Ben Bartosik

August 29, 2023

There is always a subjective nature to happiness.

I've been reading a book that explores the relationship between happiness and the built environment, basically asking whether or not how we design and build cities can contribute to the happiness of people who live in them. The author suggests that studies have shown that people are able to accurately describe their feelings of happiness; meaning, when someone says they are happy, they usually are.

The reason this matters in the context of the book is that it cuts against some of the market logic that happiness is best determined by analyzing how people spend their money. People will spend their money for many reasons, not all of them because it's what makes them happy. This squares with the theory that increased consumption actually has a point in which it no longer brings real happiness.

It also means that even though people might accurately describe how they're feeling, they may not really understand why. Market logic takes advantage of this by promising a feeling that people only know when they've achieved it. Consumption might bring fleeting pleasure, but it does bring lasting happiness.

Understanding the role that individual, subjective experiences of happiness play is important; but we also need to go further in understanding the various factors that can contribute to a long-lasting experience of happiness across an entire population.