Q 1: What inspired you to write a book and create a website about the philosophy of happiness?
A: The Introduction to Philosophy of Happiness (which is contained in its Ch. 1-5 excerpts), as well as related essays in the Reflections section of this website, explain why I wrote this book. The website is not only a logical adjunct to publicize the existence and message of the book. Its function is also to assist participants in their comprehension and to offer them a vehicle to communicate with other readers and with me.
Q 2: What are you trying to ultimately accomplish with this book?
A: I am trying to ease pervasive unnecessary pain that keeps a stranglehold on humanity and to replace it with happiness. My book attempts to aid readers in bringing forth what really matters to them and in forming their own particularized philosophy. Its underlying idea is that humans generally have the potential of a capable guidance system within themselves. It suggests that unless that system is pathologically defective, we each can perform the analysis and synthesis of what is necessary to improve and maximize our happiness. The book is aimed at revealing these capabilities and assisting readers in bringing them to fruition. With that approach, it strives to engender confidence that we can substantially improve our happiness and to encourage readers to set out on that path. I believe that, together with similarly enlightened individuals, we can build a much brighter future for us and humanity.
Q 3: Is Philosophy of Happiness written for a particular audience and does it require any prior philosophical training?
A: The book addresses both a popular and scientific audience. It is written for all individuals who wish to improve their happiness whose mind is not pathologically impaired. It is also written for scientists who pursue their happiness by researching matters that affect human happiness more generally. The book does require an open mind. It also requires dedication to the improvement of one’s affairs, and in the case of a scientific approach dedication to scientific research improving conditions beyond one's affairs. However, I have taken pains to lay out concepts as simply as I could without losing precision. I have also tried to fully describe my thought processes so that readers can trace them and determine their validity.
Q 4: How can you write for both a popular and scientific audience and hope to find attention by either?
A: Happiness is a subject that requires close coordination between scientific and popular thought for its advancement. Individuals can greatly benefit from a scientific approach that transcends preconceived notions and subjective bias. This requires a certain inquisitiveness and receptiveness on the part of individuals who would be informed by scientific efforts. On the other hand, scientific research in the area is pointless if it does not consider what makes people happy or unhappy or at least how they can find out what makes them happy or unhappy. It is also necessary to lay open and make the scientific processes comprehensible if individuals are to rely on the results of these processes in arranging matters of their happiness. This is part of a more general requirement to popularize and implement scientific insights in matters of happiness to fulfill their practical purpose of improving human existence. It is therefore indispensable that scientists and humanity communicate in the same terms. That seems to be a helpful if not essential approach for a wide variety of sciences that impact human happiness. But philosophy as a science that claims to lead the other sciences in considerations of purpose carries a particular responsibility in this regard. I wrote about this responsibility in more detail in my book. A pertaining excerpt of about ten pages is available in the Philosophy section of my publishing website, www.palioxis.com.
Q 5: Might the volume of Philosophy of Happiness not overwhelm readers?
A: Only if they skim the content, read selectively, or read at an undue pace that inhibits their digestion of the material. This work addresses the central subject matter of our life that moves everything we think, feel, and do. Exploring happiness and solving the many problems that confound us in its pursuit requires some time and effort. The book sequentially establishes foundations and building blocks from which it constructs higher levels. To participate in that growth, it must be read deliberately. But these demands pale against those of many other, often ill-conceived undertakings we devise to improve our happiness and in which we invest major portions of our life.
Q 6: How long did it take you to write Philosophy of Happiness?
A: Excluding interruptions, I dedicated over six years of full work days.
Q 7: Why did it take all this time?
A: Happiness is a complex subject matter because it is the motivation for everything we do. Its formative influence over the entirety of our existence creates a wide variety of aspects that must be considered. Moreover, a proper discovery of happiness is difficult because it is overlaid, falsified, and bound in our minds and our environment by manipulative agendas, error, the force of our settings, provisional remedies, and subjectivity. I had to break through all this confusion to uncover the foundations and constructive principles of happiness.
Q 8: Do you regret having spent that much time on this book?
