpful here.

I am not a psychiatrist to help people feel happy. If I were, I would give them Prozac.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  88
Joined  2010-02-04

“Genetics has about the same influence on our intelligence and our happiness as it has on our height and our weight. “

That can be debatable.  How many people have great genetics and don’t put it to use at all, other than acting like a bum (watching tv all day, playing video games, and taking drugs).  Losers.

There are many stories of people who live ‘worthless’ lives, then come to a point of crisis (like attempting suicide). then turning around and making something great of themselves.

Then there are also stories of people who look like they have it all (fame, sex, money, etc.), and they commit suicide.

For these reasons, I think it is VITAL to study recent philosophy on finding happiness and meaning in life.

And you better have an answer for this if you talk to religious people and try to convince them there’s a reason for living… a better reason, than following the plan (destiny) from an imaginary God.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4108
Joined  2006-11-28

George, you suggest we can damage people by telling them they can be happy if they follow one method or another because we will set up unrealistic expectations and a sense of failure when they don’t achieve happiness. But this can only be true if attitudes and expectations meaningfully affect happiness, which you seem to largely discount, so you’re undermining your own posiiton. On top of that, if giving people unrealistic aspirations for happiness damages them, doesn’t telling them they are largely helpless to influence any aspect of their behavior, including their happiness, seems as or more likely to be damaging?

As for the glib dismissal of responsibility for other people’s happiness, you don’t seem nearly enough of an jerk to really mean that. I bet you routinely act as if your behavior influences the happiness of your wife and children and friends despite your intellectual convictions that it probably doesn’t and it’s not your problem anyway.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  88
Joined  2010-02-04

“I am not a psychiatrist to help people feel happy. If I were, I would give them Prozac. “

Certainly, sometimes drugs are needed to treat mental issues.  But my concern is that many people (most?) have depression because they don’t know much about finding meaning and happiness in life, and drugs are a crutch.  Good philosophy is better than drugs in many (most?) cases, I think.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4108
Joined  2006-11-28

When it comes to psycotropic drugs, I think we are monkeys playing with computers. We know that drugs do something, but we can’t reliably predict what or to whom. And if a drug makes someone feel less sad or angry, does that mean they have a disease that the drug is treating? Not necessarily. After all, sadness and anger aren’t necessarily abnormal. It’s like saying that because a hallucinogen makes us see visions these visions represent “true” reality and we must really be blind when we’re not taking them. That is certainly one possible interpretation, and one that fits into a number of religions. FWIW it seems more likely to me that we’re just tinkering with our brains and the idea of a “hidden reality” is a post-hoc story we make up. Coould it be that in some cases, the same logic holds for prozac and the like? That we pathologize normal emotions and then “treat” them? I’m sure it’s not that simply and that there are true illnesses that affect behavior and mood, of course, but as we are in the infancy of our understanding of psychopharmaceuticals, I think we put lines and categories in the wrong places fairly often.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

The sad things is that there are people who offer real solutions to these problems, unfortunately nobody is willing to listen to them. Take the recent study shown now on CNN where the majority of kids still—after forty years when similar study was first done—identify a black doll as the stupid and ugly one. Who gets to be blamed? Of course, the parents. Why not accept that kids have a natural tendency to behave this way and look for a real solution? I know Judith Rich Harris has some ideas (backed up by evidence) on how to help black kids get better marks or what can be done in order for girls to be more successful in the scientific studies. Does anybody care? Or are we going to keep blaming parents, the government and god knows who else instead of doing some actual science? Oh, yes, and let’s all stay really positive. Well, I have heard it all when growing up in a communist state and I am now just fed up encountering the same BS that sounds as ignorant as when Lysenko tried to reeducate the nature itself.

As Dr. House once said: “Climb out of your holes, people!”

[ Edited: 18 May 2010 10:42 AM by George ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4108
Joined  2006-11-28

Sorry, George, but it sure sounds like your draggging a lot of outside baggage into this conversation. Your response doesn’t seem to have much to do with what has been said here.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 May 2010 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  88
Joined  2010-02-04

“I know Judith Rich Harris has some ideas (backed up by evidence) on how to help black kids get better marks or what can be done in order for girls to be more successful in the scientific studies. Does anybody care?”

Yes, I think people do care, and progress comes slowly.  Look at how our educational system has changed over the last 100 years.  For the better, I think… and hope… consider segregation, etc.

“As Dr. House once said: “Climb out of your holes, people!”

Did he mean “apply some self-help” or “take some drugs?”  wink  House does like his drugs.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 4
1