I was recently having a conversation with a friend about what should be the ultimate goal of life. I suggested that happiness (although this was not strictly defined) may be one of the most worthy goals to aim for in life since it is not a means to anything else but an end in itself. In response my friend argued that if happiness were to be the ultimate goal of someone's life then it would be best achieved by taking a 'happiness' drug or otherwise stimulating the brain in such a way as to induce a state of perpetual happiness. Although this seemed inherently wrong to me it nevertheless seemed to fulfill my criteria of the purpose of a life.
It is an important point to bear in mind when answering this question that my friend tends to offer explanations in terms of reductionist science. He is an undergraduate biologist and for him even emotions, such as happiness, can be simply reduced down to chemical reactions and electrical impulses. As a result it seems to me that if happiness is seen in these scientific reductionist terms, and the goal of the life as being happiness is accepted, then there is no way round the conclusion that happiness obtained through drugs or other 'artificial' means is just as worthy or good as any other kind of more 'genuine' happiness. Indeed to my friend this kind of so called 'artificial' or induced happiness is the same as 'genuine' happiness because they all have their origins in chemical reactions in the brain.
Is it appropriate to reduce happiness to nothing more that chemical reactions and are such 'artificial' or induced states of happiness as good or worthy a goal for someone's life as more 'genuine' happiness?
Read another response by Nicholas D. Smith