This November I am going to NY and give a presentation on human dignity and the sense of happiness at a bioethics conference. The following is an abstract of the presentation.
Some Preliminary Remarks on Human Dignity and the Manipulation of the Sense of Happiness
Masahiro Morioka, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan
If our sense of happiness is closely connected to brain functions, it might become possible to manipulate our brain in a much more refined and effective way than current methods allow. In this presentation I will make some remarks on the manipulation of the sense of happiness and illuminate the relationship between human dignity and happiness. The President’s Council on Bioethics discusses this topic in their report Beyond Therapy, and concludes that the use of SSRIs might make us “feel happy for no good reason at all, or happy even when there remains much in one’s life to be truly unhappy about.” I will extend their line of thought through two thought experiments. In the first, a perfect happiness drug is given to a miserable person, and in the second a happiness device with an on/off switch is placed inside a miserable person. The first case leads me to conclude that a life with dignity means a life free from domination by the sense of happiness and the sense of unhappiness. The second case leads me to conclude that “having a freedom to feel unhappiness” is not the same as “being free from the domination by a sense of happiness;” however, I am not confident about the second conclusion. In order to fully explore the philosophical and ethical issues on human dignity and happiness in the age of biotechnology, we have to establish a new discipline in the field of philosophy, the “philosophy of life”.
– M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org