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Excerpt From the Conquest of Happiness

Excerpt From the Conquest of Happiness

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Published by: nstearns on Mar 19, 2008
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11/14/2010

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excerpt from The Conquest of Happiness
 by Bertrand RussellHorace Liverright, Inc., New York, 1930Closing Chapter: X V I IThe happy life is to an extraordinary extent the same as the good life.Professional moralists have made too much of self-denial, and in so doing haveput the emphasis in the wrong place. Conscious self-denial leaves a man self-absorbed and vividly aware of what he has sacrificed; in consequence it fails oftenof its immediate object and almost always of its ultimate purpose. What is neededis not self-denial, but that kind of direction of interest outward which will leadspontaneously and naturally to the same acts that a person absorbed in thepursuit of his own virtue could only perform by means of conscious self-denial. Ihave written in this book as a hedonist, that is to say, as one who regardshappiness as the good, but the acts to be recommended from the point of view of the hedonist are on the whole the same as those to be recommended by the sanemoralist. The moralist, however, it too apt, though this is not, of course,universally true, to stress the act rather than the state of mind. The effects of anact upon the agent will be widely different, according to his state of mind at themoment. If you see a child drowning and save it as the result of a direct impulseto bring help, you will emerge none the worse morally. If, on the other hand, yousay to yourself: "It is the part of virtue to succor the helpless, and I wish to be a virtuous man, therefore I must save this child," you will be an even worse manafterwards than you were before. What applies in this extreme case, applies inmany other instances that are less obvious.There is another difference, somewhat more subtle, between the attitude towardslife that I have been recommending and that which is recommended by thetraditional moralists. The traditional moralist, for example, will say that loveshould be unselfish. In certain sense he is right, that is to say, it should not beselfish beyond a point, but it should undoubtedly be of such a nature that one'sown happiness is bound up in its success. If a man were to invite a lady to marry him on the ground that he ardently desired her happiness and at the same timeconsidered that she would afford him ideal opportunities of self-abnegation, Ithink it may be doubted whether she would be altogether pleased. Undoubtedly  we should desire the happiness of those whom we love, but not as an alternativeto our own. In fact the whole antithesis between self and the rest of the world, which is implied in the doctrine of self-denial, disappears as soon as we have any genuine interest in persons or things outside ourselves. Through such interests aman comes to feel himself part of the stream of life, not a hard separate entity likea billiard ball, which can have no relation with other such entities except that of collision. All unhappiness depends upon some kind of disintegration or lack of integration; there is disintegration within the self through lack of coordination between the conscious and the unconscious mind; there is lack of integration between the self and society, where the two are not knit together by the force of objective interests and affections. The happy man is the man who does not suffer

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