Happy-People-Pills for All

Mark Walker

Abstract


It is argued that we have a moral duty to create, and make available, advanced pharmacological agents to boost the happiness of those in the normal, i.e., the non-depressed, range of happiness. Happiness, conceived as a propensity to positive moods, is a quantitative trait with a sizeable genetic component. One means to boost the happiness of those in the normal range is to test the efficacy of antidepressants for enhancement. A second possibility is to model new pharmacologicals based on the genetics of the happiest amongst us, that is, the hyperthymic. The suggestion, in other words, is to “reverse engineer” the hyperthymic: to investigate what makes the hyperthymic genetically and physiologically different and then put what they have into pill form. To the ‘Brave New World’ objection, that there is more to wellbeing than happiness and that taking happy-people-pills will require the sacrifice of these other aspects of wellbeing, it is countered that contemporary social science research supports the view that happiness promotes achievement in the ‘higher’ endeavors of humanity, including work, love and virtue. In other words, happiness promotes acquisition of traits valued by perfectionists. Those born with genes for hyperthymia, on average, tend to be doubly blessed: they are happier and achieve more than the rest of the population. Happy-people-pills are a means to allow everyone else to share in this good fortune. The paper seeks to rebut two further criticisms: that happy-people-pills will lead to emotional inappropriateness and inauthentic happiness. Finally, it is argued that depending on the view about the role of government in individual welfare, either government has a positive duty to develop happy-people-pills, or government has a duty not to interfere with private companies that seek to develop such pharmacological agents.


Keywords


wellbeing, well-being, public policy, perfectionism, happiness, happinessism

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Hamilton CollegeOpen PolytechnicVictoria University of Wellington