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Happiness and Well-Beingrecording...
Transcription by Alice Swanson '07 · Full speech and Q & A.

HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING

PETER RAILTON

APRIL 28, 2005

INTRODUCTION

Hi. I'd like to welcome you to the final talk in this year's lecture series on well-being sponsored by the Philosophy Department at Amherst College and the Forry and Micken Fund, Lecture Fund in Philosophy and Science. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to introduce Professor Peter Railton whose work I've long admired. Railton is best known for his spirited and, to my mind, absolutely compelling, defense of a naturalistic version of moral realism, but he's also contributed significantly to our understanding of aesthetics and scientific explanation. A collection of his many important papers on values, norms, and objectivity was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Professor Railton received his BA from Harvard and his PhD from Princeton, and from Princeton Railton immediately went to the University of Michigan where, with the exception of a variety of visiting appointments, he has remained ever since. And so we are especially fortunate to have persuaded him to come to Amherst today. Please join me in welcoming him.

[Clapping]

PETER RAILTON

[01:15] Thank you. Is that loud enough? Pretty good? Okay. Let me know if it stops being loud enough: they've given me a microphone just in case. Well, my topic today is "happiness and well-being", and I am very pleased to have a chance to talk about that, really because I'm an amateur about it, and talking about it's a good way to learn something new, so I'm looking forward to what I'll learn today. I'd particularly like to ponder some of the challenges that are posed to some of the familiar ways of thinking about well-being that we philosophers have that are raised by some recent empirical work on happiness. Given my predecessors in this series, who include some pretty distinguished contributors to the body of empirical work in question, you've perhaps already been exposed to a number of surprising findings about happiness, or rather what's called subjective well-being, which is the psychologists' preferred term. And there's a lot to be said for sticking with the technical term because happiness is a multi-faceted notion and at least subjective well-being has the advantage of being a stipulation. On the other hand, I'm going to slip back and forth as I talk between subjective well-being and happiness, and I'll try to do it when it seems to be appropriate. You can let me know afterwards whether you think I got it right.

[02:30] So, while we need to be careful in interpreting this work, I think it does tell us a great deal about at least one component of happiness, and I don't want to assume that all of the components of happiness are subjective-- I think obviously it's got an objective side. But it may very well be a way of opening our eyes to some features of subjective happiness. And my topic, again, isn't happiness alone, but something normative as well, namely well-being, and what any of this might have to do with that. Now, happiness and well-being I think play an important normative role in almost every ethical theory. Certainly in classical utilitarianism it's a central concept: very often well-being is simply equated with happiness. But the concept's equally important in many ways in deontological and virtue-based theories: we need to have an account of what the duty to beneficence might involve. We need to have a notion of what a virtuous, munificent, or generous person would do, what [word incomprehensible 3:25] would involve. So, virtually all of us in ethics, no matter what our persuasion, need some aperitive notion of happiness and well-being, and surely the subjective side of happiness is going to be key to do that. Now, the challenges posed by recent research on subjective well-being are multiple, and moreover there are a lot of conflicting tendencies. But perhaps I can describe kind of briefly some of the ones that I wish to draw attention to today. Here's one way of introducing it, anyhow:

[03:58] Although the material standard of living in the United States has more than doubled since 1950, the measured level of subjective well-being has remained relatively flat on the whole since then, even to some extent marginally declining. This pattern is not peculiar to the United States: it's observed also in England and in most of the countries in Western Europe, where the increase in the standard of living has been even more dramatic. We see a similar phenomenon if we look at income or wealth stratification within one country: although gains in income do make a significant difference when the income is very low, once we reach a certain level of well-being, which is in fact surprisingly low, subjective well-being reports tend to level off, and further increments of material well-being alone don't provide any durable improvement.

[4:49] And finally, looking at an individual life, we get the somewhat even more surprising result, perhaps, that although some life changes do seem to have a durable effect on subjective well-being, what well-being people report themselves as having, some of these are things like loss of a spouse, prolonged periods of unemployment, or mental illness. Those tend to have a quite durable effect on subjective well-being. Many life changes that we would regard as hugely important for your subjective well-being in fact have a transient effect on it. So, for example, a serious accident leading to loss of one or several limbs, or winning a lottery or a major prize, we would expect these to have major effects on the level of well-being experienced by the individual. But after some eighteen months or so, the effect, positive or negative, is largely gone and the individual is at similar levels of subjective well-being as before the change. Many psychologists indeed speak of a kind of set point that individuals have for happiness, and say we have a tendency over time to return to our set points despite these really quite important changes in our lives.

[06:00] Now it would seem, from some of these results, that we can't-- at least beyond a level of satisfactory material and mental conditions-- we can't simply ratchet a population or an individual upward in the scale of happiness. If what we thought as classical utilitarians, let's say, was that our goal was to push populations upward in terms of their total happiness, some of these results suggest that we're not going to be able to do that very well. As a matter of fact, they suggest that the rising tide in raising all ships will in fact lead to no net gain in subjective well being.

[06:37] So how are we to deal with this phenomenon and what might explain it? Societies, like individuals, seem to accommodate to a given level of well-being, and beyond that changes don't seem to make a big dent. Well, I'd like to combine that set of issues with a set of philosophical questions about well-being. I think philosophies and philosophers have tended to have kind of a split personality about issues of happiness. That is, it's clearly somehow fundamentally involved in motivation and in our good, but very often we want to say that it can't possibly be the sole component or even the aim of our good.

[07:14] Aristotle I think is a good example: a key concept in Aristotle is that of the good life, happiness is sometimes spoken of as the highest good, and it seems always to be part of motivation. The life that, so to speak, is crowned by happiness is the best sort of life. Moreover, happiness, indeed elementary things like pleasures and pains, seem to be a key to Aristotle for motivation. Thus he writes, "pleasures and pains are also the standards by which, to a greater or lesser extent, we regulate our actions. Since to feel pleasure or pain, rightly or wrongly, has no little effect upon conduct, it follows that our whole inquiry must be concerned with these sensations." Similarly he writes, "the pleasure or pain that accompanies people's acts should be taken as a sign of their dispositions." So somehow or other it's going to be crucial to understanding what regulates our behavior, and what dispositions we have, to understand what makes us happy or unhappy.

[08:16] Kant, who may be an even more improbably source, likewise thinks that happiness is crucial to the mechanisms of motivation, including moral motivation. He says, "despite all the difference between the agreeable and the good, they do agree on this: they're always concerned with an interest in their object. This holds not only for the agreeable, but also for that that is good absolutely, and in every respect. For example, the moral good. For the good is the object of the will, but to will something and to have a liking for its existence, that is to take an interest in it, are identical.

