Biomorality of Happiness

Essays on technology, psycho­analysis, philosophy, design, ideology & Slavoj Žižek


November 25, 2009

Biomorality of Happiness

Alenka Zupančič in The Odd One In: On Comedy:

In the contemporary ideological climate it has become imperative that we perceive all the terrible things that happen to us as ultimately something positive—say as a precious experience that will bear fruit in our future life. Negativity, lack, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, are perceived more and more as moral faults–worse, as a corruption at the level of our very being or bare life. There is a spectacular rise of what we might call a bio-morality (as well as morality of feelings and emotions), which promotes the following fundamental axiom: a person who feels good (and is happy) is a good person; a person who feels bad is a bad person. It is this short circuit between the immediate feelings/sensations and the moral value that gives its specific color to the contemporary ideological rhetoric of happiness. This is very efficient, for who dares to raise her voice and say that as a matter of fact, she is not happy, and that she can’t manage to—-or, worse, doesn’t even care to-—transform all the disappointments of her life into a positive experience to be invested in the future? There is an important difference between this and the classical entrepreneur formula according to which we are always broadly responsible for our failures and misfortunes. This classical formula still implies a certain interval between what we are and the symbolic value of our success. It implies that, at least in principle, we could have acted otherwise, but didn’t (and are hence responsible for our failures or lack of happiness). The bio-morality mentioned above is replacing the classical notion of responsibility with the notion of a damaged, corrupt being: the unhappy and the unsuccessful are somehow corrupt already on the level of their bare life, and all their erroneous actions or nonactions follow from there with an inexorable necessity.”