A: I cannot look at the time I have spent without weighing the importance I attribute to the result. Some people spend their life trying to understand happiness without succeeding. I consider myself very fortunate that I was able to undertake this work with largely uncompromised concentration. The distractions we suffer and employ do not normally allow us to dedicate sufficient resources and focus to get to the bottom of this subject. I sacrificed a significant portion of my life at a significant juncture to that aim. But I also consider how much I previously invested in pursuits with much less importance. I am glad I did this work for myself. I am even more excited about the prospect that it might assist others to find happiness.
Q 9: You are a lawyer by profession. Why did you write a book on philosophy?
A: Although law has a matter of fact side to it in its application, my interests lie in the foundations of law. Law and a philosophy of happiness are fused with an intensity and in a scope that surprised me as I developed the treatise. I wrote an essay about this subject that is available in the Reflections section. Fundamentally, happiness seems to be a function of using and complying with the laws of nature. But it is also the underlying determinative force in human law. If one accepts, as I found, that there are principles to gaining and maintaining happiness, the function of laws seamlessly fits into the concept of a principled pursuit of happiness. To establish happiness, we must follow laws pertaining to it. Many of us already practice our lives under that premise. These laws include not only laws in a narrow, formal sense but also a variety of personal and societal ethical and other principles we hold. The treatise I wrote is about developing, reconciling, and implementing such laws that can maximize the happiness of humans. It is also about overcoming impositions that stand in the way of the fundamental rights of humans to obtain fulfillment of their existential needs. Thus, it is as much about law as it is about philosophy.
Q 10: Did you draw on any other philosophers or other sources in your work?
A: I did not consult external sources in writing this book. I did not even discuss its subject with anybody because I wanted to develop the subject without influence. The concepts in this treatise grew from within me. Looking back, my life prior to and during my writing was a research phase that led me to a state where I could find and formulate a philosophy of happiness. My former studies in philosophy are a part of that background. Like many other experiences, they shaped my mind. However, in spite of dedicated efforts back then, none of them impressed me as correct in any matter of consequence on the topic of happiness. With the help of the distance that many years of practical legal pursuits provided, I was able to be free of the chatter by other philosophies and could entirely concentrate on creating an autonomous philosophy. I did not consciously include aspects of other philosophies into mine or even formulate any part of my philosophy in response to particular philosophies.
Q 11: The underlying idea of your philosophy is that there is a principle of happiness permeating everything. How can one imagine this without having read your book, and how might this influence one's outlook on happiness?
A: We can easily catch a glimpse of the universal principle of happiness when we watch how laws of nature combine to advance nature, most prominently in life as its cutting edge. Life focuses on its proliferation and development. The ultimate purpose of this has yet to become clear. However, undeniable evidence surrounds us that nature is on a mission to transform itself through life. Humans are leading results and agents in this mission. Our nature is part of nature. In us, nature has a chance of self-awareness and dramatically influencing its progress. This charges us with particular responsibility. It also places us at particular risk if we fail. Being at odds with nature's mission individually or as a species causes us hardships and entangles us in a struggle we cannot win. On the other hand, our alignment with nature's mission and our deliberate advancement and competent leadership of it promise our thriving. In this deeper sense, happiness reveals itself as the fundamental guiding principle for human existence and wellbeing. Strong as this principle may be at work in us, we still make many mistakes in grasping and following it. Nature undertakes various forays that are tested and treated by how well they fit into its mission. Human nature must prove itself in this respect like any other part of nature. There seem to be some troubling aspects in our nature that create doubts whether we can master this challenge. But advanced emotional, intellectual, and practical capacities also seem to grant us a unique opportunity to consider and overcome our shortcomings and succeed. This success is what causes us happiness.
Q 12: How do you reconcile your work with other philosophies that deal with happiness?