[08:53] And Hume, who of all philosophers I think did the nicest job of separating out the various components of happiness, said that, "'tis obvious that when we have the prospect of pain or pleasure from any object, we feel a consequent emotion of aversion or propensity, and are carried to avoid or embrace that which will give us this uneasiness or satisfaction." So again, although Hume stressed that we had to have many desires that were quite independent of happiness, indeed our happiness depended upon having such desires, nonetheless somehow or other what was going to regulate our activity did seem to be the propensity of our [word incomprehensible], did seem to be the prospects of pleasures or pain. So you might say, "How could the prospect of pleasure or pain regulate activity when its goal is something quite different?" So that poses for us a set of problems. Now, what I'd like to suggest is that there's a way of understanding happiness or subjective well-being-- or maybe just one important component of happiness and subjective well-being-- that helps us to understand both these empirical results and these philosophical conundrums, that is this duality, the role of somehow or other happiness, alongside of other motivators, but not so to speak in the same role that they have. And that we can indeed understand both of these sets of phenomena if we just re-think a little bit what happiness might be. And I'll try to put the root idea in just a few words.

[10:23] At least one component of happiness, and perhaps the component that a lot of these studies focus on when they ask people questions about subjective well-being, is not to be viewed as a kind of a state or a condition in an individual that's durable in any way. It's not the sort of thing that, for example, you can ratchet up or accumulate in the course of a lifetime. It's not something like your store of knowledge or experience, which can indeed accumulate over a lifetime and go up, up the route. This sort of thing, this sort of happiness, is something that by its nature is transient, episodic, and could not even do its job if it weren't. That is, it's going to be crucial for the functioning of happiness that it be transient and episodic in just this way. Now, what I want to say is that's because happiness or subjective well-being belongs to our capacity for a certain kind of guidance or control and a certain capacity for learning that we have. Happiness is, if you like, a way of being informed and intelligent about what we're doing, so that one can be attuned, through some kind of a feedback mechanism, to how it is what we're doing is going. If you like, happiness belongs more to our emotional intelligence than simply to the idea of a capacity for enjoyment. And it has a regulative function in us, a regulative function, that depends upon its rewarding character. As Aristotle put it, in that very nice remark, "pleasure and pain are the standards by which we regulate our actions." So, they have a regulative function in our conduct.

[12:10] Now, because happiness figures so generically in our motivation-- because it's a generic regulator of our motivation-- then you should not be surprised that happiness; or the potential for happiness, or pain and the potential for pain; is the constant accompaniment of all the different sorts of particular ends that we might have. That is, it belongs to the regulative function of action and not to any particular end to produce happiness, pleasure, or pain. And so in that sense you can think that the potential for pleasure, and the potential for pain, are concomitants[?] of all the different goals that we might have, and that our conduct toward those goals is in some sense shaped by happiness or displeasure.

[12:55] Now to explain that idea, I need first to say something about this notion of purposive pursuit, pursuit of a goal, motivated pursuit. And I need to say something then about desire. Desire is the poor sister of our two psychological principal components: beliefs and desires. Beliefs are well-studies, well-analyzed. Desires are often treated as exogenous, brute upwellings from our lower self. Rationalist philosophers are fond of speaking of us as in danger of being pushed around by our desires. Somehow we're not pushed around by our beliefs, but our desires have this danger, as if they were something like mute, inarticulate urges or connations that somehow or other happen to us and that we had to do something with. The late Warren Quinn famously wrote of the man who simply was motivated to turn on radios whenever he came across them, and he did so regularly without any idea of why or what for, but that was a desire-- a desire to have the radio on.

[13:59] Now, one rebellion against this simple brute conception of desires that has also taken place recently in philosophy, is to treat desires rather more fancifully, that is, as cognitions. To say that, for example, to desire something is to judge that it's desirable or to judge that one has a reason to pursue it. And in that sense, desires are like beliefs: they're a kind of cognitive state. So if I desire water, it's because I judge that water is desirable at this point, because I'm thirsty, which I am.

[14:33] So, but to my mind, at least to my own internal experience, there's all the difference in the world between desires and beliefs. There's all the difference, for example, between an athlete's belief, his judgment, that it's desirable to go the extra mile when training, or expend his or her fullest effort in competition, and the athlete who really wants to do that, just ask any coach. Or to risk her neck diving for the ball in volleyball-- to want to do that is a very different thing from judging it to be desirable. Someone who wants to go the extra mile is actually frustrated when required to stop. Similarly, we can desire, it seems to me-- and I have this habit, maybe you do too-- many things that we don't particularly judge to be desirable, and the strength of our desire for them doesn't seem to be regulated by the strength of our judgment of their desirability. Were it only so.

[15:33] And so here, again, I'm in agreement with Aristotle, who did say that it's reasonable that these two appear the sources of movement: desire and thought. For the object of desire produces movement, and because of this, thought produces movement. The intellect does not appear to produce movement without desire, and one is moved in accordance with reasoning because one is moved by desire. So yes, I believe judgments of desirability can move us, but that's because desires can move us on behalf of that which we judge desirable. In fact, I often know what I desire only indirectly; by, for example, learning what frustrates me. And any good analyst will tell you that tracing out a frustration to its roots, finding the origins of a particular frustration, is no easy task. And it certainly is not as easy as figuring out what you judge to be desirable or undesirable.

[16:33] So, frustration, I might want to say, is something like the signature or the mark of the presence of desire. But it's also the signature of mere appetites, as well as desires, and I want to follow along philosophical tradition in distinguishing between appetites and desires. What makes the difference? Well, what I want to say is, we can think of appetite and appetition as the component of motivation that we share with the wide animal world. That it is a kind of a wanting and that it is mediated in its pursuit by something like sensation. Thus, for example, an animal can follow its nose to food when it's hungry, and, depending upon what smells good or bad, will indeed regulate the way it moves or goes about.

[17:23] What I want to say is that desire is like that, only its like that in a human setting. In particular, desire is wanting that is mediated not simply by sensation, but mediated by ideas or representations. So, for example, I think we share sexual and gustatory appetites with animals, but so far as I know, we alone create erotic images and fantasies; we alone have a tradition of story telling or an art of cuisine in addition to an appetite for food. Just about any city I know of in the world can satisfy most of our appetites, but it may take only certain cities, certain special ones, to satisfy all of your desires. And you may indeed find yourself traveling great distances precisely to go to such a city because there is a desire that can be satisfied only there.

[18:20] The word 'desire' comes from 'desidere' which means 'separated from-' or 'apart from the star' or '-a star'. And I'd like to think that the character of desire, as opposed to mere appetite, is that there's some representation that functions as an attractor toward which we have a kind of affect, but which we are separated from in a way. And therefore we are motivated toward a pursuit in order to follow that particular star. So, just as belief as a state involves I think two elements: one element is a degree of trust, or confidence, in a representation and the other element is the expectation that we form as a result. So, we think that, for example, how strongly you expect something will be regulated by how confidently you believe the proposition that describes it. As your confidence in that proposition goes up, your expectation should follow, but not all expectations are driven by ideas at all. We have many expectations that we've picked up by simple animal conditioning that are not modulated or regulated by our ideas. Similarly, we have many wants that are not regulated or modulated by our ideas. But once we are humans, we can indeed have this specific kind of idea-oriented wanting.

