Why bad people can be happy

and good people can be miserable. But can miserable people be good and happy?

5:30 am/5:31/8:02, 67/91. Biologist E.O. Wilson, who last year he published The Meaning of Human Existence, is 86 today. It’s also the birthday of Saul Bellow, whose character Herzog wrote letters to dead philosophers, and who fathered a child at age 84. That must mean something.

Bellow’s Dad didn’t support his literary aspirations. “It’s just writing, then erasing. What kind of profession is that?” So he also taught, not for the money but for a “humanity bath” and a regular opportunity to talk about books. “After all, that’s what life used to be for writers: they talk books, politics, history, America.” WA

A new happiness book came out yesterday, Happiness and Goodness: Philosophical Reflections on Living Well. My friend Talisse wrote in the foreword that “the direct and often playful tone of this text should not be mistaken for simplemindedness or naivete.” Happy to hear that, as one who also tries to perpetrate a direct and playful tone in my writing.

…happiness is neither mysterious nor particularly difficult to achieve. It does not require a love of truth or an overriding desire to avoid ignorance and illusion; nor it it reserved only for those who engage in lofty intellectual pursuits, such as philosophy. To be happy, they say, is to engage in those activities that one finds to be particularly enjoyable, whatever they may be. Of course, the pursuit of this enjoyment must be guided by prudence. Living well, then, is pursuing enjoyment prudently and within the bounds of morality.

Or as he tweeted last night, even more succinctly,

11h11 hours ago

A neat little book about why bad people can be happy. Foreword by a bad happy guy… Great beach reading.  

Oh… Almost forgot. The book also proves that good people can be miserable. A great gift!

 Rob doesn’t mean that misery is a gift, he’s just trying to sell some books here. He’s also giving voice, as he often does, to the spirit of J.S. Mill.

Time to go “engage in an activity I find to be particularly enjoyable” myself, within bounds of prudence of course. It’s the walk of life, and it doesn’t make me a bad person at all. I’ll think some more about goodness and happiness, but not so much about misery.

 

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