The Instigator
DKguy0609
Pro (for)
Losing
28 Points
The Contender
JustCallMeTarzan
Con (against)
Winning
31 Points

happiness is relative to standards and expectations

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/5/2008 Category: Society
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,129 times Debate No: 1421
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (13)

 

DKguy0609

Pro

This debate opens up a question asking: Do we have the power to control our own happiness by curbing expectations or is happiness dependent on external forces? I believe that if a person from modern times were to be sent back in time to an age without much of the technology we have today, they would be very unhappy. This would be because their expectations are much higher than what the external world can give them. However, I also believe that is is possible to change one's mindset and hope for the worst outcomes and therefore experience a better outcome all the time. I believe happiness in completely dependent of our own mindset. Happiness can be chosen, and is not at all dependent on external forces.
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

You ask: "Do we have the power to control our own happiness by curbing expectations or is happiness dependent on external forces?"

I answer: No - happiness is objective to a large extent.

It is a saying of philosophers (I think Berkley) that you do not have to have something's opposite to experience it - thus you do not need pain to understand happiness. This is completely false - upon the removal of pain, one would be able to still distinguish between the degrees of happiness and still prefer one over the other. This is where I shall come from in this debate.

Let us imagine experience to be like a number line. Pure displeasure exists at -100, and pure pleasure at 100. 0 is a medium where one feels neither pleasure nor displeasure. Your argument concerning changing one's mindset would be applied as such: Remove the portion of the number line from -1 to -100 with your mental powers, and you are left with only pleasure. However, your mind can still distinguish between 1 and 100, and thus will label 1 as the new "displeasure" with 50 being a new medium. You may go on removing and substituting as you wish, but eventually, the difference will still exist. You will have just made the slices they represent smaller. It's exactly the same as if the line were to exist between 0 and 10 - the degree would be smaller, but still representing the same change in pleasure.

Let us also consider two people - one lives in extreme poverty, the other in extreme wealth. The person in poverty has experienced so much displeasure already that it is not hard for him to find pleasure. For when one exists at -50 on our number line, -25 appears pleasurable. Likewise, the person in extreme wealth is able to experience 25 as displeasure.

I believe this shows happiness to be an objectively assessable element of one's life. One CANNOT remove the tendency to characterize pleasure as the opposite of displeasure. Holding that one can CHOOSE happiness subjectively, and contrary to experience is akin to saying you can will my shirt to change colors by simply believing it is a different color. You will never see a different color than the shirt actually is unless you change something in your brain or eyeballs - and that is an objective change. Happiness is not able to be chosen independent of experience. It is experience by which you define happiness.
Debate Round No. 1
DKguy0609

Pro

There are several things wrong with your argument

You say that happiness has some objectivity because there is objectivity to pain and pleasure. But this statement is wrong. Take the example of a masochist. They enjoy pain during sex. They enjoy pain, therefore pain is pleasure. In reality, there is no such thing as pain and pleasure. They are created entirely by the mind. Sensory neurons in your body convert a stimulus into a processed signal that travels to your brain. It is simply a way of carrying information to your brain. Take this for example- if a person falls onto cement in scrapes their knee, they are likely to feel pain. This response has grown through evolution because a person is better fit if their attention gets focused on pain because they are more likely to attend to their scrape or cut. Expectations and mindset do not simply shift the pleasure to pain scale. It totally warps and reconstructs the scale.

You say that seeing someone's shirt as a totally different color is an impossibility, however you are mistaken. Thoughts can determine reality to a certain level and certain people have shown extra strength with this concept. There have been many studies with blind people reconfiguring their brain to interpret signals from a camera and regain eyesight. The brain is proven to be a plastic organ. It can redesign its inter-neural network.

I think what inhibits you from understanding that happiness is relative to expectations and standards is the influence of others. For example, if five people in a room see someone's shirt as green, the sixth person is more likely to see it as green. Everyone has preconceived notions of what is good and bad based on a collective unconscious. However, I am simply stating that is possible to change one's mindset and therefore perceive happiness at will. It is possible to tune out other people's thoughts about what color a shirt is and will it to be a different color.
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

You attempt to poke holes in my argument by applying verbal technicalities doesn't work. In order to actually FEEL pain or pleasure, it must have a cause. Clearly, this cause cannot be subjective, else one would be able to simply create happiness out of nothing. And if this were the case, nobody would ever be unhappy, which is clearly NOT the case. In reality, there are events that will be interpreted as pain or pleasure. These events are entirely objective - not under any sort of control by a perceiver. While one might be able to consider the responses to these events as subjective, the fact remains that the event caused the experience, not the mind.

I'm not sure you're versed in basic science... a shirt IS the color it is. It is a FACT that light of only certain wavelengths will reflect from the fabric in the shirt. Thoughts DO NOT determine reality. Even Kant, who holds that objects and experience conform to mind would not agree that thoughts determine reality to ANY extent. There is an objective reality regardless of what the mind perceives.

The response of the mind to this objective reality is not entirely subjective. "Normal" perceivers see the world in roughly the same way. We all see objects that reflect light in the same wavelength as the same color - indeed, we could see them in no other way. A perfect indicator that thoughts don't determine reality is that your thoughts cannot change what color I perceive a shirt to be - the individual CANNOT influence objective reality. The mind cannot create pleasure - it simply fools the brain.