[19:46] So, think of desire then as a kind of a positive affect directed at a representation, and that that representation is going to guide pursuit or wanting. So, I think of the canonical idea of desire as a case in which you like an idea, and for that reason are motivated to do something in particular. So, for example, if I like the idea of eating Huevos Machuleños[?] at a restaurant after reading a food critic’s rave review, how do I do that? Why do I want to go to this restaurant? I've never tasted that food, I've never been to the restaurant, I don't know whether the dish is something that I would like or not, but I loved the description, and for that very reason I'm going to expend some energy to get myself to just that restaurant and order just that meal. Not thanks to any conditioning mechanism, or thanks to any set trail that I can follow toward it, but thanks to that regulative idea that sparkles up there on the horizon of my consciousness. And that I hope will constitute a good guide. So, when I have the chance and the money, I can desire to do this, even if I'm sitting there with a full stomach reading the newspaper at breakfast. That's rather different, I think, from the appetite of hunger.

[21:03] So, this definition by the way, I actually picked up from Kant, and so I don't want to claim that it's new to me. Kant tells us that the faculty of desire is the faculty to be, by means of ones representations, the cause of the object of those representations. So that's the basic structure of desire. Kant, interestingly enough, located all of our will, even our moral will, in the faculty of desire precisely because all will is a matter of being regulated by an idea toward a kind of action, and so therefore desire according to concepts was the fundamental faculty of will. It's not that you've got will and desire in a fight: will is a particular species of desire.

[21:55] So, back to happiness and subjective well-being, which I've been calling something like a guidance faculty, or a regulative one. Consider again the hungry animal guided by appetite: appetite sharpens its senses in a particular way, it focuses its activities and attention, it motivates activity, movement. And so the animal, sensing food in the vicinity, and feeling hungry, will in fact expend effort in the direction of food. So that's one kind of regulation: the expending of scarce effort toward food; if the animal is not hungry the smell of food won't induce that effort. And moreover, the particular direction the effort takes will be guided by the sensory impression of food. So, for example, a dog following its nose to the bowl in the kitchen, when hungry, is in fact doing two regulative tasks at once: it's deciding on an allocation of energy, and it's guiding the expenditure of that energy.

[22:55] Now I want to say that what happiness does for us really is something like that task. And so I'm going to use desire as my model, as opposed to appetite. Now the trick with desire, the reason it needs something as complicated as happiness, is that in the case of desire there isn't a merely sensory faculty that can guide us in that way. Consider for example a desire that you might form on a winter day to visit the Costa Rican Cloud Forest. Well, what is the trail of sensation that links Amherst, Massachusetts in the middle of the winter and the Costa Rican Cloud Forest? There is none. So how do you do something about this liking of the idea of being in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest? Well, you have to translate that idea into some kind of plans or projects and translate whatever motivation you feel toward the idea into those. So, for example, you do some studying, you call a travel agent, you make reservations, you learn about destinations, you consult your friends. These are all activities which should have no interest for you at all, in particular, did you not have that guiding idea. But given that guiding idea you can translate motivation on their behalf. And so, for example, you form the idea "I need to talk to the travel agent in order to go to Costa Rica and visit the Cloud Forest." You therefore will, in some measure, be happy with yourself for having done that. Why would you be happy for talking to a travel agent? That's not so much fun, it was not an enjoyable activity. It's because you subsume that activity under this regulative idea and you transmit a certain capacity to feel pleasure or frustration if you can't get through to the travel agent on behalf of this intermediate planning step that has no intrinsic interest for you at all. So what you need-- if you're like me and the fact of a distant good, so to speak, a distant thing that I like the idea of, is going to somehow or other have a problem bringing you along on its behalf-- what you need is something that monitors your progress toward that object; that regulates how much of your effort you expend in the pursuit of THAT object, as opposed to other objects; and that selectively reinforces activity that is successful in pursuing it, or selectively celebrates events that are contributory to pursuing it, like just discovering that you've won a prize and you've got more money to take this trip than you thought. While also at the same time discouraging, or giving you a kind of a negative or error signal, or behalf of actions or events that fail to advance that goal or that distract your energy from it. Like, for example, making you frustrated that you can't get through to the travel agent, making you annoyed with yourself that once again today you were too busy doing your work or writing your papers, whatever it was, so you didn't get around to calling the travel agent and now it's too late. So that frustration or that pleasure in succeeding in the task is a way in which you now have selectively rewarded or punished yourself for what you did during the day.

[26:13] And so, I'd like to think of this capacity, this desire, and its relation to happiness, on analogy with a certain kind of guidance mechanism and a certain kind of a regulative device. I'm going to tell you a story about a guidance mechanism first, and then about the regulatory device. The guidance mechanism, I don't know what I always have these nautical images, but for me the archetypical guidance mechanism is an autopilot on a ship. Let's say a large ship, so they had some money to spend on this system and what the large ship has is a big gyroscopic compass, a gyrocompass, which gives a really fixed orientation of North throughout the entire trajectory of this ship. Then, when the captain wants to pilot a certain course, he can set a certain course relative to the gyrocompass setting, and what will happen is there's a monitor which, depending upon the swing of the gyrocompass, detects whether the ship is heading on that course or to the East or to the West of it. So it has a little signal that it picks up if the compass rose swings a little bit. That signal then is translated to a little servo-mechanism which runs a larger motor, which then steers the rudder in the corresponding opposite direction. So if the gyrocompass picks up a slight deflection from course, that's translated into the movement of the rudder, that restores you back to the course.

[27:44] So that's the picture of this little servo-mechanism that's got two basic components: one is something that detects departures from a set point, and the other is that translates those departures into some appropriate correction. And I want to say happiness is something that functions a bit like that, and I'll try to say something more about why that might be so. Happiness, I think, is built on top of our appetite system, and it's an animal system. And like any good informing system, it's got to have three conditions: a system that's going to convey information to you effectively has got to have three conditions. The good news condition, the bad news condition, and the no news condition, because in a certain sense, that which you already fully expect when it occurs is no news at all-- that doesn't require any updating, doesn't bring in any new information at all. If something that you didn't expect and is good happens, fast news, you want to record that, and if something that you didn't expect that is bad happens, you need to record that as well and make an appropriate adjustment.

[28:50] Well, where do we make this adjustment in our little brain? Well, in the part of the brain that we share with all the animals and our appetite mechanism the dopamine neurons, we have the following interesting feature: this is done by Schultz, who has done a very careful study of the reward system in animals. The idea is something like this: you take a monkey and, poor monkey, you shave its head and you put some micro-electrodes in and you strap it into a mechanism so it's quite uncomfortable, but the only interesting thing in his life is one of these little squirts of fruit juice that he gets every so often. And so, here's this monkey sitting in a mechanism and you're monitoring the firing of the dopamine neurons and at this point, R, you give him a little squirt of fruit juice in the mouth. Notice the spike in activity, in concentration of [word inaudible]. That's an unexpected good. The dopamine neurons say, "hot dog! fruit juice!" and they fire and they release dopamine and the monkey's not only enjoying the fruit juice's nutrition, but is pleased in some way: he's got a dopamine just like the rest of us. Okay, so, what happens when this becomes regular? Let's say you condition the squirt to some kind of signal: a flash of light and then 20 seconds later you'll get a squirt. And you train the monkey on this many, many times-- the monkey's smart, it gets the picture very quickly. So what happens? So here's the well-trained monkey and it's going along, nothing much is happening, then the light comes on. Bang! Up go the dopamine neurons: big spike. Cruises right along, the reward arrives, the juice, nothing happens. Why not, doesn't he like the juice? Of course he likes the juice. The point is it's not news to get the juice. So the very thing that's happening [portion inaudible], that is these dopamine receptors, are functioning like an information system. If something happens that is fully expected and is no better or worse than fully expected, why bother firing? You fire with the news. So you are, in effect, learning from your dopamine neurons, and this is indeed the classic neurology [word inaudible] underlying reward training.

