Happiness and meaning are both good things to have, and are arguably similarly important. But happiness gets the vast majority of attention in psychology, economics, philosophy, and policy. Why? One clue is that happiness tends to be near, while meaning is far:
These are so true and many people in everyday life don't realize happiness is not the same as meaning. Things that cause fleeting happiness might be things that drag you the wrong way. Meaning is so much deeper and long lasting. Thanks for spreading your message.
Happiness, very different from the evanescent Joy comes out of a genuine spiritual exposure. It never comes out of selfishness. As it is emphasized in our Sanskrit kritis, Kama desire is such that like fire when you add fuel, it grows further.Have we not seen and felt people who have chased money and Bugattis or Harley Davidsons ending up with shot into their own heads. Ultimately Happiness is onlyFeeling Otherwise how do you find a three hundred rupee per day labourer going about with smile even more alluring than that of Mona Lisa.
Leftwing elites seek meaning for themselves by advancing the happiness of the masses. Rightwing elites seek happiness for themselves while speaking to meaningfulness for the masses.
Specifically, rightwing state elites enrich themselves (not like, say, Stalin and Castro on the left) while preserving traditional, meaning-preserving institutions. Or rightist preachers advocate abstinence or prudery (antihappiness meaningfulness) turn out to be sexual gluttons.
It's an interesting pattern that looks strong to me. I don't have an explanation. (This could be a different kind of 'data.')
Kahneman criticizes this method, instead asking people about their unhappiness at intervals. More objective but only negative.
I think it's actually easier to assess one's meaningfulness than one's happiness. Happiness is a sum over times, whereas meaning is holistic and relatively constant for the short term.
Pre-existential crisis: you need meaning (goals) to feel happy
Post-existential crisis: you need happiness to create meaning in your life
Most people (young people, religious people, carefree people) are pre-crisis, but that can change for anyone at anytime.
This is not very deep. Some personalities may need meaning to be happy, e.g. paradox of hedonism. Others may see happiness as a goal without drawing a 100% line between self-related and other-related happiness, e.g. marginal altruism. The explicit goal is then happiness, not meaning.
Cheap rhetoric: We call this meaning, to be able to call it hypocritical, to be able to call all altruism always hypocritical, to confirm a cynical view of human motivations in circular logic.
One reason happiness is emphasized more than meaning is that technology has brought increased happiness but seems to have little direct relationship to meaning. In fact, the societal repercussions of the developments of technology have militated for decreased meaning. You might even say human prehistory and history shows an upward trend for happiness and a downward trend for meaning. So, if you believe in progress, like most people do, it is dissonant to recognize meaning as being as important as happiness.
I suspect that em civilization will turn out (in your book, that is) to reverse this historical trend. (This, incidentally, is a weak clue against it.)
Happiness and meaning as essentially incommensurable goods should disturb utilitarians. (See "Utilitarianism twice fails" -- http://tinyurl.com/bfcm89e (subsection: "Nonnegotiable conflicts between subagents undermine thin utilitarianism").
You're right, I do. Further, most of my anxiety concerns whether my conception of meaning is 'good enough.'
Even if you think meaning is too ill-founded to want to work to give it to others, I'll bet that you work harder to give your own life meaning, relative to happiness.
I still think there's a large (ie 10 fold) difference between the probability happiness vs meaning is ill-founded.
Think of 'meaning' as the 'present value' of all the current and future happiness of all those you care about. If so, meaning contains all the subjectivity and uncertainty as regular happiness...plus the uncertainty in one's expectations. It's like the difference between uncertainty in profitability vs. market cap: Income contains arbitrary items like depreciation schedules, or whether necessary investments were maintained, but that's nothing compared to the uncertainty in a stock price.
If some taught others meaning, at least they would both be focused on the same goal: meaning. But more common is that some get meaning from trying to give happiness to others.
People might be mistakenly happy, just as they may mistakenly feel their lives have meaning. For both meaning and happiness we can distinguish the proper causes of such things from a person's beliefs about such things, giving them a feeling of happiness or meaning.
Wouldn't you be more confident that a person knows their happiness better than knowing if their life has true meaning?
That is, if someone believes some wacky transcendent movement (eg, gaia, white power, anarcho-syndicalism) gives a purpose to their lives, I would have no trouble believing them. But I would feel such a meaning is deluded, a mistake. Happiness, is rarely considered blatantly misguided.
I would also push back on this "tension". True, there may not be room for many people who get meaning from increasing the meaning in others' lives. But people (some teachers/coaches) do learn skills, etc. solely for the purpose of passing them on to others. Why not the same idea for meaning in life?
The usual way we measure happiness is just to ask people how happy they feel. People can and do the exact same thing to measure meaning.
We know happiness when we see it. Meaning, however, is often (usually?) delusional, and isn't as clear. Researchers reasonably analyze measurable things.