A: I don’t because my philosophy represents a new beginning and constitutes a comprehensive treatment of the subject. It is built and stands on its own, and the more particularized philosophies individuals derive with its help must be built and stand on their own as well to be reliable and effective vehicles for their happiness. Trying to describe my philosophical model in terms of other philosophies threatens confusion. It would invite an interpretation according to premises and criteria that my philosophy might not share. That may not keep people who cannot escape their mindsets or who presume to grasp everything by labeling it to mischaracterize my deliberations and conclusions. But more thoughtful individuals, particularly those who read and work through the considerations of my treatise, may be able to overcome their biases and form opinions based on whether it rings true to them.
Q 13: Are you trying to swipe over two thousand years of philosophy to the side?
A: Quite the contrary. Philosophy has brought forth many admirable insights in its narrower contemporary sense, and it has been and remains the mother of all science. But if philosophy wants to retain its claim of being a guiding and not just a historical science it must behave accordingly. It must explore and secure knowledge of its advancements by scientific proof. I am not saying that philosophy has not progressed. But this progress has frequently occurred by ideas that break out of conventional philosophical wisdom and not as a result of an integral development of that wisdom. Such ideas are usually isolated and opposed and eventually incorporated as one viewpoint among others. It seems that nothing is ever resolved in philosophy. That makes it in the eyes of many a waste of time in a substantive sense. I am not of that opinion. I think that there are many foundations on which advancement can be built and that there have been and are forays that can give direction for speculative and empiric research. Retaining and teaching these aspects is a valid and necessary occupation. However, I believe that an inordinately large part of philosophical activity keeps cycling back through its history interpreting minutiae when capacities could be more productively used. I would submit that by now roughly enough research has been undertaken and expressed about what historical philosophers meant and how their ideas compare. The question on which philosophy should be concentrating is whether they were right, and it should use insights resulting from that question. We need to ascertain a state of secured knowledge, discard where philosophers erred, and investigate where further research is necessary. I wrote about the advancement of philosophy in more detail in a passage of my book that is reproduced in the Philosophy section of my publishing website, www.palioxis.com.
Q 14: Are you complying with your suggestion of addressing and building on existing philosophical thought in your own work?
A: I did study many years ago the standard philosophical sources dealing with happiness dating back to Greece and Asia and their treatments in secondary literature. I particularly recall reading texts of and about Plato, Aristotle, the Epicurean and Stoic traditions, the Utilitarianism of Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and of course Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. I also delved quite deeply into Buddhism and other esoteric thought from India.
However, the area of philosophy about which I wrote has unfortunately been mired in nonscientific undertakings. In light of their commonplace or subjective observations and their often sophisticated enlargement to claims that they represent the entirety of what happiness requires, there was really nothing scientific on which I could have built. What has passed habitually as philosophical thought in the area of happiness has been little more than what someone happened to deem its nature to be and good ways to secure it. In that course, observations might have been made that might turn out to be objectively or at least generally valid elements of happiness. Further, I am not dismissing the subjective dimension of happiness, and subjective views might be shared by others. Yet what someone "feels" happiness is or should be and how it can be achieved and subsequent attempts to justify and generalize such observations are not science. Rather than getting bogged down in dealing with a mass of such assertions and arguments, I saw it necessary to discard all of this nonscience, give the philosophy about matters of happiness a proper foundation, and develop it from there. The subjectivity of happiness finds extensive consideration in my philosophy, but I have tried to preclude my subjective conceptions from dictating the philosophical process and findings in my work.
Q 15: What about the many other contemporary books dealing with happiness?
A: There is a continuing deluge of books about happiness. This shows how much demand there is for enlightenment on the subject. But I believe the continuing demand also shows how inadequate these books continue to be in sufficiently empowering readers.
Some of the books may contain advice on worthwhile techniques and substantive ideas that can improve one's life. However, contrary to what many of them would have us believe, there are no easy fixes to assure happiness. The truth about happiness is that it poses very complex problems and that no book can fundamentally change that.
