Is there any reason to think that happiness is of any importance?

There are different things you might mean, and the answer will depend on which ones you do mean. Since I'm particularly unsure what you mean by "importance," I'm going to look at a nearby question: is there any reason to think that happiness is a good thing? That raises the question of what counts as happiness, and without trying to give anything like a full-blown theory, I suggest thinking of happiness as human thriving. And without giving a precise definition of "thriving," we can come at it this way: imagine someone who has the usual daily ups and downs, but is engaged, resilient, productive, with a normal range of healthy emotions, who can take pleasure in things worth taking pleasure in, etc. etc. etc.

Is this a good thing? It's hard to see what possible reason there could be for thinking it's not. Imagine two villages. In one, most people are thriving; in the other, more or less no one is. Which would you rather live in? Which is a better model for what we'd like other places to be like? For most of us, the answer will be clear. Happiness in this sense seems to be a good, and indeed an important good. Happiness in this sense seems to be of considerable importance. It's the kind of thing we'd like the world to have more of.

Maybe there's some cosmic perspective from which happiness, that is, thriving, doesn't matter—maybe because from that perspective nothing matters. But if so, why invest that perspective with the final say? Why should it matter to us that nothing matters from that point of view?

If a reason is what you're after, it's clear that in one sense I haven't given you one. I haven't given you an argument; I've tried to provoke a way of seeing things. When it comes to matters of what's good, my own sense is that at some stage, it will come down to that. But we can say a little more. If on reflection, informed, thoughtful people tend to agree that something is good, it's not clear what other other sort of evidence we could have. The word "informed" is important here; I might think something is good without understanding its real consequences. But it's not clear what we'd even mean by saying that something could pass this test and yet not really be good.

We could add that even though happiness as we've described it seems to be important, setting it as the goal you work for directly may be a bad way to achieve it. Better, perhaps, not to strive for happiness but rather to pursue the kinds of more concrete goals that make up the bulk of a thriving life. But put that all together and you've got happiness. May there be much more of it!

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