The Instigator
Pro (for)
1 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Money Can Buy Happiness.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/2/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,605 times Debate No: 67713
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (32)
Votes (2)




Money Can Buy Happiness

This should be impossible to accept. If you can then you lose. If you would like to debate me leave a comment.

I recently did a forum on this subject and it sparked interesting conversation, so I decided to do a debate on it.

Money: Cash, Dollars, I think its pretty self explanatory.
Buy: exchange money for an object or service.
Happiness: The emotion of Happiness.

First round is acceptance only
forfeit in any round means automatic loss
BoP is shared
I must show that Money Can Buy Happiness, and Con must show Money cannot buy happiness.


Thank you for the challenge.
Per your stipulation, I confer my acceptance of the debate and pass to you for opening. Best of luck with your argumentation and at the polls.
Debate Round No. 1


All right, since I already did definitions I'm going to stick with those and go straight to my argument.

Money Can Buy Happiness

For nearly every person I have ever met, giving them money brings happiness. For almost every person I know, buying things that they want, brings them happiness. Money can buy things that make people happy, for some that may be drugs, alcohol, sports, toys, video games, food, clothes, partying and so on. All of these things can be bought. It is even possible to buy family (through adoption) and more friends with money. The quality of those friends may be questionable, but friends are still friends.

I would like to point out early on, by saying "buying happiness" I don't mean life long happiness. That is impossible, happiness is a temporary emotion. That is the happiness money can buy, even if it leads directly to sadness (i.e. through drugs and alcohol) the happiness it brings due to money is still there at the beginning. My argument is not that money always brings happiness, or cannot bring sadness. What I am saying is that for the majority of people the obtaining and spending of money on things that pleasure them brings happiness.


Thank you again for the debate, Rubikx, and for having the nerve to pick the position which is harder to defend. I look forward to a spirited engagement.

I accept your definitions, except for happiness. Your definition is a tautology. I propose:

Happiness: a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy (1).

For this debate it is important that we point out that happiness transcends pleasure, elation, etc in that it is a broader, longer-lasting, dispositional state of mind rather than a transient mood.

I will begin with rebuttals, and then present my position.


1. You have of course engaged in anecdotal speculation in the first paragraph. This is a good starting place for investigation, but does not constitute a sound argument.

2. You have no means of determining their happiness, so you don't know that money makes them happy (or sad).

3. You are confusing correlation with causation; how can you dismiss the possibility that there may be more rich people in your area, especially living in a developed country, and that the lifestyle and lack of disease and relative safety are what lead to happiness, but by pure numbers there must be a higher number of rich happy people than elsewhere in the world?

4. I think you are wrong about "happiness being a temporary emotion"; having sex causes pleasure, not happiness. Wining a medal is rewarding and gives you what we call 'joy' or a sense of accomplishment, but in and of itself this is not what is widely regarded as happiness.


You are dismissing your definition of 'buy'

Firstly, you are dismissing your own definition.
"Buy: exchange money for an object or service."

By definition, you cannot 'buy' happiness because it is not an object or service.
Now, this may seem like pointless semantic nitpicking, but it's actually a crucial logical implement that we have to employ to answer our question. Let me explain.

When you have eaten enough food, you are full, or 'satiated'. (2)
Now in a symbolic sense we can say that money buys satiety. But it doesn't exactly. Money buys food, which, when consumed, leads to satiety. A leads to B which leads to C. But that does NOT permit you to say that B = C, or that A = C. What happens, for instance, if you buy food but don't eat it? Then you aren't satiated.

This is part of the trouble with the problem of curing world poverty; throwing money at it doesn't seem to make it go away. What is ALSO required is thinking power, planning, space, agricultural education and a host of other intermediary points. Now these things can be bought with money, but they can also be donated or volunteered. Before money, there was a barter system. The point is this: the money might buy you things which may give you pleasure, but it's the things or the people or the places you travel or your experiences or accumulated knowledge about the world that amalgamate into something we call happiness. And money cannot purchase this emotion because money has, by definition, no inherent value. It is completely valueless plastic, metal and paper, and its currency is only valuable to the extent that we ascribe it.

For these and a number of other reasons that I will discuss later, Money cannot purchase happiness, because that's not how money works.

