Pinker will be accused by many of Western triumphalism. Arguably it’s the miserabilist critics of modernity that are more smug, because implicitly they take progress for granted, whereas Pinker recognizes it as exceptional and in need of interpreting.
The Oxfam Haiti scandal is bad, but there’s no need for a moral panic. This calls for reasonable debate about the rights and wrongs of sexual encounters, and about how relief agencies balance risks of harms against the likelihood of doing good. Let’s see what positive moral clarity we can arrive at by asking a few reasonable but awkward questions.
The World Economic Forum produces reports on female disadvantage that are mislabeled as ‘Gender Gap Reports’. They ignore self-reported wellbeing, and explicitly discount any male disadvantages. If you’re not scandalized and offended by that, well you should be.
101 apocalyptic revelations you didn’t expect from happiness research – and the counter-revelations that keep the game going. You didn’t know? Oh I think you did.
Can temptation be enjoyable in its own right? Isn’t it sometimes good to give in to temptations? The Pope says the Lord’s prayer unfairly blames God, rather than the Devil, for leading humans into temptation. Theological sophistries aside, might there be some benefit in a global conversation about what temptation is all about, and what roles it plays in the good life?
Will the UK’s ‘Race Disparity Audit’ be used intelligently and constructively? Not if our Prime Minister Theresa May has anything to do with it. We have here a textbook example of why ‘fighting injustice’ may be a dangerous distraction from the more important and constructive tasks of promoting wellbeing and social harmony.
What did the Romans ever do for us? … There can be no intellectual or moral excuse for claiming that colonialism was either all good, or all bad. Authors and signatories of the petition against Gilley should be hanging their heads in shame and weeping at their own lack of moral fibre.
This week’s controversy over James Caspian’s ‘politically incorrect’ plans for research on sex change regrets highlights the need for nonmiserabilist ethical debate. What was needed here was balanced assessment looking at not just the possible harms, but also the likely benefits of that research. Equally, research on sex change must consider not only risks and disappointments, but also aspirations and benefits.
Lots of people have complained that the ‘Prevent’ component of the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy is backfiring because it stokes inter-ethnic mistrust and fear. Louise Nadal, University secretary at the University of Greenwich, has argued that it can be embedded within a more positive ‘wellbeing’ approach. But she doesn’t seem to really mean it. A genuine wellbeing or happiness approach would go well beyond pastoral support and therapy. It would aspirationally promote the institutionalising of kindness, fun, and conviviality in Universities. People who are really having fun, and who feel loved, are unlikely to be tempted into extremist violence.
If you’re interested in social justice, what could be more interesting – or more morally compelling – than looking at the inequalities that ultimately matter, such as how long and how happily people live? Why then, do so many people pontificate about injustices and social inequalities without reference to longevity or happiness?