advertisement 1
advertisement
SEARCH:
Saturday, October 1st, 2016                                                 SUBSCRIBE TO OUR RSS FEEDrss feed

The Happiness Hypothesis

Published by on May 8, 2011

The Happiness Hypothesis thumbnail

Of Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, and Historical Narratives

by A. Helian

JONATHAN HAIDT IS ONE OF THE MOST coherent thinkers in the social sciences today. A Professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, he specializes in the study of morality and emotion, and how they vary across cultures. He describes himself as an atheist, and embraces the notion that there is such a thing as “human nature,” in the sense that our behavior is profoundly influenced by innate predispositions. For that alone he would have suffered the anathemas of his fellow experts in the behavioral sciences a few short decades ago. Until quite recently they were still in thrall of the collective delusion that human behavior is almost entirely determined by culture and education. But Haidt doesn’t stop there. His work focuses on our moral nature, and he is of the opinion that moral reasoning is not the basis of moral judgment. Rather, he supports what he calls the social intuitionist model, according to which moral judgments are the result of quick, automatic intuitions, including moral emotions. Moral reasoning commonly only appears after moral decisions have already been made, serving to rationalize them after the fact. Innate, evolved traits play a significant role in the process. In Haidt’s words from the paper, “The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgment,”

The social intuitionist model… proposes that morality, like language, is a major evolutionary adaptation for an intensely social species, built into multiple regions of the brain and body, that is better described as emergent than as learned yet that requires input and shaping from a particular culture. Moral intuitions are therefore both innate and enculturated.

Obviously, we have come a long way since the 60s and 70s, when the entire orthodox scientific establishment was defending the cherished but palpably absurd dogma that “human nature” was almost entirely the result of education and culture, and the effect of innate predispositions of the kind Haidt (pictured above) refers to on human behavior were insignificant. In one of the more remarkable paradigm shifts in scientific history, they have finally been forced by the weight of evidence to abandon that delusion. For all that, they have shown a remarkable resistance to facing the obvious implications of the truth they have finally embraced. Nowhere has that been more true than in the field of morality.

If what Haidt says is true, then human morality is the expression of evolved behavioral traits. As such, it cannot be other than subjective in nature. Objective good and evil cannot exist because there is no legitimate basis for their existence. Morality has no purpose, nor does it serve any higher end. It exists purely and simply because it has increased the odds that carriers of the genes that give rise to it would survive and reproduce those genes. In spite of these seemingly elementary facts, no human illusion is as persistent and resilient as the belief in objective good.

Haidt explores some related issues in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis. It’s a good read, consisting of a collection of interesting ideas, insights and recent research results and concluding with an examination of the question, “What is the meaning of life.” According to Haidt, the question, “What is the meaning of life?” really consists of two sub-questions: What is the purpose of life? and What should be our purpose within life? He does not attempt an answer to the first, but focuses on the second, noting that it refers to what we should do to have a good, happy, fulfilling and meaningful life. Haidt devotes the final portion of the book to the question. There is something rather striking about his answer. It requires acceptance of the theory of group selection.

Why is that striking? Back in the day when, as noted above, virtually the entire orthodox scientific establishment was proclaiming the dogma that “human nature” was almost exclusively the result of education and culture, the most influential and significant writer insisting that the establishment was wrong, recognized as such at the time by proponents of both points of view, was Robert Ardrey. Well, it so happens that Ardrey, a brilliant writer with a profound grasp of the big picture, was right and the establishment was wrong about the role of the innate on human behavior. Yet today his name is hardly mentioned in the same breath with Galileo, or any of the other great destroyers of false orthodoxies in the sciences for that matter. Rather, he has been almost entirely forgotten. It happens, you see, that Ardrey was outside the academic pale. He was, in fact, a playwright for much of his career, and it would be too painful for the guild of “experts” to admit that a mere playwright like Ardrey had correctly insisted on an abundantly obvious truth at a time when they were still collectively defending a cherished but palpably false delusion.

Eventually, when the delusion collapsed, resulting in one of the more remarkable paradigm shifts in the history of the sciences, the “experts” constructed an entire alternative reality, exemplified by Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, according to which, incredibly, Ardrey had been “totally and utterly wrong,” and the real hero had been the more respectable and palatable E.O. Wilson, no matter that the ideas he set forth in books like Sociobiology and On Human Nature were no more than a reformulation of Ardrey’s thought. Now the chances that Pinker ever actually read Ardrey before dismissing him as “totally and utterly wrong” are vanishingly small, but he cited Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene as the basis of his claim, as if Dawkins were as infallible as the pope. Dawkins, in turn, based his entire criticism of Ardrey on some remarks he made in his book The Social Contract about a theory that was of no particular significance whatsoever as far as the fundamental question of the role of the innate on human behavior is concerned. And what was that theory? Why, none other than the theory of group selection, without which Haidt’s “Happiness Hypothesis” evaporates in the mist. It appears that Dawkins was somewhat premature in announcing its demise. Such are the narratives that occasionally pass for “history” in the sciences. Meanwhile, Ardrey remains an unperson. I should think he deserves better.