Best of luck,


(1) []
(2) []
Debate Round No. 2


I must disagree with you here and would like to clarify the difference between an emotion and a mental state.
AN EMOTION is "a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others."
For example. I walk up to a person on the street and slap them. Instantly they will feel mad, confused, shocked. But just because they are temporarily upset due to a physical response doesn't mean their entire outlook on life has change and are thus upset for the rest of their lives. Thats not how emotions work. They are temporary influencers not long term deciders.
A MENTAL state is "a mental condition in which the qualities of a state are relatively constant even though the state itself may be dynamic". Using my previous example. The person I slapped may soon forgive me because they choose to accept what has happened to them even though their emotional state would make them want to slap me back. They can choose to be optimistic about being slapped even though they will be temporarily upset. Their conscious mind has a larger impact. There is a very big difference between the two. Happiness is an emotion, not a mental state.
Sources in comments.. sorry couldn't fit them in
"You have no means of determining their happiness, so you don't know that money makes them happy (or sad)."
This is partially true, you cannot measure happiness. But this is also true with pain. There is no way of measuring pain because it is subjective. But if you ask a person if they are in pain they know how much pain they are in they will tell you despite the fact that you can't actually measure it. Using the slapping example once more. I can't measure pain, so that means I don't know if slapping someone creates pain? Of coarse not, I know both from experience and from watching their body language and their verbal response whether or not they are happy or in pain, even if I can't actually measure it.
I do live in a developed country, but I have also lived in South America near lots of poverty, I have also lived in the US near people and places that where also suffering financially. And regardless of where I've lived giving people money gave them happiness.
This is also partially true, you cannot go to a store and buy a jar of happiness. That was a grammatical error on my part. Using your A,B,C example. A leads to B and on to C. While its true A doesn't equal C, you still require A to get to C. It all comes down to semantics. It could be argued the actual eating (swallowing) of the food doesn't bring nourishment. It is the digestive system that provides nourishment when given food and so swallowing food doesn't actually give you nourishment. I hope this gets my point across and we don't have to waste this debate arguing over a grammatical fault. What I should have said originally was "Money can buy things that provide happiness" even though the idea is still the same. I would hate to waste this debate over a small error.
Yes, but giving money to people who need it still gives happiness to both the receiver and giver. It doesn't necessarily cure poverty as the problem often isn't just that they have no money, but it does provide happiness.
But we still give it value. If a kid gives their mom a painting, it has sentimental value even if its market price is zero. Currency value isn't the only way to measure the value of an object. The painting has a value of zero, its worth nothing. But that mother still won't give it up because it is valuable to them. Value can be both subjective and objective. Some people place more value on money then others even if its technically the same.
I would like to point out that I'm not saying family, friends, and experiences don't bring happiness, because they do. I'm only saying so can money
Thank You and Good luck


Thank you once again for your round.

I'm not sure whether you have misunderstood my positions, or are misrepresenting them. I will first provide some clarifications, then go on to demonstrate further that Money Cannot Buy Happiness.


You are misrepresenting the distinction between mood and emotion.

Mood: A mood is an emotional state. Moods differ from emotions in that they are less specific, less intense, and less likely to be triggered by a particular stimulus or event. (1)

Emotion: state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. (as per your definition).

You try, in your paragraph, to distinguish between an Emotion and a 'Mental State' (which is not frequently used in the literature), however you acknowledge in your own definition that an emotion is a 'state of mind' i.e. mental state. You say "Happiness is an emotion, not a mental state" but claim that an emotion is one type of mental state. I object to the usage of the term mental state as it is informal and not in the psychological literature.

You then say that I said we have no means of determining happiness. This is not what I said and it isn't true. Although we can't objectively measure the 'stuff' of happiness, we have gotten pretty good at using standardised indicies and meaned scales to determine a person's relative happiness against a standard control index. Same as for pain; we do have pain scales, which are hard to validate in the objective sense but are statistically reliable enough to use as a guide of relative pain (which is where we derive 'thresholds', etc).

Regardless, this entire detour is a deviation from the topic, however I of course must rebut your contentions to avoid concession.

In your next paragraph you concede the debate: "you cannot go to a store and buy a jar of happiness".
You then go on to bizarrely implement what can only be described as poor syllogistic leading. Specifically, your fallacy is called 'Affirming the Consequent' - I haven't the space to expound here, check source (2).

This is not a small error, it is the cornerstone of this debate. Let's say we cut out the middle man and give a person a house, or food, or take them overseas. The happiness they derive comes from those experiences or whatever the case may be. People are excited and rewarded by money because of its purchasing power, which is linearly correlated with the value of goods produced in the economy. It is representative, symbolic of real things. Of itself, it is nothing. This is why money cannot purchase happiness, but the things that money purchases can sometimes lead to satisfaction and a happier life.

