How would you act differently if your goal was to feel good?
This seems like a dumb question because aren’t we trying to feel good all the time?
Some people might say: “I’m trying to be an ethical person, not feel good.” But really, you’re trying to be an ethical person because being an ethical person feels good. Or volunteering at the shelter, that also feels good. Or taking care of your kids.
Nobody says: “I want to have kids because I hate kids and I will hate raising them.” If you feel that way, you don’t have kids, except by accident. Or else you’re lying. In Augustan Rome you might have said: “I’m having kids because it’s my duty to serve the Empire” but in that case it’s serving the Empire that felt good; or at least, the tax breaks and the governmental approval you received for doing so. Or at least, it felt better than the alternative.
And this maybe is the best way to think about it: your behavior, when it finally emerges from the confines of your brain and is emitted into the world, is the result of a staggering amount of evaluative computation in which the emitted action out-competes all alternatives based on a quantity that economists would call utility but which I am calling ‘feeling good.’
This point is so ridiculously obvious that it has been the source of intense argument. But I’m not here to argue. I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m out of bubble gum.