Read the original article at Helian Unbound

SHARE THIS VIA EMAIL OR SOCIAL MEDIA:
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on VKTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on RedditPrint this page

Related Articles:

Readers' Comments

  1. jbspry on September 16th, 2012 12:51 pm

    “The meaning of Life.”
    This four word phrase is loaded with unproven assumptions, two being that there is in actual fact a meaning that has so far eluded us and that Life with a capital “L” is a unitary identifiable “thing” whose single all-encompassing meaning can, theoretically at least, be discovered.
    Beginning with the second: Life is not a singularity, an all-pervasive force or ens that impresses itself upon objects which are then said to possess or contain life; it is a process that plays itself out in organisms which are then said to “be living”.
    Secondly, to posit a meaning to anything is to implicitly ascribe to it an intent; a thing “means” what it was “meant” beforehand by a conscious will. This is why the religious argue that to deny God is to render life meaningless: His will is the source of meaning (in their view).
    So.
    My view is that “the meaning of Life” is essentially established,or more accurately enacted, by the individual organism experiencing life; the experience of being alive is the meaning of THAT particular life, and so every life has and is its own meaning.

  2. jp on September 14th, 2013 11:44 pm

    jbspry

    So your “view,” I take it, is process-philosophy-infused existentialism?





  • hotbed of anti-semitism
  • US News »

    The American Mercury Endorses Donald Trump for President

    June 1, 2016

    <em>The American Mercury</em> Endorses Donald Trump for President thumbnail

    by Gideon Dene Editor, The American Mercury DONALD TRUMP is the obvious choice for President in 2016. It could even be argued that he is the only real choice Americans have had for a century or more. All of the other candidates have been, and are now, obvious shills for Wall Street and Zionist extremism. […]

    Africa, History »

    ‘The Choice of Achilles’: John Alan Coey Against the New World Order

    January 3, 2013

    ‘The Choice of Achilles’: John Alan Coey Against the New World Order thumbnail

    by T.R. Bennington AS EVER, BUT ESPECIALLY in our present state of civilizational malaise, there is a need for figures with the power to inspire — men who in less confused and cynical times would have been unabashedly described as heroic. One such figure is Corporal John Alan Coey, a young soldier who has perhaps […]

    Science »

    Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth

    March 2, 2015

    Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth thumbnail

    “DOES the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?” If you answered the latter, you’re among a quarter of Americans who also got it wrong, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation. A survey of 2,200 people that was released Friday revealed some alarming truths about […]

  • Reader’s Comments

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Pages

  • Login / Register / RSS

  • Classic Essays »

    Concerning Inflation

    July 23, 2015

    Concerning Inflation thumbnail

    by Garet Garrett NO ONE WOULD be so absurd as to propose that you might restore a nation’s prosperity by changing its weights and measures. Suppose the Government should say, on behalf of the wheat farmer, to increase his income, “Hereafter the half bushel shall be the legal full bushel”; and on behalf of the […]

    Opinion, Reports »

    What’s Wrong with the Real Right? – part 1

    October 19, 2014

    What’s Wrong with the Real Right? – part 1 thumbnail

    by T.R. Bennington FOR ANY political movement that seeks eventual ascendancy, it is incumbent to engage in regular bouts of self-analysis. As a casual but sympathetic observer of the so-called far-right, I have compiled a list of what I believe to be some of the tactical errors and misconceptions made and held respectively by many […]

    Arts, Film, Literature »

    Pauline Kael: One Against the Herd

    May 6, 2012

    Pauline Kael: One Against the Herd thumbnail

    Selected Writings of Pauline Kael; Library of America, 2011 Pauline Kael: Alone in the Dark; Brian Kellow, Viking Adult, 2011 by Ron Capshaw FOR CONSERVATIVES, PAULINE KAEL IS notorious for her much-quoted comment about her astonishment that Nixon won the 1972 election since “everyone I know voted for McGovern.” Despite this prime example of the liberal […]

  • Names and Topics



  • FEATURED ARTICLES

    History »