Since you seem to be permitting anecdotes, let me supply one for you. Last year I spent two and a half months travelling through South-East Asia. The poorest country I visited on my trip was Cambodia, and they were by far the happiest and kindest people. I'm not saying they're related, and I have no evidence of this, it is purely anecdote, but that's how it is.

Render of new arguments in simple structure:

1. Even if money brings happiness, it is not purchasing happiness.
2. According the Happy Planet Index, some of the poorest countries are happier than the US or other Western countries:
- Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are all examples of poorer countries who have happiness threshold far, far above the West (3). Costa Rica sits at an index of 64.0, while the US is a dismal 37.3 (4) - wouldn't want to live there! My country isn't a whole lot better, admittedly.
3. The fundamental point is that not only can money not buy happiness in the technical sense, it also objectively doesn't.

Over to you.

(1) []
(2) []
(3) []
(4) [Ibid.]
Debate Round No. 3


Sorry in advance if I seem rushed and thus miss grammatical inferences. I have several Final exams right now, although I suppose thats my fault for starting the debate now. I will do by best from now on to avoid any more of these circumstances.

Mood vs Emotion vs state of mind (Mental State).
Sorry for using Mental State. I am not proficient in psychological literature, by using mental state I meant state of mind as I assumed they where basically the same thing.

As for mood vs emotion, I don't really see the big difference. For the purposes of the debate I think we should stick to emotions rather then moods as happiness is a temporary emotion not a mood.

I suppose the best way to describe the way I see the difference between emotion and state of mind is through yet another analogy. The way I see it, emotions are like the weather, they change often and are hard to predict. Whereas the state of mind is more like the climate, it is mostly constant and changes only due to massive world wide climate events. Money can easily influence an emotion, however it is much harder influence the state of mind. A persons entire outlook on life (which is largely influence by their state of mind) doesn't change because they found a couple bucks. However, their immediate emotional response will change for just a few dollars.

Measuring Happiness.
Sorry, I did misinterpret your statement "You have no means of determining their happiness, so you don't know that money makes them happy (or sad)". I assumed you meant objectively measuring happiness and not measuring their relative emotional state. I agree with you, we cannot objectively measure happiness (or pain), we can simply compare it to others.

Buying A Jar of happiness.
By saying "You cannot go to a store and buy a jar of happiness" I was saying there is no physical manifestation of happiness as it is an emotion. However, you can still pay for emotions. Emotions are a part of purchasing anything. No matter what I buy, I will experience emotions. I can be regretting my purchase or satisfied that I finally got something I wanted, or I can be mad that it cost so much. Not matter what you do you will experience some emotions with it.
If I go to the theatre and pay to watch I movie, what am I buying? I am essentially renting out a seat in a room and paying to experience emotions and gather new memories through a sequence of images shown on a screen. Therefore I am buying the emotional experience. I have just given money in order to get those emotions and memories. If that emotional experience is happiness, then I just bought happiness. I didn't buy any physical thing. I paid to get a chemical reaction in my brain caused by lights that we call memories and emotions.

I fear you missed the last part of my previous argument. "I would like to point out that I'm not saying family, friends, and experiences don't bring happiness, because they do. I'm only saying so can money". This is a HUGE point in my argument. Experiences, family and friends all do bring happiness. I am merely saying so can money. I agree with you on that rich countries aren't always the happiest and that people without money don't need money to be happy. I am arguing that money CAN buy happiness, NOT that nothing else can bring happiness. There is a very big difference between the two.

Thank-you and Good luck.


Many thanks to my opponent for a civil and straightforward debate.
I wish my opponent the best of luck with examinations.

I will skip past most of the beginning parts of your argument, because I'm afraid we got bogged down in the technical aspects of emotions, moods, etc. and while these are important they are not the crux of the debate.

What we are really asking here is whether 'happiness' (as a mood, mental state or emotion) can be purchased. That is, can we conduct a transaction with money to acquire happiness? The only protest I will issue here is that I believe happiness is more along the lines of how you describe a 'state of mind' - that is, NOT temporary and fleeting, but a permanent personality trait. One achieves happiness in one's life, but joy and pleasure and sadness and pain are all temporary and can be felt day-to-day. We aren't here to settle this point of difference, but I think it's important, and I disagree with your assertion that happiness can be classified in the transient category.