[31:05] Now, we're experimenters, obviously we're going to run this experiment both ways. What are we going to do? We're going to cheat the poor little guy, right? There he is, he's sitting in the straps, nothing much is happening, the light comes on. Thank god, something good is happening. Bang! There go the dopamine neurons firing-- tick tick tick tick tick-- and we don't give him the squirt. What happens? They stop. Twenty seconds after that point, boom. That's the error signal. No dopamine: this is worse than it was before. I mean, really nothing different is happening from here to here, it's not like he had juice here and he doesn't now, but just the mere fact that juice was expected and didn't arrive at that point, this experience is worse.

[31:52] So that's the basic system. It's a system which in fact translates a positive experience into an information bearing signal of a certain kind. And so in the same sense, once you've got ideas to work with-- you don't just have to work with conditioned stimuli-- then what you can do is mobilize exactly this kind of a system on behalf of an idea. So, again, you get through to the travel agent, you find the flight; you make the reservation, great. You feel good. You're not in Costa Rica, you're not even half-way to Costa Rica, there's no Cloud Forest, it's cold out. Why are you so pleased? You're pleased because you translated the motivation, the positive motivation, on behalf of that idea onto this condition which in a sense bears no intrinsic relationship at all to the experience of being in a lovely, moist, warm Cloud Forest.

[32:50] Because you're able to do that, you're able to use your rewards system as a way of encouraging you to behave prudently and sensibly. Similarly, what happens when you get to the end of the day and you think, "I didn't call the travel agent and I bet those tickets are already gone." That's the 'uh' experience: instead of getting a nice situation where you're no worse off than you were before, right-- you didn't have tickets before, you don't have them now-- you actually are worse off. What made you worse off? An idea made you worse off; you're relation to an idea made you worse off. Why would you be built like that? Because you need to follow ideas if you're going to have desires and act on them sensibly.

[33:32] Okay, now that's the basic mechanism that I'd like to describe, and the system that I'd like to make an analogy with is another nautical system, which usually goes alongside such a system as a guidance system. And this is what's called a Delta Meter. If you're on, let's say you're on a racing sailboat. Racing sailboats these days have lots of gauges and mirrors, and so they're giving you all kinds of information: you're speed through the water, the apparent wind, the angle of the wind, and so on. You're getting a lot of information. But they have one meter that's especially interesting to people who are in charge of trimming the sails, and it's a Delta Meter. And it's got two little ranges on it, plus and minus, and it's got a straight up line, like that, and there's a little needle that goes back and forth, you can see it clearly from where you're sitting. Well, you have in addition a speedometer, and that has a range from zero to five to ten to fifteen and so on, and that has a little needle too.

[34:39] So let's say you're sailing along at five nautical miles per hour [portion inaudible], and you as a sail trimmer, your job is to figure out, could you go a little bit faster. So you maybe trim in a little bit, or ease off a little bit, and what you're watching is this meter, because this meter is in effect taking the derivative of velocity. If you start to speed up when you trim the sail in, the needle goes this way. If you start to slow down, the needle goes that way. So what do you do? You sit there and play with your rope until you get the thing easing in that direction. And if you do ease the sail out and it goes negative, then you pull it back in. So you don't need to watch your speed through the water at all. And of course once you've adjusted the speed of the boat by adjusting just the right amount, then of course the speedometer has moved to here. But your needle on the Delta Meter, once you've settled into a uniform velocity, is at zero. You've gone back to a set point of zero-- look, you did a good job-- because what you need to know now is what's the next thing that you need to do in order to improve the performance or to worry about slacking off performance-- if the thing starts to fall, then you start acting very vigorously to try to get back up to zero.

[36:00] So, here's the idea, here's your Delta Meter. And it's a feature of a Delta Meter that it won't do its job unless it falls back to a set point and there, so to speak, a uniform velocity. It's got to tell you about the changes in velocity. And for that reason it's going to be very informative about whether you're doing the right or the wrong thing. So, the Delta Meter, then, is going to be sitting at zero at a constant speed whether you're at a stiff wind and going fast or at a very slight breeze and going very slowly. That, I think, is a model for this picture of happiness that we need to have in order to explain the phenomenon that we've been using. That plus the idea of a servo-mechanism that helps regulate where we direct our energies. So let me try to pull those two things together and try to give you an explanation.

[36:49] The first thing that you would expect if happiness were a system like this-- that is a guidance system that's capable of learning and regulating behavior-- the first thing that you'd expect is that if something happens to a person in their lives which raises or lowers their material well-being, and then puts them on that level or well-being for a fixed, finite but lasting amount of time, that whatever gain or loss they experienced in their happiness would wash out. They would return back to their set point. Why? If you're, let's say you got ten thousand dollars more in salary. Well, when you got the raise you're delighted, you pop up, your Delta Meter goes in the positive zone, you're quite pleased. But of course once you've settled into that $10,000 larger lifestyle, what you need to know is, so to speak, what to do to improve that condition. If you always stayed in the positive zone, then you'd just be happy for the rest of your life with the first raise that you got-- you've got to get back down out of there. And where do you end up? Well, you don't end up unhappy-- why would you end up unhappy because you're $10,000 richer? You just end up at zero, which is where you were beforehand.

[37:59] So why did you bother to get ten thousand more dollars? Well, this is another mystery that we have to talk about. Okay, so the first thing that you'd expect is that we would have a happiness system, a subjective well-being system, which would have this odd behavior that you can have a serious accident, you can lose a limb, your meter can go way into the negative range, but we come back eighteen months later and you're back at your set point. You've adjusted to a new life. And what matters now is that you do things that make THAT life better or worse, not the life that you can no longer be leading. And so it's surprising, and I think a very reassuring thing, that a lot of the things you would think would destroy a person's happiness or potential for happiness, don't do that. They just set them at a different set point and they can, just as much as you, have a happy day or a sad day. You can be earning much money, you can be a very successful person, you can have the world's most miserable day and want to slit your wrists. So, you have your own set point, and there's some evidence that set point varies from person to person and it's fairly stable over life, but there's very little one can do, typically, once the person's at least reasonably mature in their sound mental condition, there's very little you can do to shift their set point. What you can do, though, is make them be positive or negative. So that's the first expectation.

