On Philosophical Pragmatism - A brief intro, and why happiness is the logical choice
I've seen so much nihilism and edginess floating around the internet lately. There's an air or arrogant ignorance, where people genuinely believe that happiness, contentment, and any other form of joy (especially in media) is in some way uneducated, unsophisticated or artistically deficient. If someone is happy, clearly they must be fools, these people seem to think. To these people, living an unhappy or meaningless life is an acceptable or even required state because that's just the "truth" of how life is. It's more important to them that they are "correct" than they be happy.
Given a couple relatively straightforward premises, I believe that I have formed (more re-discovered, there are many who have thought this before) a logical framework by which it is not only more desirable to be happy, but actually a logically and more philosophically sound position to take.
- Premise 1: Given an absence of evidence, it is preferable to believe whichever belief will result in the most benefit for humanity at large.
- Premise 2: More joy in humanity is preferable to a lack of joy.
- Premise 3: You are a human.
- Conclusion: Therefore, whenever there is a lack of evidence, or even a split on evidence it is superior to choose to believe that option which creates more joy (while at the same time, of course, allowing yourself to prepare for negative contingencies).
It's pretty clear that I am not a philosopher, but I have found this perspective helpful in my own life and I think if you consider it closely it may have a similar impact for you. Of course, you should not take this too far, and you MUST weigh all of the evidence if you don't want to bury your head in the sand; but there is a safe medium that will result in a joyful and purposeful life for you and those you care about.
For example, not believing in climate change might make you happier in the short term, but believing in climate change (even if hypothetically you were unconvinced of the evidence) will result in actions that have some chance of resulting in more net joy in the long run. Ideally you find a belief that allows you to act upon the potential threat of climate change while at the same time not sacrificing your current joy.
The only innovation here, if you can call it that, is that I suggest you factor in the relative effect that holding a belief as a part of the outcome. This can be applied to many other important life decisions. For example:
Should I be an atheist?
If you ask yourself this question, you could choose to only evaluate the raw evidence. OR you could choose to factor in the relative effect that holding a belief has upon you. For example, you may notice that people who hold certain beliefs tend to behave more judgmentally. You may notice that others seem to on average be more joyful. These are important things to consider when making decisions like this.
One other minor paradigm shift is that I encourage you to consider your beliefs to be decisions. You decide what you believe. That is a choice you make. It's a bit hard to feel it, but I assure you that if you make a conscious effort to change your belief about something, you can do it; and it's not even that hard. I may write an article on that later down the line.