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New Meetup: Socrates Cafe July Meetup

From: Andy
Sent on: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 3:04 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for Socrates Cafe!

What: Socrates Cafe July Meetup

When: July 18,[masked]:00 AM

San Francisco Oven
1110 E Republic Rd Republic & National
Springfield, MO 65801

Aristotle called happiness (for him, eudaimonia) "that at which all things aim." Alexander Pope concurred:

O happiness! our being?s end and aim!
Good, pleasure, ease, content! whate?er thy name:
That something still which prompts the eternal sigh,
For which we bear to live, or dare to die.

The great Utilitarian John Stuart Mill considered happiness "the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being only desirable as a means to that end," and he put happiness at the center of his moral philosophy.

But is happiness something that can be profitably pursued? The 18th-century Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant dismissed the concept of happiness as too indefinite to serve as a foundation of ethics:

The concept of perfect happiness is such a vague concept that although everyone wants it, they can never say definitely and self-consistently what it really is that they wish and will. ... Now it is impossible for even the most insightful and most capable but finite being to form here a definite concept of what he really wants. Is it riches that he wants? How much anxiety, envy, and intrigue might he not bring on his own head in this way! Is it knowledge and insight? This might just give him an eye even sharper in seeing evils at present hidden from him and yet unavoidable, making those evils all the more frightful, or it might add a load of still further needs to the desires which already give him trouble enough. Is it long life? Who will guarantee that it would not be a life of long misery? Is it at least health? How often has not physical infirmity kept someone from excesses into which perfect health would have let him fall! -- and so on.

Nowadays, Kant's pessimism about the efficacy of deliberate efforts to achieve greater happiness is not widely shared. Witness the profusion of volumes from spiritual and psychological gurus that line the shelves of bookstores' self-help sections. Even academic psychologists -- who tend to think in more complex terms than self-help gurus -- have begun to get in on the action, conducting and publishing empirical research about factors that generally contribute to or detract from a subjective sense of well-being.

Drawing on our collective experience of life, and reading of relevant literature, we will devote our next Meetup to a discussion of the nature of happiness. Is happiness just a subjective sense of well-being? Or can someone feel happy while not truly being happy? Is happiness a result of what we do? What we possess? The way we think? How integral are relationships, romantic and platonic, to happiness? Can a person be genuinely happy only if she loves God and knows God's love, as many theists maintain?

These are the sorts of questions we will explore next time. Hope to see you at the San Francisco Oven! (The Panera meeting rooms are so hard to get on Saturday mornings.)

Yours in Socrates,

P.S. I have gotten suggestions from a couple of you about meeting places and times, as well as discussion topics. I prefer that such matters be decided by the group, so far as possible. You should feel free to propose new meeting places and times, and new discussion topics, at the end of our meetings. Having founded the Springfield Socrates Cafe and attended all its meetings, I have the impression that Saturday mornings are most convenient for members in general.

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