[39:16] The second expectation is that if you take people who are built like that and you raise their material level uniformly, so you take a whole population and double its material level of well-being, the way we did with the US population since 1950. You wouldn't expect any change in level of happiness to come as a result of that. Because all you've done is you've put us now at a uniform speed of 7, where we were at a uniform speed of 3 before. And so at that point the happiness mechanism is not detecting anything that's particularly noticeable. At each change, at each improvement you were happy, but there's no reason to think that the whole population could ever be ratcheted up to a higher level or overall happiness because that population would be dumb, so to speak, with regards to its happiness, if it were convinced into that kind of a euphoria over this fact which is in fact the wrong kind of information. It's as if they were being told constantly, 'good news, good news, good news,' when in fact their life, unchanging as it is at the moment, is no news.

[40:20] So, the third thing we should expect is that above, for example, a certain level, what's going to matter-- at least when we've gotten people out of misery-- what's often going to matter to people more, and this is one of the remarkable facts about income, what seems to matter to people the most is not their absolute income, but their relative income and changes in income. So, for example, if you look around a society and you want to know, 'how happy are people?' You know, 'how happy is this individual?' The question very often does not resolve itself into, 'what level of income does that individual have?' but 'what level does that individual have relative to those around him?' And indeed, individuals, by and large, who have higher relative incomes show some greater level of subjective well-being, characteristically, than those with lower. Similarly, individuals are extremely sensitive to changes in their income, and especially sensitive to losses in their income. So, for example, someone who has an income of forty thousand dollars, and someone in another society who has an income of thirty thousand dollars, might be at exactly the same level of well-being. But if you find a person in that first society at forty thousand who's just come down from fifty, and find someone in the other society who's at twenty thousand but has just come up from fifteen, what you'll discover is this person's a lot more miserable at forty than this person is at twenty. Because after all, what's just happened to their set point? They've departed positive or negative from it.

[42:09] So relative well-being seems to matter a great deal. And because relative well-being matters a great deal, being above average is, so to speak, a sign of a kind of success. You can read the fact that you're doing above average in a certain income or in a sports activity or something like that as evidence of some degree of success, and therefore it should be the case that there is in general a creep of your set level as you go further up the income or further up the sports hierarchy, but you shouldn't expect that this is going to resolve your problems of happiness or sadness because you're still going to be just as sensitive as you always were to the marginal changes and to someone coming along who's relatively a little bit better.

[42:50] Third, we should expect, and this is something we do find, the following puzzling result that was discovered by Conneman. If you take individuals who have gone through a harrowing experience-- like for example an operation or suffered a serious injury-- and you look at those individuals who recovered quickly, were quickly back at their usual posts so to speak, and those who took much longer to recover. Which ones do you think report that the experience was worse, in retrospect? You might think, 'well, if you got rid of the pain, if you came back to full functioning quickly, then of course that was better. These other people were suffering for months.' The answer is no-- it's the people who had the very slow trajectory who in fact report a less painful experience, because they spent more time in the prudent[?] zone. Each day, with some exceptions, they were getting a little bit better, perhaps, each week they were making progress. So for a long time they're life is looking up. It took them a long time to get back to their set point, but for that very reason they experienced more happiness, less sadness than the person who quickly came back to the set point.

[44:05] Now, something that's perhaps a little bit more interesting on the philosophical side, if this is the way that happiness works, then we can begin to make sense of some of the ways in which philosophers have had this sort of duality about happiness. Because if happiness is an information system and a reward system related to goal pursuit, then of course it will indeed be true that ever time you're pursuing a goal you're being regulated by pleasure and pain. As Aristotle said, we're always regulated by pleasures and pains, they determine whether we're doing better or not, whether we continue to invest energy in this or whether we stop acting in this way, whether we try a different path or continue this path. So we're being regulated by pleasures and pains even though the goal that we're pursuing isn't pleasure or pain at all, it's not happiness at all that we're pursuing, but success in the pursuit of a goal will indeed be accompanied with pleasure, and an unsuccessful pursuit will be accompanied with frustration and pain.

[45:06] So if you like, you can say that it's quite right, and this is something that even Kant wants to insist upon, that even in moral conduct, we are regulated by pleasures and pains. And indeed he tells us that the motivation, the psychological motivation to a good will, the moral feeling, is precisely the capacity to feel pleasure at doing one's duty and pain at failure to do one's duty. How could Kant, of all people, say that we are regulated hedonically in moral conduct? The answer is because the goal wasn't hedonic at all: we mobilized the Hedonic system on behalf of goal pursuit.

[45:48] This also helps us understand the user illusion that's often described as the Hedonic Treadmill. And a lot of people are bothered by the Hedonic Treadmill because it looks as if we're a population of slow learners. What happens? Someone's got an income of twenty thousand dollars, let's say, and you say, "What would it take to make you happy?"

And the person says, "Well, I'm doing alright, but I'm really pressed, if I were fifteen percent richer I'd be happier." So they work hard, they work overtime, they excel in their task, and they get that raise, their fifteen percent richer, they're pleased.

And you come back a year later and they're just as happy as they were before the raise and if you ask them, "What do you need?" they'd say, "I need fifteen percent more income." And so they're going to work more overtime, work hard and so on, get that raise, and they're on what's called the Hedonic Treadmill-- they're acquiring more good, they're acquiring more income, they do this year-in and year-out.

[46:45] But really their set point is not going to get any higher, so maybe they're somehow or other being fooled. And to some extent, I suppose they are. If they really think that happiness is where they're headed, so to speak, they're wrong. But at the same time what they're really doing is rewarding themselves constantly as best they can, because if you're motivated by income, the only way you can reward yourself is not by maintaining a high income as opposed to a low one, but by increasing your income. So if you find income a strong motivator, what you're going to be motivated to constantly is more, even if more doesn't raise your set point at all. That will indeed be a kind of happiness for you, and what we might want to say is it's not so much that they're dupes, in the sense that they're making a mistake in thinking that they're happier when they get their raise, what they're doing is mistaking the fact that there is a reward mechanism that can be mobilized on behalf of income increases, but that has the curious result that it's never going to be really satisfactorily resolved, and that it's not a very interesting part of your life to invest all of your energy in.

[47:53] So if we ask ourselves, "What are some of the ways in which people do seem to get most durable pleasure?" "What are the kind of things that make the most long-standing contribution to well-being, or make the strongest contribution to well-being?" we get a whole different set of answers. And so here I'd like to refer to a group of studies which some of you may know as the Beeper Studies. Have you heard of these studies? You give people a pager and they walk around through daily life, and you page them at random intervals and you ask them to report how well they're doing. You say, "What are you doing?" and they say "I'm fixing dinner," or "I'm just about to take a shower," or "I'm taking my final exam, would you stop paging me?" And then they give their subjective level of well-being. And you look at these people, over a long stretch of time, and what you discover if you're observant enough and you stick around long enough, is that there are certain activities in which people regularly report the highest levels of subjective well-being. And those are what Csikszentmihalyi has called Flow Activities. Now Aristotle would be thrilled with this, so would Mill. What are these activities? They're activities in which we are actively involved in some task that's involving a large number of our faculties on behalf of some kind of a problem-solving or sort of obstacle-overcoming activity. So you could be repairing your motorcycle, you could be skiing down a difficult slope, playing a good game of tennis, you could be cooking a fine meal, something like that. Those activities in which you're using a lot of your capacities all at once and you're solving problems, in fact are activities in which we report some of our highest levels of well-being.

