Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wisdom Of the Week

Smith notes a number of differences between how we react to grief and joy that is felt by others: There is, however, this difference between grief and joy, that we are generally most disposed to sympathize with small joys and great sorrows.


This asymmetry of joy and sorrow— the ease with which we sympathize with success relative to failure— is Smith’s explanation for why the rich and famous receive more attention and create more happiness than the poor and forgotten. We enjoy the successes of the rich and famous. The poor and forgotten move us briefly and not deeply. For Smith, this explains why rich people flaunt their wealth and poor people hide what they are missing: It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty. Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer. Nay, it is chiefly from this regard to the sentiments of mankind, that we pursue riches and avoid poverty.


We don’t experience great grief the same way we experience great joy. The joy of others can make us happy, as long as we are not envious. The grief of others has a much more limited effect, even for close friends.

- Excerpts from the excellent book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness by Russ Roberts

No comments: