The Relationship Between Happiness, Morality, and Technology

Lucas Charbonnier

Lucas Charbonnier

Oct 26, 20234 min read

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The Relationship Between Happiness, Morality, and Technology

Introduction:

The concepts of happiness, morality, and technology often intersect in our lives, prompting us to question their relationship. In this article, we will explore whether happiness can be considered a moral end, and whether technology truly remains neutral in its influence on society. By delving into philosophical perspectives, we can gain a deeper understanding of how these elements intertwine and shape our existence.

Part 1: Is Happiness a Moral End?

When contemplating the foundations of morality, it becomes essential to determine a criterion that can guide our actions. Some argue that happiness could serve as such a criterion, while others vehemently oppose this idea.

According to Kant, happiness should not be considered a moral end. He believes that morality entails fulfilling one's duty, which should be disinterested and not reliant on rewards. Morality, therefore, does not seek pleasure or happiness. Kant suggests that we can only strive to "deserve happiness," implying that happiness is an additional pursuit separate from moral duty. For him, happiness is a mere hope and an anthropological need that can be satisfied outside the realm of moral obligation.

Part 2: Happiness as a Moral End

Contrary to Kant's perspective, there are philosophical schools of thought that argue for the integration of happiness, virtue, and knowledge within morality.

Eudemonism posits that happiness and duty are inseparable, and they converge with virtue and knowledge. This perspective emphasizes the association between moral actions, personal fulfillment, and intellectual growth.

The Stoics, for instance, advocate for happiness through asceticism. They believe that true freedom and virtue lie in detaching oneself from external goods that are beyond our control. By exercising one's willpower to let go of material possessions and bodily desires, individuals can achieve a state of tranquility and inner contentment.

Aristotle, on the other hand, views happiness as the ultimate good, to be pursued for its own sake. While external circumstances such as health, wealth, and political freedom contribute to happiness, they are not sufficient in themselves. For Aristotle, virtue plays a crucial role in attaining happiness and must be cultivated alongside favorable conditions.

Part 3: The Neutrality of Technology

The prevalent perception of technology as a neutral tool at our disposal demands further examination. Although it appears to be a means to an end, the increasing presence of technological objects in our lives leads us to question whether technology eventually shapes our lifestyles, thoughts, and coexistence.

One argument supporting the neutrality of technology is the instrumental conception. Gorgias, as portrayed by Plato, argues that technology is morally neutral, much like a weapon. The moral responsibility lies with the user and not the tool itself. An instrument, such as a weapon, can be used for defense or harm, depending on the individual wielding it.

However, the responsibility for the ethical implications of technology always rests with humans. The notion of technological alienation, which suggests that technology directly dispossesses human life, is unfounded. Marx highlights that instead of resorting to vandalizing machines during labor uprisings, the focus should be on political change within society.

Part 4: The Non-Neutrality of Technology

Despite the claims of technological neutrality, evidence suggests that technology indeed has the power to shape and condition human existence.

The increasing dominance of efficiency and rationality in technological advancements results in a quantitatively driven perception of success and happiness. From professional life to leisure, there is an incessant pressure to be more productive, achieve more, and progress faster. The pursuit of efficiency becomes an ethical norm, dictating various aspects of our lives.

Moreover, the development of technology can lead to technocracy, as argued by Marcuse. Bureaucratization, administration, and planning become more pronounced, weakening democratic institutions. Individuals find themselves conforming to the demands of technological apparatuses, distribution systems, and consumption patterns, rather than actively shaping them. Political dominion becomes technocratic, with significant control lying in the hands of these large technological entities.

Conclusion:

As we contemplate the relationship between happiness, morality, and technology, it becomes evident that these concepts are interwoven in complex ways. While happiness may not be the ultimate moral end for some philosophers, others argue for its integration with virtue and knowledge. Simultaneously, technology's neutrality is disputed, with evidence pointing towards its conditioning influence on society. To ensure a harmonious coexistence, we must recognize the potential impact of technology and strive to cultivate an ethical framework that prioritizes human well-being and collective values.

Actionable Advice:

1. Reflect on your personal understanding of happiness and how it aligns with your moral compass. Consider how your actions contribute to your well-being and the well-being of others.

2. Evaluate your relationship with technology and its influence on your daily life. Strive for a healthy balance that prioritizes human connection, personal growth, and ethical considerations.

3. Engage in discussions and debates surrounding the ethical implications of technological advancements. Stay informed about the potential consequences and actively participate in shaping the future of technology in a morally responsible manner.

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