[49:40] By contrast, pure consumption activities often get a very much lower report of subjective well-being. People may actually enjoy cooking a wonderful meal than in eating a wonderful meal at a restaurant that was prepared for them. Now why is that? You say look, at the restaurant they get all the pleasure and none of the bother. But see, no, no, the bother is part of the pleasure. That is, it was the activity of mobilizing yourself to do this thing and using your various faculties that you actually enjoyed. So as Aristotle says, happiness is function in accord with nature. Or as Mill says, there are higher pleasures which are the pleasures precisely that involve large numbers of our faculties, and not simply push-pin. And indeed we do have a modern version of push-pin: television. People spend, believe it or not, the average person spends as much time watching television, over the course of his or her life, as they do at their job, characteristically. So all of their work hours and their TV hours, in some countries the TV hours exceed the work hours.

[50:46] Okay, well, you'd think that this would show us that TV is the kind of thing people enjoy. Isn't that why they tell us they watch it-- "Why do you watch TV?" "I like watching TV". Beep them while they're watching TV, you get rather low reports. People are kind of bored and irritable most of the time when they're watching television. Why do they spend hours being bored and irritable when they could be in the kitchen fixing a fancy meal, right, and having the time of their lives? What's the matter with us? I thought we were pleasure seekers. You know, here we are we're completely benighted in this task. Well, again, I'm not going to claim that I have a theory of everything, although philosophers are always tempted to do that. But think again about this Delta Meter problem that we face with something like television. You come home, you're tired, it's been a tough day in some respects, a good day in other respects, but you're kind of tired. And what would it take to cook a really fine meal? It would take effort, you'd have to have planned, you'd have to have the ingredients, you'd have to spend some time doing it, you're already hungry, so let's just put something in the microwave and turn on the television, right?

[51:55] Now, in fact what you're doing there is not just stupid. If you were to say at this point, oh God, I have to go out and get some food, I don't have anything to cook, I've got to go out and get something to cook, I've got to get everything together, it's going to be three quarters of an hour before I'm even back at home and two hours before I eat, so that's all down here, right? This is all a threshold of negatives between you and this worthwhile activity. On the other hand, if you just sit down, have a meal in front of you right away, you have your push-pin, electronic push-pin there before your eyes right away, you're distracted. That's you're wandering in your positive zone there. Now it turns out that you very quickly fall back to your set point. And indeed, that set point is quickly restored while watching television, so really not much interesting is happening to you in your life. But you got yourself there because there was a threshold effect that, so to speak, your body and your psychic economy didn't climb the threshold high enough to get up to some high level of functioning. So in a certain sense, being happy is hard work. The people who are happiest or when they're happiest they're acting on strong desires, they're doing full-fledged activities; it's kind of a strenuous thing to make yourself as happy as possible. And we are often sloths, and it's much easier to accept a boring level of complacency than it is to actually gear up to make ourselves happy.

[53:05] On the other hand, once we get the idea of this, then we can begin to think 'ah'. Rather than imagining that utilitarianism collides with the obstacles that we can't seem to ratchet a population up in terms of its well-being, we can ask ourselves a different question about happiness. Not, 'how do we raise the population level of happiness', but 'how do we make available, as regularly and as fully as possible and as an integral part of people's lives, the kinds of experiences they really do enjoy.' Why do you need to watch TV and need a meal from the microwave? Because you've had a boring day on the job and your job wasn't all that interesting, maybe that's it. Maybe you're frustrated because you know you've got your kids one place and you've got your job another place and you had to spend an hour in the car in a traffic jam getting from one to the other. There are lots of ways in which we can make ourselves and our conditions ones in which of course we're going to be spending a lot of our energy in states of relatively little well-being, and other cases in which by the natures of the job, by the nature of the family relations, by the nature of the work relations and the kind of activity that they involve us in, we can in fact be experiencing a fuller development and utilization of our capacities.

[54:41] A Hollywood director was once asked: what's the secret of a successful movie? He says, it's very simple. He says, make the audience really want something, then give it to them. So here's the idea: you tell a story, you put the hero in a predicament, you have some kind of catastrophic event, you have some cliff-hanging result. People are sitting there, they want something. And then when you give it to them, they're reasonably reinforced.

[55:08] So the moral in some sense is: how can we make our lives such that strong, challenging, but feasible desires are a regular part of our existence and that they're available to a much larger portion of the population than they are available now. This in a way is the opposite of the old theory of happiness which said, in effect, unhappiness was the result of the discrepancy between expectation and accomplishment, which tended to mean all you had to do was reduce your level of expectation and you can make yourself happier. On the contrary, it looks like cranking up our expectations of one another and our expectations of society would be a better way in which to fill our lives with episodes in which we are indeed happy.

[55:53] So, a few general summing remarks, then, about well-being. If we want to really contribute to well-being, let's say we're serious about the beauty of beneficence or we're serious about utility. First thing we've obviously got to do is look to the gains that we can get from raising the absolutely least well-off individuals. This can be in terms of health, it can be in terms of income. Durable, genuine changes in well-being can be induced by improving people's material conditions up to a certain level: their health, their mental conditions, and so on. So that's obviously the first thing to do. They're at a very nice point in their welfare curve at that point, getting a lot of marginal utility.

[56:35] Second would be to create opportunities and conditions in which people can develop their capacities as fully as possible, whether it's educational systems like this lovely institution or occupational settings.

[56:47] Third, avoid certain things. There are things that make people durably unhappy: unemployment, prolonged unemployment makes people durably unhappy, for example. Certain kinds of mental illness make people durably unhappy. We could do a great deal for general well-being by trying to deal with these problems, rather than thinking that what we've got to do is increase the GDP. We can increase the GDP and we won't be happier, or we can do something to end long-term unemployment and actually be happier even if our GDP was not nearly as high.

[57:22] Fourth, we should focus on capacity rather than on the question of consumption. If consumption is not the secret to happiness-- if the life of high consumption is not the secret-- but the life of high deployment of capacities, then in our thinking about, for example, social policy we should think how do we increase the capacities that the average person has available. How do we, for example, foster not only good work relations but good community and family environments and so on.

[57:50] And finally, and this is a nice, certainly a nice lesson, people have often thought, for example, that one likely consequence of focusing on raising levels of well-being in welfare would be a kind of dirigiste state in which the state would take over mechanisms for distributing well-being, and that would be the most effective way of serving the population. In effect, one interesting and very robust observation is that there is an enduring contribution to people's well-being from being in societies where they have some degree of voice and where they have some greater degree of political freedom. That's actually something you can do for a population that makes a durable improvement in their well-being, even if their economic well-being is not improved. This has been true, for example, in Eastern European countries.

