Friday, 17 October 2014

What makes people unhappy

The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russel: Chapter 1
Animals are happy so long as they have health and enough to eat. Human beings on the other hand, in a great majority of cases are not happy. 
Russel said that he wasn't born a happy kid and has continually thought about committing suicide in his adolescence. However, gradually as he got older, he started to realise about a few things. He had become happier and with every passing year, enjoyed life even more. The key to happiness, according to him is to not overly engage oneself in narcissism, and focus more on outwardly objects. He argued that interest in external objects such as the world's affairs, various branches of knowledge, and individuals for whom he felt affection inspire some activities that would create excitement so long as the interest lasts. Interest in oneself on the contrary, leads to no activity of the progressive kind. 
Vanity, when it passes a certain point, kills pleasure in every activity for its own sake, and thus leads inevitably to listlessness and boredom. 
I really enjoy reading Bertrand Russel's writing. I think he is one of a few philosophers who can clearly articulate his thoughts in writing, stripped away from unnecessary ambiguities. It was previously not clear to me that being overly selfish brings unhappiness towards self. But what he said, makes sense. When we are selfish, we think most of the time only of our opinions and disregard others'. Interest in external objects could perhaps makes a significant difference, as we toil our time doing something productive and beneficial. An interest breeds excitement and creates a self-enforcing positive cycle. 

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