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Money and Happiness

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By zacharypeters
Words 923
Pages 4
Zach Peters
PHIL 220
April 10, 2015
Essay 2 Neil Levy’s article goes into depth on the controversial philosophy of money and its effect on happiness. Contrary to popular belief, Levy states that national surveys provide data that suggests money has very little effect on overall happiness. In this essay, I am going to analyze Levy’s article and explain why and how he believes money is of little importance in achieving overall well-being. I am also going to attempt to find correlations between income and happiness that Levy thinks may have significance in answering this philosophical question. My hopes are to find an alternative understanding of these correlations that the author may not have taken into consideration during his research. First, it is important for me to identify the possible scenarios that Levy puts on the y-axis. Happiness, being the underlying measurement, is affected by a variety of factors. Levy believes that in poorer countries, comfort and stress are thresholds that control happiness to a certain extent. The extent is to whether or not they have enough money to achieve the basic needs of life. For example, a roof over your head and enough food to survive. If these basic needs are met, money has little to no effect on their happiness. Along with comfort and stress, he discusses adaption and contentment as important factors that are effected by income. People seem to adapt to rises in the economy but fail to adapt when they experience a fall. During falls, a persons contentment may experience a decline because they are unable to do or purchase the things they previously could. Factors such as contentment and adaption are different from comfort and stress because the degree of their effects are different among social classes. For example, people from poorer countries do not find as much contentment in rises in income as people from wealthy countries. This eliminates some of the anxiety that comes from falls in income. Another thing Levy puts on the y-axis is expectations. Social circles have a substantial effect on what we believe we want and need to be happy. If someone in your social group gets a new car, it is almost certain that you will feel inferior or not content unless you have a car that is of equal value. Expectations and desires seem to be a factor that has its greatest effect on happiness as your income rises. An explanation is that when your income rises, your social circle naturally rises as well. Because of this natural rise, your expectations will never fully be met and any feeling of content and superiority will eventually diminish. On the x-axis, wealth is being measured and it can be affected by many things. First, he puts the economic status of the country. Countries with a low average income have some what of a less correlation between money and happiness than countries with a high average income. This could be because expectations and consumption of material goods provides more utility for wealthy countries than that of poorer countries. In measuring wealth, it is important to understand what it is exactly that people consider the different forms of wealth that people consider. Wealth can have many different meanings amongst different groups of people. For example, person (a) might think that wealth is correlated with the amount of money one has, and person (b) might think wealth is correlated with their health and religious devotion. Understanding these perceptions of wealth can be very difficult for a survey to accurately determine who is truly happy based off monetary status. This is because their are intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that satisfy desires of well-being. One belief that I question may be an underlying factor for all of Levy’s ideas is the satisfaction of desires. Much like A.J. Ayers would say, happiness is our ability to satisfy our desires no matter what they might be. This belief raises some questions about the effect of income. Believing that satisfying desires is what makes people happy would make income a more important factor. For example, if a person has a desire to travel the world, income is going to have a greater importance in their happiness than that of someone whose desire is to ride a roller coaster at age 50. However, I do believe it is important to take into account R.B. Brandt’s refutation of this point. His refutation is that it is crucial to understand that what is important to people is that they are able to do what they want to do at that very moment in time. In other words, desires are not relevant to our current happiness. Therefore, satisfaction of desires is irrelevant to our overall well being. In conclusion, the data collected in surveys suggest that the average income of society does not significantly affect overall well-being. It seems that realtive income and expectations are more directly impactful, especially in wealthier nations. However, it is important to understand that wealth can be of more significance in different domains of life amongst a variety of demographics. As seen in the example of what wealth means to people in different aspects of life. The important lesson to learn is that, to an extent, satisfaction is important in meeting the aspirations a person had towards life. Satisfaction and desires diminish as income increases over time. Without a complete understanding of what people define as wealth, there is no way of measuring the effect income has on happiness.

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