[58:36] So, we do have to worry about incentives, but we no longer have to think the only incentive for people is going to be income. Actually income's not such a great incentive anyhow because it dies out after a fairly short period of time. If you want a good incentive, think of the kinds of things that make people happy and provide incentives in those forms. You don't have to worry so much about the fact that we'd be lowering our overall GDP if we were less unequal a society. That's not making us happy anyhow. And looking at our own lives, you know, looking back at your own life and thinking, 'well, when were the times that I was happy, or what were the things that made me happy?' And you think, 'yeah, they were the challenges in which I actually did something that sort of surprised me in a way, that was at the peak of what I could do, but was indeed within my power to do.' That's got to be for educators something like a nice moral about where it is that we can supply people with well-being because it looks like it gives us secure jobs for a long time.

[59:34] Thank you.

[Clapping]

QUESTION

[1:00:04] How would you answer the Buddhist notion that it's our cravings and aversions that actually keep us in a state of suffering?

PETER RAILTON

[1:00:13] Ah. That for example, that's an interesting point. So you're thinking, and I guess various traditions in philosophy had this idea that being subject to cravings and so on was a source of pain for us in some ways. And that the sort of ideal sage would diminish as far as possible these sources of appetite and so on. And I guess I would say I don't really think that that's the route to the happiest possible existence: it's a route to a serene existence, perhaps. That is to say, it's a route to the avoidance of frustration; so the idea of, say, not cultivating close friendships because friends are going to die. And not encouraging interest in politics because politics, as we all know, don't always work out the way you'd like it. You can do that, and in a certain sense you can take your expectations and move them down to the level where they're guaranteed to be satisfies. And if what you really want is serenity in order to contemplate, then maybe that's a better thing than, you know, ruthless pursuit of happiness-- it's a little too athletic anyhow. But, yeah, guess I would say, what's I've got to commit myself to is the idea that although that might be a kind of serenity, that might be a way of guaranteeing that there are relatively few of these negative swings, as few as possible of the negative swings, it isn't a good way of getting a lot of positive swings.

QUESTIONER

[1:01:47] Unless you take into account that impermanence is actually one of the chief tenants of that belief. So that knowing that nothing stays forever, whether it's a raise in income...

PETER RAILTON

[1:02:00] Yeah. There is a good, certainly one nice thing about that preaching, that teaching, is that it forces us to look hard at what really does seem to be rewarding, and not to simply assume that because we want something or, so to speak, compare ourselves with others and find ourselves wanting, that the solution for us is to pursue that difference. So, yeah, it can I think be a useful antidote do a lot of ways in which our little happiness factor bedevils us.

QUESTION

[1:02:36] It seems to me that if we're going to look at pleasure as something that has to do with solving problems or having challenges in our life, in response to what he just said, those desires that we challenge our basic needs, which are problems that need to be addressed at a certain point. But after they've reached a certain base level, continuing to try to solve those problems, like trying to raise the salary, is not a worthwhile problem to solve. So maybe instead of looking at raising our level of happiness or serenity by having no expectations, it's more important to pay attention to what expectations, what challenges are worthwhile and worth addressing. So the unhappiness comes from the continued pursuit of worthless problems. And one thing which seems to be certain on the other side of that, and probably unavoidable in our lives, is the issue of how do we address challenges which are too complex. And that seems to be one of the things which may be the most depressing or disorienting to people is being faced with something that they do not know how to address. So I'd be curious to hear what you have to say about how we should deal with that situation in our lives, whether it's something that's too complex for us to deal with.

PETER RAILTON

[1:03:58]

Well, those are both good questions. Let me go back to the first one. One thing that has also been kind of a robust tradition in philosophical thought has been that the rewards, for example, of contemplation are really quite great. And the rewards of a life of learning are really quite great. And I think it's true, you know, I've forgotten which sage said it: if you want to make someone happy, teach him something. That generally being taught something is a pleasant experience. And learning I think, in general, is a kind of activity that in a certain sense, unlike getting a raise or something like that, think about it, here you are, every time you learn something you get a boost. Well every day you can learn something. And every day you can learn, you know, two things [portion inaudible]. So actually, you know, a scholarly life could be a life in which you're doing fine. You're not using up scarce resources, you don't even have to worry about, you know, are you learning more things than the person next to you because these are all things that are positive. And so yeah, there are various lives that might be much more rewarding, yeah.

QUESTIONER

[1:05:12] Do you think that may have to do with the [portion inaudible] something new it brings more [word inaudible] within our scope?

PETER RAILTON

[1:05:19] It enlarges our capacities, often it reinforces or ramifies to other things that we know. Yeah, knowledge is a kind of power and, for example, sometimes what we've learned is the thing that's the solution to the puzzle that was pondering us the day before. So yeah, I think learning is a life on the stage as opposed to the life where desire is quiet. The life of someone who's really highly motivated to learn, for example, is [word inaudible]. These kinds of pleasures, these and some aesthetic pleasures, they're cheap. Almost everybody has access to them-- all you need is a public library, public museums and, you know, a CD player, you might say it that way. But these are the kinds of ways of expanding yourself that seem to be quite available and quite sensible, and each day we can add to this. So, yeah, I think that's an important thing and that's very different from, let's say, income because income is going to have this difficult characteristic that a: you can't really count on it going up through your own efforts, and b: you are, so to speak, trapped in a kind of episodic arrangement where the thing that you're climbing up is not something that itself enables you to, so to speak, experience the next bit of well-being more powerfully, whereas often with learning that's exactly what happens.

[1:06:49] Now, the second part was about insoluble problem. One of the things that clearly is going to take us way down over here is facing a challenge with which we are repeatedly frustrated and irritant. And I have a colleague, actually, who works on depression and he thinks that depression is actually adaptive. You might say, how could depression survive given that what it does to people is it makes them unmotivated, it makes the unhappy, it gives them a low affect. Why would mother nature, so to speak, natural selection, have given us the capacity to be depressed? And his view is, sometimes there are problems that face us that are insolvable, like a marriage that won't work or you're trying to write your PhD thesis and it's not going to come and it's never going to come. And so you've got this very powerful motivational structure that's working on behalf of writing that thesis or making the marriage work, and what you really want to do is have the motivation pounded out in a way. You've got to do something else; you've got to take another direction. And so, for example, the same person who in 1999 was a miserable PhD student incapable of finishing the thesis, blaming himself every morning before breakfast and every night before sleep, five years later you discover that they went off and went to law school and they're perfectly happy.

[1:08:24] Well, somehow or other they had to get deflected from that highly desirable idea that was riding their lives, but that was making them miserable. So sometimes what we need is a capacity to build our motivation down as well as build it up, and depression seems to have that function. It builds motivation down, it flattens out your affect, and it actually leaves you in a condition in which you are capable then of acquiring new motivations and new [word inaudible]. Other insolvable problems, I can't solve because they're insoluble and changing direction is going to help you with those. And I suppose one reason why we find, for example, that if you look at subjective well-being and map it against income, you discover that one way in which subjective well-being seems to fluctuate in a noticeable way is whether people think things are getting better or worse. If you go into a social setting and you interview people saying they're better or worse than they were, no matter what level they're at if they say things are getting worse, then their reported subjective well-being tends to be lower than if they say things are getting better. And so, in a certain sense, the sense of insoluble problems or the saturation of our problem solving ability and its incapacities, this is a very substantial source of discomfort. And unfortunately our world is complicated enough that it may just destroy that [word inaudible].

