Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

"We don't really want what we think we want," says philosopher Slavoj Žižek. It's a strange, almost exotic thought at a time when many of us are inundated daily with the prospect of infinite choice.


You can no longer buy a product, it seems, without expressing your opinion. (Do you want whiter teeth or a toothpaste that acknowledges the sensitivity of your gums? Dish soap that smites bacteria, or one that's free of environmental toxins?) For better or worse, customization has infiltrated our daily lives to an unprecedented degree and the message is clear: Live your best life. Find happiness here and now. 

But what if happiness isn't actually all that fulfilling? Watch the video:

In this second video from our interview with Žižek, the author of Big Think's most recent Book of the Month argues that happiness is a conformist category. And moreover, none of us really want it. Which is a good thing, since the pursuit of happiness is an Enlightenment value that gets at only one aspect of what it means to live a good life.

"Let’s be serious: when you are in a creative endeavor, in that wonderful fever--'My God, I’m onto something!' and so on--happiness doesn't enter it," he says. "You are ready to suffer. Sometimes scientists, I read in a history of quantum physics... were even ready to take into account the possibility that they [would] die because of radiation. Happiness is, for me, an unethical category." It's also boring.

You can be happy without being moral. You can be happy without being interesting or engaged in the world around you. You can be happy without having a single creative idea or interest or passion. You can get everything you desire, and still not be happy. So why even focus on finding bliss? 

Tell us: Would you rather be happy or inspired?

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

3,000-pound Triceratops skull unearthed in South Dakota

"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.

Excavation of a triceratops skull in South Dakota.

Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
Surprising Science
  • The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
  • It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
  • Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Keep reading Show less

Dark matter axions possibly found near Magnificent 7 neutron stars

A new study proposes mysterious axions may be found in X-rays coming from a cluster of neutron stars.

A rendering of the XMM-Newton (X-ray multi-mirror mission) space telescope.

Credit: D. Ducros; ESA/XMM-Newton, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Surprising Science
  • A study led by Berkeley Lab suggests axions may be present near neutron stars known as the Magnificent Seven.
  • The axions, theorized fundamental particles, could be found in the high-energy X-rays emitted from the stars.
  • Axions have yet to be observed directly and may be responsible for the elusive dark matter.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

    New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

    Credit: Columbia Pictures
    Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Surprising Science

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast