Happiness, usually interpreted as subjective well being / emotional well being or alternatively life satisfaction/ life evaluation, is an elaborate subject with many aspects, a long history and is the subject of much research and publications (see below). A lot of the researchers are organized in the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies. The long standing debate about the influence of wealth on happiness seems to depend on the definition: according to a recent study relative wealth affects life evaluation, but has little effect on emotional well being. Aggregate happiness can probably rise in proportion to the number of people and the time they live (probably not linearly), while the relative status in the society would scale much less so. Status, however, would be expected to be selected for in competitive reproduction while happiness in excess might be selected against, as it could reduce motivation to secure conditions on life, which makes us likely to have an inherent motivation to seek status and less easily to feel happy.
Existence of individuals who can experience is a necessary precondition for happiness.
Creating conditions for as many individuals as possible to exist on earth therefore goes a long way towards maximizing happiness. That does not yet require to make assumptions on how each individual achieves happiness. It would seem to be a motive shared across different cultures and beliefs.
Happiness has value. My own and others' happiness. Let us value happiness and try to create the most of it. The amount of happiness increases as long as there are self-aware beings alive. Let us help to find ways for civilizations to continue. The better these civilizations are at helping the individuals be happy and the less distress they cause, the better of course. To determine that, however, requires assumptions on how such civilizations function or how they should be organized, which even in the present is a rather contested subject with many aspects. No matter how civilizations function, to contribute to creating the most happiness, they must allow life to continue. Therefore the focus of milliongenerations.org is on the ability of continuation, by looking what follows from the assumption that there is at least one civilization on planet earth in a billion years that evolved from currently existing human civilization(s).
References / Researchers / Authors
- Richard A. Easterlin (University of Southern California) asserted in the mid-1990s that beyond a certain threshhold our happiness is depends on relative wealth (i.e., status), which growth can not raise for everyone (Easterlin paradox) The additional benefit of extra absolute wealth certainly reduces as wealth increases. Easterlin publishes about The Economics of Happiness.
- Ed Diener (Univ. of Illinois): Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (2008) and International Differences in Well-Being (2010)
- Robert Emmons (UC Davis)
- Michael Frisch (Baylor Univ): Meaningful Life Project
- Daniel Gilbert (Harvard): Stumbling on Happiness
- Daniel Kahneman (Princeton)
- Randy Larsen (Washington Univ. St. Louis)
- Richard Layard (London School of Economics): published on happiness as a guiding principle / "happiness economics" and contributed to “The Greatest Happiness Principle: Its time has come”, Well-being: How to lead the good life and what government should do to help, (eds) S Griffiths and R Reeves, Social Market Foundation, July 2009
- François Lelord (Univ. Paris Descartes): Le voyage d'Hector ou la recherche du bonheur
- Sonja Lyubomirsky (University of California, Riverside)
- Christopher Peterson (University of Michigan)
- Ulrich Schimmack (Univ. Toronto)
- Martin Seligman (U Penn): Positive Psychology
- Ruut Veenhoven (Erasmus Univ. Rotterdam): World Database of Happiness
- World Database of Happiness - database of research on happiness / life satisfaction (click on "Philosophy" for an introduction: "Happiness is a highly valued matter. Most people agree...")
- International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies
- Lewis Goldberg - International Personality Item Pool A website on personality assessment, in particular on measuring the Big 5
- Robert Biswas-Diener - Intentional Happiness A website on positive psychology coaching
- Journal of Happiness Studies a peer reviewed journal providing "an Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being" - "Coverage includes both cognitive evaluations of life such as life-satisfaction, and affective enjoyment of life, such as mood level". Table of Contents online: http://www.springerlink.com/content/1389-4978