The reasons for this are rather obvious if we allow ourselves to look at it unpretentiously. All our emotions, thoughts, and actions are directed toward avoiding or overcoming unhappiness and achieving and holding happiness. Because this direction is given by a variety of needs, there are multiple types of unhappiness and happiness that compete with and influence one another in us individually. There are also countless ways to incur unhappiness and happiness. Our personal capacities and the development of our skills can greatly influence our pursuits. Even when we attain happiness, it seems to be a fleeting accomplishment that does not last. Pursuits by other individuals and our interactions with them can have complicated effects on our happiness. Our nonhuman setting and our and other individuals’ interactions with it can curb or enable our pursuits in many ways. All of these many and often connected factors determine how successful we are in our pursuit of happiness. Most of these factors seem to be beyond our control. Our capabilities seem to be relatively limited. Our chances for happiness may be further depressed by our inadequate use of our capabilities.
So it is no wonder that we are struggling to obtain or retain happiness.
Because our happiness involves the entirety of us and our human and nonhuman setting in its actual and potential challenges and available support, it calls for a comprehensive approach that responds in scope and depth to the problems we face.
This is not what we want to hear even if deep down we know it to be true. Trying to devise such an approach threatens to overwhelm us. The enormity of the task, our apparent weakness, and our lack of insight into what can be done frighten us profoundly. We do not want to admit that happiness relentlessly draws us into a lifelong fight, that our means might be inadequate, and that we do not possess a convincing strategy to maximize our chances. We may shrink back from the realization that the emotion to which we dedicate our entire life might remain elusive.
We may decide to avert our mind from this existential distress. We may want to believe that happiness is less complex, that the challenges of achieving it are lower, or that there are more readily obtainable fixes for its challenges. We may prefer these delusions to the despair with which our awareness of reality and our reactions to such an awareness threaten us. In our quest for mollification, we may readily take refuge in fantasies developed by others for their personal use or for adjustment of their human environment. However, delusions we adopt from others may not have originated in their delusions. Others may take advantage of our vulnerability and manipulate us into believing and acting according to fantasies they do not share.
Some of the recipes we develop or adopt for a delusional existence might make us happier. They might superficially console us or even contain some measures that can help us to constructively cope with challenges of happiness. Some may be without discernible effect. However, other practices may threaten misery, even up to existential levels, because they arise from a denial of the truth and its replacement with falsehoods. Even to the extent we can avoid direct damage from our delusions, we are still bound to incur great detriment because we give up much of our potential to substantially improve and maximize our happiness.
The fear of becoming aware of the disconcerting reality of happiness and the desire to avoid such awareness for fear of not being able to cope with this reality have been so strong in humanity that there has not been a comprehensive, deep approach to happiness throughout its history to this point. This long delay in the maturing of humanity and the pervasive, unnecessary suffering that has resulted from it can now come to an end with the publication of my book Philosophy of Happiness.
The book acknowledges our many challenges in finding happiness and that we dedicate all our efforts to this undertaking. It identifies as the most fundamental challenge that we must gain knowledge of what makes us happy to behave in ways that can make us happy. Thus, it aims to assist us in understanding the essence of our happiness. The book further seeks to help us explore the factors in us, in other humans, and in our nonhuman environment that can have a bearing on our happiness, and how these factors relate to one another and our happiness. It also takes account of areas in which we can improve our happiness as well as of general strategies by which our influence can be maximized. The book undertakes to inspire the development of a comprehensive approach toward happiness from this understanding. Its ambition is to empower us to create our own philosophy of happiness according to which we can then devise implements and consider the merit of and possibly engage advice.
Q 16: So you leave it entirely to your readers what their philosophy might be?
A: My purpose is not to tell readers what their philosophy should be. That being said, their awareness of all of their needs and the general setting in which to pursue these needs are bound to guide them toward a similar general outlook. There are relevant structures and processes that derive from human nature and particularly the nature of happiness, the nature of our nonhuman environment, and the general situation of humans in correlation with one another and in correlation with their nonhuman environment. I describe these structures and processes and their interaction with the human quest for happiness because any individual must take them into consideration to succeed in planning and pursuing happiness.
Q 17: What are your plans in the aftermath of writing and publishing Philosophy of Happiness?