QUESTION

[1:10:00] I really like the account, in part because I think it gives a nice description of part of what we enjoy in a study. But I also wonder if you could say a little bit more about anesthetic pleasure, by this I mean, you talked a little bit about this, but pleasures that might be associated with rest or inactivity. I don't know that [portion inaudible] the literature, so I'm not sure what people report, but there's simply a plausible story to be told about the regulative function of periods of serenity, quiet, rest, inactivity, anesthetic experience, and so on. Would you say that what you have are two different kinds of things, two different sorts of subjective well-being, if you will, or happiness of one kind, happiness A and happiness B; or are these two different ways of realizing subjective well-being.

PETER RAILTON

[1:11:04] Well, let me see. I'll say one thing and then you can tell me if this seems to be addressing your concern. Another kind of question that people in the study of evolution ask is why do we get tired, for example, because it discourages us from exerting effort and the idea, well, yeah, something's got to discourage you or you'll expend all your energy and you'll be unable to continue. So you've got to be able to get feed-back from your system saying, in effect, 'lay off'. And there has to be something that makes laying off rewarding. So, yeah, I think that we've got to be equipped with the capacity to lay off and back off from time to time, and to find indeed that that kind of capacity is one that is a rewarding one precisely because otherwise we're being not reinforced for the kind of restoration that we need. Or for seeking it at appropriate times, for example. So it's just as much that you have to talk about satisfying hunger, if you're hungry, you might have to satisfy the need for rest. And so just think of how pleasant it is, for example, to take a hot shower and finally crawl under the covers. That's an extremely pleasurable experience. The same thing would not be anywhere near as pleasurable if you weren't so exhausted and so on, so you might think: yeah, there's got to be, so to speak, exactly the problem solution of rest and it's got to be reinforced. And I think we have all kinds of rituals with rest that can have that effect.

QUESTIONER

[1:12:44] I guess what I meant, if I just quickly follow up, is that it doesn't seem to be as much about goal achievement when one experiences pleasure in rest. What I have enjoyed doing since the weather turned good has been sitting on my front porch with my dog and drinking a beer. And there's not a lot a lot of goal---

PETER RAILTON

[1:13:05] Does the dog get any beer?

QUESTIONER

[1:13:09] [Portion inaudible]. I predict that if I were paged I would say, I'm pretty happy right now. But I would not describe that as the product of goal performance. It's not so much odd I managed to find the beer in the fridge.

PETER RAILTON

[1:13:30] Although think how unhappy you'd be if you went in the fridge and there was no beer.

QUESTIONER

[1:13:36] I'm not sure, I might just get some iced tea.

PETER RAILTON

[1:13:40] Well, you know, one of the things that I haven't talked about at all, there's another kind of...I just fudged[?] it at one point--- there are two kinds of news that you can get, so to speak. One is the news that comes from your own activity, and the other is the news that comes in from somewhere else, like something good happening to you. And clearly that's news; it's like getting the squirt of fruit juice. Suddenly something good comes into your life. Well of course that should be reinforcing too and so yes, it should be quite possible that there are passive pleasures and we've got to be abel to record those because they're as much a good thing happening to us as something that we create ourselves. So yeah, there is a component of happiness which is not the reward for choosing the right activity but, so to speak, the reward from the news of something very positive coming to you. And I don't know whether you'd consider this state something like a positive zone which you can enter, but it should be the case that you can learn that yes, that's a good zone for you.

QUESTION

[1:14:44] Maybe I'm not [word inaudible] on the analogy, but I'm not sure...happiness is the Delta Meter, the speedometer is kind of throwing me off. Because on one hand I assume is like satisfaction and desires and ends, but what I'm not quite sure of is if you're sailing you know you [portion inaudible] you sail faster, but I'm not sure, are ends not dependent on having this? And if your ends shift, then how do you measure whether you're getting closer or farther from your ends if the Delta Meter is changing what those ends are, aren't you going to end up leaving[?] your fixed point?

PETER RAILTON

[1:15:23] I think there are a couple of questions involved in that. One thing I assume you have, suppose you thought of this as like your income meter, right, your income can go up or it can come down. And the thought was that your income meter could be sitting at fifteen, but if your Delta Meter's down here because, for example, you just lost income, you're going to be unhappy, that's the thought, and frustrated and so on. Now, your question I guess was, what about happiness itself as a goal. Or partly anyhow, some goals are shaped by happiness. And certainly one thing that I think is true about us a lot of the time is we don't really know exactly what we're pursuing in any finely detailed way, you know philosophers often speak as though we have these rationally chosen life plans and that we're following them. Very often I think we follow cues of happiness in deciding what we're going to do. That is, we find activities enjoyable and then spend more time and effort in those activities or those directions. So what you have to think of when you think of, let's say, goal achievement, one way to think of goal achievement is you set yourself a goal and then you avidly pursue it. Another kind of goal achievement is much more implicit, that for example there are organistic needs or wants, right, you're going to have these needs and wants, they can be attained or satisfied not because you're pursuing a particular goal but because you happen into an activity that you're finding pleasurable. So suppose, for example, you've been leading a life where you've been spending all your time studying, day in day out-- I don't know if you ever do this, but finals are coming up-- and you're feeling worse and worse and worse, you're feeling bad about yourself, and a friend of yours says, 'I'm going to go out for a run this morning, do you want to come with me?' You think, 'I can't do that, I've got to study.' He says, 'Don't be ridiculous, you studied all day yesterday, you've got to stop sometime.' So you go out and you run and you feel a little bit tired and sore at the end of it, but you actually feel better. Better than you expected. Now why would I feel good about running, it's just going to wear me out. Well, in fact, you feel good about it. Or you did some other physical activity. And so in that sense you have a need, your body, in effect, has a capacity for physical enjoyment that was not being met, you did something that met that need, and therefore because your meter was up here in the positive zone as a result, your effort gets more oriented towards that. You think, 'I should do this more often'. So you in, in effect, learn to pursue that. Is that the kind of idea that you had in mind, that you can sort of happiness to goals as well?

QUESTIONER

[1:18:15] I'm wondering if that's not misleading because actually my thought was...let's say something you really enjoy, you have this picture of a great dinner and so you cook it, you have a great time. And so now you decide hey, well I'll go up and chef[?]. And you don't get to eat it anymore; your hands have now been divorced from the happiness of it. So, I mean, are you still...it seems like a lot of people would be miserable when something they really [remainder inaudible].

PETER RAILTON

[1:18:48] Right. So suppose you think about, say, routinization. If you're the lucky kind of chef, the lucky kind of chef gets to be creatively involved in cooking throughout his or her career and are constantly trying new things and people pay attention to their food, they're willing to pay them to try these. So they're always experimenting, they're like the academic, only with food. Which is maybe more useful. But there's the other chef who's there and becomes a line cook in a restaurant, he's got these recipes he's got to follow and he's throwing all this stuff together. Yeah, anything can be, uh, by routinizing the activity, and therefore, in effect--- [END OF RECORDING 1:19:34]