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SF and Russell's "Conquest of Happiness"

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Joined: 10 Feb 2013
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 1:32 pm    Post subject: SF and Russell's "Conquest of Happiness" Reply with quote

Bertrand Russell is pretty famous for being a great mathematician. logician, and atheist, but he was also a great commentator on society and philosophy. One of his books, "The Conquest of Happiness," was about attempting to cure the unhappiness that seemed to plague modern man without any visible external cause.

The first half of his book is dedicated to various forms of unhappiness. These include Byronic unhappiness, that is, the unhappiness of having EVERYTHING you want, puritanical, "virtuous" unhappiness, competition, addiction to excitement, fatigue, envy (according to him the basis of democracy), a sense of being persecuted, and fear of public opinion. The way in which the Sinfest characters embody these forms of unhappiness, or at least used to, is too obvious to really talk about. EVERY one of these forms of unhappiness has at least one representative.

The second half of his book is dedicated to causes of, in his opinion, true happiness.

Russell talks about the kind of unhappiness that is available to simple people, like an illiterate well-digger from his childhood who for most of his life did not realize that the British Parliament even existed. This would probably be represented by Squig and Slick in their better moments and Milton's assistant.

He notes that scientists tend to be the happiest of intellectuals, since science is progressive, while philosophy and literature are too abstract to really have as strong of a sense of what progress even is. Criminy is the obvious representation of this form of happiness.

Russell then lists other forms of happiness: a kind, genuine interest in the well-being of others, a well-balanced, finite lust for the joys of life, family, productive work, affection, and the golden mean.

Nana, the Sisterhood in its newer, less alienating form, and CriminyXFuschia would represent family and the joy of work. Squig seems to be realizing just how excessive his lusts can be and seems to really be enjoying himself playing the banjo for people. Buddha and the Dragon both represent the Golden Mean.

Basically, Sinfest in its new form seems to be about trying to do away with the modernist unhappiness and finding a more human way of life. The only real deviation from this program would probably the Puritanical demonization of pretty much everything that doesn't fit into the vision of domestic tranquility that Tat is trying to build, which would fit into the "ascetic unhappiness" part of the book.
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