Happiness, Cause and Effect

May 10, 2010


Do we ever consider asking questions to ourselves on the matters of day to day life and the impulses? We do sometimes, wittingly or unwittingly and we should, because that is what we are here for. Behind all of our actions is a cause and effect sequence, which one should be constantly examining.

For example, suddenly one day you arrive at a crystal clear idea that I need a car. It is natural that you must have thought about it for a long time consciously and subconsciously. May be wise people around you have advised you over and over that you need a car and then the thought process started.

During the decision making process, we ask ourselves “For what Purpose or Goal?”, “For the sake of what?”, “In order to what?”simply put, “Why?” do I need a car? Possibly, we answer:

Activity (Question starting with…If, Why) Purpose/ Goal (Answer starting with…Then/In order to)
Have a car Reduce my travel time to office/home
Reduce my travel time to office/home Have more time for me
Have more time for me Spend more time with my family/ friends/hobbies
Spend more time with my family/ friends Have Happiness (or something like that)

And it may end there. You may have different answers, but you will eventually reach the Happiness (not Satisfaction) answer, if you stretch your thinking.

More often than ones, as soon as you have a car, you start thinking of jeans, crockery or sandals.  But the buck stops at Happiness. Try replacing the “car” with anything else you have in mind.

After doing a forward pass, we should always be doing a regressive cause and effect analysis also. If you think hard, when we started from Car, we actually did not start from there. If we ask “What is that activity, which has end result (purpose/goal) of a Car?” the analysis may result in:

Activity End result (Purpose/Goal)
Earn/Save money Purchase a Car
Work hard/ Spend judiciously Earn Money/ Save Money
Accord first priority to physical desires Work hard
Do not try to understand/appreciate/realise my purpose of being First priority to fulfiling physical desires

Etcetera….Etcetera…

Again, you may have totally different answers, but the starting point may come out to be “Do not try to realise/ appreciate/ understand …”

What is the harm in trying? Just change the “Car” with “Girlfriend/Boyfriend”, or “LCD TV”, or “Perfume”.

If you map the complete process, it starts with a thinking activity (i.e. Try to understand/ appreciate…) and ends in a thinking activity (i.e. Happiness, the state of mind), with physical activities in between.

We should remember however that Joy and Happiness are different.

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But where does Happiness leads us to? What is Happiness? What is Happy Life? What is it?

Socrates (Plato) feels that Philosophical Life is of the highest order and therefore the happiest life.

Aristotle advocates as follows:

  • Real Happiness is the actualisation of our rational thinking capacity (for theoretical sciences, i.e. life sciences and philosophy). Therefore happiest life is the theoretical life.
  • The Theoretical/Philosophical life is the life that needs least external support, least subject to interruption, self sufficient, highly leisurely and needs only active mind. This is akin to the activity of the God (who is a thought thinking thought).
  • Purpose of an individual is to transcend animality, then transcend humanity and finally aim for godlike life, life of a thinker thinking of thought (and then transcend the meaning of the term  God – my addition).

Some may feel that this Greek theorem is supporting laziness and idle life (Socrates’ wife Xanthippe was the first to say so, although she loved him and grieved when the rulers made him consume poison – self sufficient living also needs money! ). In reality, it is not laziness; provided you are embracing the theoretical life only after you are enlightened. It is a laid back life, and you have made provisions for sustainance.

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There are many riders in the definitions of Happiness. Many readers will not agree with this particular  definition of Happiness. No problem! Thinkers after Aristotle have also been thinking about it and debating happiness and the means to achieve it for centuries.

However, if this is the definition of Happiness you accept, you better sell your Car and become a Monk.

Also ponder over William James’ mid-way view that an idea (product of thought process) is really better, which if believed in (and put in to practice), will be helpful in leading a really better life, if there is any. All other ideas warrant thorough questioning.

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Both Plato and Aristotle refuted relativity and subjectivism in Philosophy. They said that any theory and literature with such foundation is just for entertainment.

Both support objective dialogue and discussion- “cause and effect” or “motion” or “mover and that which is moved” to explain any phenomenon or theory.

Let us start the volley, without getting personal. Love All.

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7 Responses to “Happiness, Cause and Effect”

  1. Sanchita Says:

    Pleasure, Happiness and joy is all a state of mind.
    Pleasure is shortlived though. Happiness and joy are are relatively long lasting.

    • rajeevelkunchwar Says:

      Agree. Satisfaction is also a term we always use. Good you thought about it. When it comes to thinking, most will run away.


  2. Ironically, the last part of your article is what intrigues me, until then I could relate with the idea.

    Happiness IS relative, its mere definition changes from person to person. A pragmatic philosopher (which I think is an oxymoron!) cannot rule out the ‘relativity’ part. What’s more, happiness holds a different meaning (and importance) to the same person during various stages in his life.

    Cause-Effect analysis is a nice way of “looking before you leap”. Its not as easy as it seems and is often neglected subconsciously.

    I think one would also have to factor in the input a person receives from the society around him, because it influences large parts of one’s life, especially where availability of and access to free knowledge is limited, and as a result the world itself is limited, e.g. children on the streets are happy playing with a loose bicycle tyre while children from well-heeled families might be just as happy with a Harry Potter book in their hands.

    • rajeevelkunchwar Says:

      As Plato documents, if you went and told him that Happiness is Relative, he would ask you to define Happiness first, before the discussion can continue. He did it for all virtues like Courage. By relativity, they meant guesses without logic or proof (not Einstein’s math).
      Cause and Effect is indeed very useful (a pen and paper need to be at hand all the time), but very difficult when applied to Metaphysics/ Theology/ Ethics. While process mapping if two individuals arrive at the same endpoint and start point, the process is proved. In-between activities and method however can be totally different for each individual.
      Greeks believed in wise men’s opinion (Doxa), but negated blind faith and advocated discussions to challenge it.

      We also had a similar Nyaya Sabha culture (actually there are too many similarities and one wonders if Aristotle- Alexander the great’s mentor – had any influence from our society, sciences and philosophy. Alexander had come too close to India during his crusade).

      In all the writings, the entire emphasis is on (Objective) Thinking. Although every one of them had their theories, “Think and prove us wrong” via discussion was the message, I feel.

    • rajeevelkunchwar Says:

      After Socrates’ death, Plato’s friends advised him to stay away from Greece. He was away for about 12 years. It is not proven, but many believe that he visited the shores of Ganges and learnt Hindu basics. Aristotle was his peer. This explains the similarity between Aristotle and Hindu philosophy.
      (Ref: Introduction in “The Story of Philosophy” by Will Durant)

  3. rajeevelkunchwar Says:

    Funny I discovered that Democritus also possibly visited India.


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