I will now explain the crucial part of the debate, and why money cannot buy happiness, using your own analogies.

I'm glad you brought up movies, and we can apply the same to food or cats or the Internet or travel or books or whatever else brings a person pleasure. I want to make these points:

- money is fungible, but those experiences are not - herein lies the stage for our question.
- paying $17 to see a movie vs $17 for a soccer ball will give you different degrees of satiety and pleasure, as well as different types, even though you've spent the same amount of money.
- we can then infer that it is the movie or the soccer ball which brings the pleasure to varying degrees depending on which you prefer, not the money that acquired it.
- we can reverse-check this by extrapolating the data we collected: if there was no money in this transaction, but, say, trading one soccer ball for one movie ticket, the satisfaction of the viewing experience is achieved.

And, of course, the critical point which I must reiterate, your definition:
Buy: exchange money for an object or service.
By definition, happiness cannot be transacted. Happiness cannot be purchased in the sense of a commercial exchange. I recognise that you are not saying that money is the only thing that can buy happiness, or that it always does, but I contend that by definition, money cannot and never does buy happiness.

Best of luck at the polls. I enjoyed the debate.

With respect,
Debate Round No. 4
32 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by InnovativeEphemera 2 years ago
I guess you're right, I should calm down. Mod has been notified, not my problem anymore.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
People like to dispute votes, like you're doing. What they don't realize is that if they want to do so, they're attempting to change the scoring of a debate. That can go in either direction, depending upon what you say in your dispute. It went against you, it's one point, calm down.
Posted by InnovativeEphemera 2 years ago
"I changed my vote to reflect being called "lame" in comments when disputing my original non-vote."

Firstly, I did NOT call you lame. Secondly, Google the word "lame", notice that it is hyphenated with another word, and try to see if you can work out what was meant in the context.
Posted by InnovativeEphemera 2 years ago
Your vote can be devalued if your voting privileges are withdrawn. Both my opponent and I were civil and well-mannered during the debate. Your vote is misrepresentative of the engagement, and is unfair. You're voting out of spite, not the presentation of the debate.
Posted by InnovativeEphemera 2 years ago
No, you asked a question in the comments section and I answered in the comments section. I posted no sources in the comments section which I then cited in the debate. Sorry. I appreciate criticism and constructive feedback but voting conduct due to the comment section is poor form and has nothing to do with the quality of the debate.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
I've read the debate and my vote stands. I only vote on conduct, and yours has been quite poor, sorry.


"How about posting sources and additional arguments in the comments? "

That's exactly what you did. I don't hold it against you, but if you're trying to accuse your opponent of doing that, you're guilty of the same.
Posted by InnovativeEphemera 2 years ago
Lame means feeble. You justification is feeble. How about posting sources and additional arguments in the comments? That's bad conduct. I am contesting/reporting your vote on grounds that you didn't read the debate and are not voting fairly, and are voting based on the comments section, not the debate.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
Actually, I will score conduct against you. Calling someone "lame" is poor conduct. I only score conduct if I choose to score debates, and you've earned a demerit.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
"Next time, before you make a lame-footed attempt to make yourself sound erudite "

rofl, apparently anything you find disagreeable is "lame". Speaks to your judgment sadly.


"and end up actually commenting/casting a tie-vote in a public post on a single element of a debate, consider whether that will harm the value and respect afforded to future votes and comments you cast."

Votes don't have value, that's why I don't vote. I didn't cast a "tie-vote", I would have said so if I did.

I don't hold scoring debates here, and the more you debate here the less you will respect the score. It holds little to no meaning, and what meaning it does hold does not convey what you want it to convey.
Posted by InnovativeEphemera 2 years ago
Next time, before you make a lame-footed attempt to make yourself sound erudite and end up actually commenting/casting a tie-vote in a public post on a single element of a debate, consider whether that will harm the value and respect afforded to future votes and comments you cast.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: see comments: -- I changed my vote to reflect being called "lame" in comments when disputing my original non-vote.
Vote Placed by Zarroette 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Voting on request. A shared BoP makes this debate a bit difficult to judge, but I will simply weigh who had the better arguments. I have to give source points to Con, due to being the only debater to use any and because they helped make his argument. The faulty definition of "buy" seriously hurt Pro's argument, and it was unfortunate because the debate might have swung the other way had the definition aligned with Pro's arguments. Con gets some serious impact out of this argument. In fact, this point alone is too much for Pro to recover from. So, arguments to Con. Feel free to PM me if you're not happy with this vote.