Good news to be happy about: happiness doesn’t exist

This title might very well be conflicting and startling. It is not intended to be either of those; however, there are few words to be said about this topic – a topic that too many words have been said for centuries.

Happiness is a feeling. We as humans have limited capabilities of expressing feelings. In everyday life, this incapability does not become apparent because we don’t really get into deep conversations where we might end up trying the exact meaning of a certain feeling. Yes, we consider that our feelings are pretty much the same, we feel sad when we lose something or someone. We feel excited by a trip to abroad. Trouble kicks in when we try to understand what someone else feels. Since the topic is happiness, that is going to be our example.

If there was only one adjective to describe happiness, it would be accurate to use the word slippery. Happiness comes and goes; we don’t seem to be able to keep it forever. You might have a friend who just posted a photo of their favourite food on Instagram saying “happiness overload”. It is the type of happiness that will last around 15 minutes depending on how fast your friend eats. It is very naive of us – humans to strive for happiness thinking once we achieve it, it will last. Longevity of happiness isn’t even the main issue though because what if it doesn’t exist? Ludwig Wittgenstein is the philosopher who introduced The Beetle in a box thought experiment in 1953 in his Philosophical Investigations. He invites us to imagine a community in which each person has a box containing a beetle. No one is allowed to look in anyone else’s box but everyone knows what a beetle is by looking what is in their own box. One person might have a tennis ball while someone else has toy car.  We can, then, come to the conclusion that the word “happiness” does not directly refer to the sensation because if it did, only we (you – the individual person) could know what that sensation is.

Feelings are private and that is why when trying to achieve happiness, we shouldn’t compare it to anyone else’s – the supposed, ultimate happiness. Whatever sensation it is that you have in your box, it should be your objective.


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