A: Although I regard my considerations and findings to be complete in their intended foundational scope, there is much more to be nuanced, detailed, and developed on the basis of what I found. No single person has all the answers in the complex and wide-ranging field of human happiness and its context. A large part of further work will have to be in conjunction with other disciplines, including law, economics, sociology, political science, history, anthropology, psychology, biology, and physics. It seems possible if not likely because of the cogency of facts and the logic inherent in them that some representatives of these branches of science have come or will come upon aspects that are similar to my discoveries. Others might advocate different approaches and conclusions. I look forward to engaging with both of these groups in exchanges of ideas and joint work. I also look forward to engaging with readers of my work generally in an effort to improve the human condition. But the success of that undertaking cannot and must not rest on my or anybody else’s leadership. It will depend on readers’ willingness to work toward reconciliation and to act upon their emerging vision of comprehensive happiness.
Q 18: Is your work or are you affiliated with any political movement?
A: No. I want to help individuals to develop their philosophical capacities and match their insights about happiness to their potential. In that process, one cannot help venturing across substantive aspects that are inherent in the nature of humans and the world beyond. These aspects are matters of science rather than opinion. Other philosophies may take issue with some of the results at which I arrive. Even I have struggled with some of my conclusions because of certain precepts I had previously been led to accept. But in the end, it does not matter what we would like to think or believe without thinking. Our refusal to deal with reality will hold us back and may lead to tragic results for us and others. My proposals provoke readers to seriously address the issue of happiness and to justify their conceptions, including their political positions. I encourage and assist people to open their eyes and look intensely at themselves and their world. I am confident that, once that occurs, readers will proceed to their own conclusions of whether the insights I offer are correct or not.
Q 19: Did you have any help in writing or preparing Philosophy of Happiness for publication?
A: I did everything myself. I don’t think one can claim to have written a book entirely unless one has written it in the words in which it is published. But I did all this work for more reasons than pride of authorship. Editing forced me to critically review my writing and led me to innumerable additional discoveries and increased depth of consideration. It also helped me to eliminate distractions and clarify content. I drew additional advantages from developing a table of contents as my writing progressed. The requirement of naming chapters succinctly, organizing them into sections and parts, and creating a sequence of subjects gave me irreplaceable inspiration. Finally, preparing an index helped me to an almost equal extent. It assisted me to implement consistency and forced me to define terms and consider their relationship. The book would not be anywhere near its level of accomplishment if I had delegated any of these tasks.
Q 20: Why did you decide to offer the index you prepared only on-line?
A: An index is only of limited use in accessing the content of my treatise because it represents a continuous progression of thought. That progression is best captured by its table of contents in conjunction with the transitory paragraphs at the end of each chapter. Further, many central terms are too extensively distributed throughout the text to make indexed references relevant. Upon that background, I prepared a foundation of what I regard to be salient references that readers might look up. But I want to remain open to indexing suggestions that can improve access for readers. This requires the index to be updateable.
Q 21: How did you know when Philosophy of Happiness was ready to be published?
A: Writers might be hurried because they want to share their findings and thoughts or because they run out of patience. Further, their resources might influence a decision to publish before a work has sufficiently matured. I resisted these causes and did not rest until I was reasonably certain that what I had written was the best I could accomplish for now. There is always room for improvement and I could go on developing my ideas and refining my writing. But I did not want to delay publishing it any longer because I think it has matured to a level where it can make a positive difference for individuals and for humanity. I regard my ideas like children that I hope will develop further after they leave home. Although I have done my best to raise and prepare them, they will have to go out into the world to prove themselves, become fully rounded, and unfold a life of their own. I am ready to see that happen. I know that the scope of my work presents many opportunities for additional inquiries, and I want to go on exploring and writing about such subjects. Only, that will have to be in the form of supplements whose specificity would have interfered with the developmental flow and possibly the comprehension of my writing at this time.
Q 22: You have subsequently authored and published four collections of philosophical quotes and poems, Live Knowing Life, Love Knowing Love, Pine Knowing Pain, and Shine Knowing Shame, some music with lyrics, as well as a collection of philosophical essays, Philosophic Reflections. How do they figure into your philosophy?
