Happy Clappy

January 28, 2008

An interesting quote here from Karl Popper’s The Defense of Rationalism published in 1945, in came up in the context of discussions about CBT and Government Happiness Centres (Julia’s recent guest blog and my original posting).

… Loving a person means wishing to make him happy. (This by the way was Thomas Aquinas’s definition of love.) But of all political ideals, that of making the people happy is perhaps the most dangerous one. It leads invariably to the attempt to impose our scale of ‘higher’ values upon others, In order to make them realise what seems to us of greatest importance for their happiness; in order as it were, to save their soul. It leads to Utopianism and Romanticism. We all feel certain that everybody would be happy in the beautiful, the perfect community of our dreams. And no doubt, there would be heaven on earth if we could all love one another. But the attempt to make heaven on earth invariable produces hell. It leads to intolerance. It leads to religious wars, and to the saving of souls through the Inquisition. And it is, I believe, based on a complete misunderstanding of our moral duties. It is our duty to help those who need our help; but it cannot be our duty to make others happy, since this does not depend on us, and since it would only too often mean intruding on the privacy of those towards whom we have such amiable intention

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