The brain contains native centers that are activated by sensation - I would suggest that masochism activates both pleasure and pain receptors. As you point out, evolution makes it most likely that they feel pain. They may feel pleasure as well, but by its very definition, a masochist's pleasure depends on feeling pain.

This nonsense about collective consciousness determining reality is bogus. Simply because 5 out of 6 people believe a shirt is green doesn't make it more likely that the 6th will believe it is green as well. The 6th will see the shirt as the same color as everything else they've ever seen that is that color. Everyone's notion about what is painful and pleasurable is based on preference, not collective conscious. Perhaps I find eating hot peppers to be pleasurable. The collective certainly doesn't consider that pleasurable.

Setting lower standards will not make you happy - that is simply the excuse people make for why their lives don't measure up to their original expectations. If such action is possible, I challenge you to live on the streets of Chicago with no money at all and find happiness in everything. Go to a relative's funeral and be joyous.

You cannot CREATE happiness. It is objectively assessable and not mind-dependent. Belief that changing standards and expectations is an appeal to why one's life is not as good as they hoped.
Debate Round No. 2
DKguy0609

Pro

"a shirt IS the color it is. It is a FACT that light of only certain wavelengths will reflect from the fabric in the shirt."

It is true that only certain wavelengths will reflect from a fabric in a shirt. But the jump from this objective reality to the perception in the brain is all interpretation. Frequencies and wavelengths of light are objective things. All observers will measure them to be the same. But color is perception, it is not objective. It is a construct of the mind that helps us compare and make sense of things. For example, certain animals can see infared and even ultraviolet light. Does this mean that light of those really high and low frequencies is of a certain color? No, it is all based on perception of a conscious being. Color is not objective. It is the same thing with the sense of smell. There exist a certain objectivty like the basic chemical makeup of compounds, but different people will experience the ODORS differently.

"Simply because 5 out of 6 people believe a shirt is green doesn't make it more likely that the 6th will believe it is green as well."

Have you ever heard of the famous psychologist, Solomon Asch. He did plenty of experimenting on social conformity and proved that peoples' perceptions can change based on the influence of others. He showed two posters to subjects. One poster had three lines on it, marked A, B, and C. The other had one line that was equal in length to either A, B, or C and it was obvious which was the right answer. If Asch used confederates to purposely give the wrong answer, the results of the subject were drastically skewed. One explanation may be that this is just a change in conscious judgement, but a similar experiment in 2005 was done while and MRI was taken and subjects showed physiological changes in the section of the brain associated with spatial awareness.

While attending a relative's funeral is not usually a happy event, it is possible to dissociate feelings or sadness and instead think about all the happy times you had with that relative. In the Buddhist religion, life's ultimate quest is to reach nirvana, or eternal bliss. This state is largely dependent on the mindset of a person. Many Buddhists have lived lives of poverty and still manage to be happy. How can you take evidence like that and refute it. I'll bet that the average happiness of devoted Buddhist that live in poverty is greater than wealthy Americans.
JustCallMeTarzan

Con

"Frequencies and wavelengths of light are objective things. All observers will measure them to be the same."

Exactly my point - what does it matter that you and I call the same color by different names??? Is the shirt blue or is it azul?

This experiment by Asch depends on people knowing what the others around them think. If you redo the experiment, but isolate the people, then there is absolutely no corroboration at all for this social conformity nonsense.

"While attending a relative's funeral is not usually a happy event, it is possible to dissociate feelings or sadness and instead think about all the happy times you had with that relative."

You are simply changing what you're thinking about. You cannot conjure happiness while thinking about the death of a relative.

"How can you take evidence like that and refute it. I'll bet that the average happiness of devoted Buddhist that live in poverty is greater than wealthy Americans."

I can refute it with the example I raised in my first response. If one objectively assesses happiness, the Buddhists in poverty have a much wider range of happiness available to them because they are lower on the "happiness scale." Similarly, the Americans have less happiness "available" to them.

Another refutation is that if happiness is truly mind-dependent, you should be able to remove that wealthy American, and place him in poverty, and he would immediately be happy upon assuming the mindset of the impoverished. That is utter nonsense.

I'm going to assume you have no refutation for my other arguments that you didn't respond do - pasted below for review by the voters.

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The brain contains native centers that are activated by sensation - I would suggest that masochism activates both pleasure and pain receptors. As you point out, evolution makes it most likely that they feel pain. They may feel pleasure as well, but by its very definition, a masochist's pleasure depends on feeling pain.

Setting lower standards will not make you happy - that is simply the excuse people make for why their lives don't measure up to their original expectations. If such action is possible, I challenge you to live on the streets of Chicago with no money at all and find happiness in everything.

You cannot CREATE happiness. It is objectively assessable and not mind-dependent. Belief that changing standards and expectations is an appeal to why one's life is not as good as they hoped.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by kcaridine 9 years ago
kcaridine
There are no sensor/receptors neurons for pleasure or pain. It is actually a pressure sensor which then triggers hormones that the human mind accordingly determines as pleausreable or not.
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Vote Placed by JustCallMeTarzan 8 years ago
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