A: The quotes and poems are recordings of short thoughts that in one way or another relate to the work reflected in my Philosophy of Happiness book. They occurred to me over the years before, while, and after I wrote Philosophy of Happiness. As short thoughts go, they can often only touch upon subject matters. Some of these are directly addressed. Others are referenced in vignettes or sketches. All are written to instill readers with a hint or a less defined sense that may cause them to relate to their experiences and consider a topic. My music goes into a little more nuance, but tries to remain relatable. It forms an additional avenue for prompting listeners' thoughts and emotions.
In this manner, my quotes and poems and my music continue the intent of my main work. Their function is to make readers think and feel, look more intensely into their concerns, and find motivation and understanding for a better life. In this capacity, they can be helpful in two ways. Their illustrations can serve as an introduction into my philosophy for someone who is not quite ready to commit to reading Philosophy of Happiness. But they may also help people to get in touch with their self, gain better clarity about their pains, needs, wishes, hopes, responsibilities, and fears, and develop their own philosophy. Since that is the focus of Philosophy of Happiness, its readers may derive particular benefit from my quotes and poems.
The genesis and function of the essays in Philosophic Reflections are similar. However, they have the luxury of expanding thoughts into more thorough considerations. Also, they contain more autobiographical aspects that describe my approach to philosophy and philosophical writing.
Q 23: Is there a purpose to the design of your book covers?
A: I put a lot of thought not only into the technical design and execution of my books and their covers, but also their symbolic significance. A big part of this is represented in the color scheme I have chosen. My main work, Philosophy of Happiness, has a light sky blue cover in its nonpartitioned editions because this corresponds to its illumination of human existence in the bright light of day. Its partitioned paperback edition represents in Part One the brown earth that forms the basis of living existence and growth. The cover of Part Two is colored green to signify that living existence and growth. The colors also express more particularly the assessment of foundations of human existence that forms the focus of Part One and the development that springs from these foundations. The four books of philosophical quotes and poems in the Knowing series paint in tangerine, pink, mauve, and gray the preeminent colors of the sky at dawn and dusk. This reflects their nature as indications, afterglows, and settlings of the subject matters of Philosophy of Happiness. The daisy design on all my books carries a central significance that is addressed in some detail on its own page titled Daisy. Its stylized form on my collections of quotes and poems is surrounded by petals to express that these books contain thoughts that are related to but not necessarily contained in my main work. The fill colors of the stylized daisies represent four core symbols of green for life, red for love, yellow for sunlight and hope, and blue for water and air. Finally, the overarching "P" in the colophon of my imprint, Palioxis Publishing, exemplifies what it and its publications stand for: A reengagement after retreating.
Q 24: Why did you publish your work yourself?
A: After writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, and designing the book in its hardcover, paperback, and e-book versions, as well as preparing an on-line index and this website, I found little reason to involve a publisher. After acquiring and/or solidifying these skills, the preparation and publication of my subsequent books were familiar. A competent publisher might have helped with appropriate marketing and placement. I believe, though, that my work will in time find a readership based on its merit, the recommendation by people who read it, the information I provide about it on my website, and some publicity efforts I can personally undertake. Beyond such considerations, I wanted to keep control of my work and was not willing to compromise any part of it to the commercial pressures and proclivities of trade publishers.
Q 25: What is your recommendation to other authors who think of publishing themselves?
A: There are various reasons why authors might not be able or willing to take the approach I have taken and might retain assistance at some stages of writing or preparing their work for publication. That makes it difficult to give useful general recommendations. I would suggest, however, that authors explore and consider their autonomous options. I am also discussing my experiences with the writing and publishing process in some more detail in the blog of my publishing website, www.palioxis.com. There were a lot of things in this process I had to figure out by myself. I took great pains to learn and perfect professional publishing skills. Some of the experiences I gathered will have to and some may have to be lived through by other individuals that travel along a similar path as necessary or helpful parts of a constructive process of independent publishing. In that case, I may be able to give some guidance on how to better succeed in such undertakings. In other respects, however, I might be able to avoid unnecessary and unhelpful pain for others by sharing my experiences.
© 2013-2018 BY MARTIN JANELLO