    Tom Watson: The Official Record in the Case of Leo Frank, a Jew Pervert

    March 19, 2014

    Tom Watson: The Official Record in the Case of Leo Frank, a Jew Pervert thumbnail

    by Thomas E. Watson (pictured), Watson’s Magazine, Volume 21 Number 5, September 1915 IN NEW YORK, there lived a fashionable architect, whose work commanded high prices. He was robust, full of manly vigor, and so erotic that he neglected a handsome and refined young wife to run after little girls. As reported in the papers […]

    History »

    Tom Watson: The Celebrated Case of The State of Georgia vs. Leo Frank

    March 19, 2014

    Tom Watson: The Celebrated Case of The State of Georgia vs. Leo Frank thumbnail

    by Thomas E. Watson (pictured), Watson’s Magazine, Volume 21 Number 4, August 1915 THE LAWS OF Georgia are extraordinarily favorable to a person accused of crime. He is not only protected in all of his rights under the Constitution of the United States, but he enjoys privileges far beyond those limits. No indictment against him […]

    History »

    Tom Watson: A Full Review of the Leo Frank Case

    March 19, 2014

    Tom Watson: A Full Review of the Leo Frank Case thumbnail

    by Thomas E. Watson, Watson’s Magazine, Volume 20 Number 5, March 1915 ON THE 23rd page of Puck, for the week ending January 16, 1915, there is, in the smallest possible type, in the smallest possible space, at the bottom of the page, the notice of ownership, required by law. Mankind are informed that Puck […]

    History »

    Tom Watson: The Leo Frank Case

    March 19, 2014

    Tom Watson: The Leo Frank Case thumbnail

    by Thomas E. Watson (pictured), Watson’s Magazine, Volume 20 Number 3, January 1915 AN AGED MILLIONAIRE of New York had a lawyer named Patrick, and this lawyer poisoned his old client, forged a will in his own favor; was tried, convicted and sentenced—and is now at liberty, a pardoned man. Through the falling out among Wall […]

    History »

    The Leo Frank Trial: Closing Arguments, Solicitor Dorsey

    December 5, 2013

    The Leo Frank Trial: Closing Arguments, Solicitor Dorsey thumbnail

    by Bradford L. Huie THE AMERICAN MERCURY now presents the final closing arguments by Solicitor Hugh Dorsey (pictured) in the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan — a powerful summary of the case and a persuasive argument that played a large part in the decision of the jury to find Frank […]

    History »

    ADL: 100 Years of Hate

    October 20, 2013

    ADL: 100 Years of Hate thumbnail

    by Valdis Bell TODAY MARKS THE 100th anniversary of the largest and most-well funded hate and defamation group in the history of mankind: the Anti-Defamation League, or “ADL.” The organization was originally called the “Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith” after its parent group, the Jewish fraternal order B’nai B’rith (meaning “Sons of the Covenant,” or, […]

    History »

    The Leo Frank Trial: Closing Arguments of Hooper, Arnold, and Rosser

    October 18, 2013

    The Leo Frank Trial: Closing Arguments of Hooper, Arnold, and Rosser thumbnail

    The American Mercury continues its centenary coverage of the trial of Leo Frank for the slaying of Mary Phagan with the closing arguments presented by the prosecution and defense. by Bradford L. Huie IT’S A LONG READ — but an essential one for everyone who wants to consider himself well-informed on the Leo Frank case: […]

    History »

    The Leo Frank Trial: Week Four

    September 14, 2013

    The Leo Frank Trial: Week Four thumbnail

    Join The American Mercury as we recount the events of the final week of the trial of Leo Frank (pictured) for the slaying of Mary Phagan. by Bradford L. Huie ON THE HEELS of Leo Frank’s astounding unsworn statement to the court, the defense called a number of women who stated that they had never […]

    History »

    The Leo Frank Trial: Week Three

    August 26, 2013

    The Leo Frank Trial: Week Three thumbnail

    The trial of Leo Frank (pictured) for the murder of Mary Phagan ended its third week 100 years ago today. Join us as we break through the myths surrounding the case and investigate what really happened. by Bradford L. Huie AS THE THIRD WEEK of the trial dawned, the prosecution had just made its case […]

    History »

    100 Years Ago Today: Leo Frank Takes the Stand

    August 18, 2013

    100 Years Ago Today: Leo Frank Takes the Stand thumbnail

    In a few days the Mercury will present Week Three of the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan. Today, on the 100th anniversary of Leo Frank taking the stand in his own defense, we present a digest of opinion and contemporary sources on his statement. AT THE CLIMAX of the Leo […]