Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
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A molecular biologist turned Buddhist monk, described by scientists as "the happiest man alive," demonstrates how to develop the inner conditions for true happiness.
death. The self is not merely the sum of “my” limbs, “my” organs, “my” skin, “my” name, “my” consciousness, but their exclusive owner. We speak of “my arm” and not of an “elongated extension of my self.” If our arm is cut off, the self has simply lost an arm but remains intact. A person without limbs feels his physical integrity to be diminished, but clearly believes he has preserved his self. If the body is cut into cross sections, at what point does the self begin to vanish? We perceive a self
speech in general. It would be hard to stray further from justice. In asserting the priority of the just over the good, Rawls is idealizing the just and depreciating the good by presupposing man to be fundamentally selfish and unable to function without first calculating his own best interests. Since each desires to protect his interests, his conception of the good, no one has a reason to acquiesce in an enduring loss for himself in order to bring about a greater net balance of satisfaction.
ETHICS AND NEUROSCIENCE When we face an ethical dilemma, a compassionate utilitarian approach requires a lucid analysis of the situation and a genuinely altruistic motivation. For this we must overcome the powerful emotional conflicts that arise when the decision entails a painful sacrifice or a personal loss. Recent neuroscience research indicates that brain regions associated with reasoning and cognitive control are involved in resolving moral dilemmas in which utilitarian values require
adhere to absolute laws, alienated from divine commandments, dismayed by the thought that humankind is fundamentally evil, and confined to a fluctuating ethic based on the opposing theories of myriad philosophers and moralists, modern man is at a loss. Writes Han de Wit: “This fiasco has given birth to moral defeatism at the very heart of modern Western culture.”17 For its part, the ethic of genuine altruism, informed by the discoveries of neuroscience, prefers to navigate the ceaseless current
Well-Being, 204. (back to text) 3. Ekman, Davidson, Ricard, and Wallace, op. cit. (back to text) 4. Ibid. (back to text) 5. L. Cosmides and J. Tooby, “Evolutionary Psychology and the Emotions,” in M. L. Lewis and J. Haviland-Jones, eds., Handbook of Emotions, 2nd ed. (New York, Guilford, 2000). P. Ekman and W. V. Friesen, “The Repertoire of Nonverbal Behavior: Categories, Origins, Usage, and Coding,” Semiotica 1 (1969), 49-98. C. Izard, The Face of Emotion (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts,