老成学研究所 > Activities > Systems Ethics Thinking > Systems Ethics Thinking Chapter 7 Naoki Morishita

Systems Ethics Thinking Chapter 7 Naoki Morishita
Activities | 2022.09.20


Making a measure of Happiness (1)

Noaki Morishita

1. Happiness as a basis

Systems ethics starts from a situation where people are in conflict. It is not the problem itself that creates the conflict, but the difference in interpretation of the meaning of the problem. Differences in interpretation stem from differences in people’s interests and viewpoints. In particular, we confirmed in the previous chapter that relativizing viewpoints is important. But where does the difference in viewpoints come from?

In the case of the euthanasia issue discussed in the previous chapter, it was the “meaning of life” of the parties that ultimately decided whether to choose euthanasia or not. The situation would be the same for those who generally discuss the issue of euthanasia. In other words, the root of the difference in viewpoints is the way of understanding happiness, including the sense of purpose of life.

Since ancient times, happiness has always been at the center of people’s attention, and that will not change in the future. However, in the age of 100 years of life, people’s interest in “happiness” is becoming more and more urgent. What you consider to be happy in your life determines how do you live in the last 50 years of your life.

Definition of happiness

What is “happiness” in the first place? “Happiness” is a general term for a group of ideas consisting of “a sense of happiness,” “a sense of purpose in life,” “a sense of satisfaction in life,” “a view of life,” and “a view of life and death.” Since these are vague in nature, there are, of course, various definitions of “happiness” in the east and west.

For example, Aristotle in ancient Greece considered “happiness” to be the realization of “human-like logos-like activities.” By his definition, human activity is limited to “logos” (“Nikomacos Ethics”). In ancient times, as in Buddhism, there was also the idea of ​​aiming for the disappearance of human desires, that is, nirvana (early Buddhist scriptures). 

In modern times, the utilitarian Bentham reduced happiness to a “feeling of pleasure and pain.” When this happens, the difference in human activity disappears behind the feeling of pleasure and pain (“An Introduction to the Principles of morals and legislation”). In Japan, the Meiji philosopher Nishi Amane avoided the definition of “summum bonum happiness” and used “mame (health)” “chie (wisdom)” “Tomi (rich)” as “second best happiness”. (“Human World Three Treasure Theory”).

There are various definitions of “happiness” in this way, but when they are aggregated and decocted, the essence remains at the bottom. That is the “feeling of fulfillment that accompanies human activities.” The same is passively expressed in Buddhism.

What should be noted in this essence is “human activity”. In order to be able to say that some action is accompanied by a certain sense of fulfillment, it must be a series of actions at a higher level, not just a series of acts. For example, it becomes a human activity only after playing a game with an opponent, not just swinging a tennis racket. Unless we can clearly grasp this human activity, “happiness” will remain vague indefinitely.

Double aim of this chapter

From the perspective of the communication system in this book, “human activity” is nothing more than a mutual communication system. And the framework for mutual communication is already prepared in Chapter 4. In this chapter and the next chapter, we will try to reconstruct the concept of “happiness” from the aspect of “human activity” based on the thinking method of four-dimensional correlation. If this reconstruction is successful, people can deepen their viewpoint, which in turn can be expected to encourage “self-transformation.” This is the first aim of this chapter.

At that time, we will pay attention to the concept of “QOL (Quality of Life)” that enables the scientific operation of “happiness” rather than “happiness” itself. Currently, QOL scales have been developed in various fields and are being used for research. Reconstructing not only the concept of quality of life but also its measure will enable collaboration between system ethics and scientific research. This is the second aim.

2. QOL concept framework

“QOL” is an abbreviation for “quality of life”. At first glance, both “life” and “quality” are ambiguous. Unless we make a unified framework for the concept of QOL, we cannot go one step further.

Three levels of life

First, looking at “life L”, this is translated into “biological life”, “survival”, “living or livelihood”, “whole life”, etc., so the focus is not clear. So, let’s take the plunge and divide “life L” into three levels: “survival L1”, “livelihood L2”, and “whole life L3”. Adding “L1”, “L2”, and “L3” as tags is a device to avoid confusion.

Here, “survival L1” refers to human behavior as an organism (animal), “livelihood L2” refers to human activity, that is, mutual communication, and “life L3” refers to the temporal summarization of life. In other words, the idea is that “Livelihood L2” will be run on the foundation of “Survival L1” and “Whole life L3” will spread on “Livelihood L2”. Two points are annotated here.

The first point. The center of the framework of “life L” is “livelihood L2”, but the content is “human activity”. As explained in Chapter 4, “human activity” is a mutual communication system that exchanges meaning- interpretations through the control of self-referential communication. The entire communication system, including mutual communication, is shown in the “Interconnection of Communication Systems” diagram.

The second point. The foundation of “life L” is “biological life L0”. From the perspective of this book, which sees the relationship of all things as communication, “biological life” is a “multidimensional living communication system”. Of course, it is also possible to divide the level of “life” based on “biological life”. In fact, there are also views of “biological life,” “survival,” and “livelihood” in social medicine. However, I did not do so in this book because the center of “life L” is “livelihood L2” as “human activity”. As long as “Livelihood L2” is centered on “Life L”, “biological life L0” is carried into it as the basis of “Survival Li”.

Two aspects of quality

Next, looking at “Quality”, on the one hand it refers to objective functional quality, and on the other hand it refers to subjective feelings. In other words, there are two aspects, “objective quality QO” and “subjective quality QS”. How are the two aspects of “quality Q” (tagged QO and QS) related?

Happiness economics and happiness psychology are empirical sciences that study happiness. On the one hand, economics equates the objective aspect QO of the people’s “life L” with the size of goods, but relies on empirical speculation about the relationship with the subjective aspect QS (“If you have a high income, you should be happy.”) Psychology, on the other hand, focuses on the subjective aspect QS of “individual” well-being, but deliberately cuts off its association with the objective aspect QO.

In this way, both fields have abandoned efforts to link the two aspects of quality. How can two aspects of “quality Q”, objective aspect QO and subjective aspect QS, be related and grasped in a unified manner?  In my opinion, the solution is to position both as each aspect of the three levels of “life” discussed earlier.

Unified framework

Based on the above, the following unified framework of QOL concept emerges.

Survival L1 

QO: Physical movements and conditions QS: Health and illness sensations

Livelihood L2 

QO: Environmental Conditions such as Occupation / Income / Education, Family / Housing, etc. QS: Happiness consciousness

Whole life L3 

QO: Social systems time QS: View of happiness, view of life, view of life and death

The framework of the QOL concept is drawn as shown in the figure 32. It should be noted that this framework does not separate the individual level and the group level. I think it can be applied to both.

Fig.32 Unified framework of QOL concept

3. “Livelihood” as a human activity

Incorporating the QOL concept framework into the framework of interconnection of the communication systems listed at the end of Chapter 4 gives a comprehensive framework of the QOL concept. In the following, I would like to examine existing measures and theories related to QOL based on this comprehensive framework.

Health-related quality of life scale

The first thing to consider is a health-related quality of life scale. WHO’s “QOL26” and “SF-36” developed in the United States are famous examples of this scale. Since the WHO scale is sophisticated and comprehensive, I will return to it at the end of the next chapter. Here, we will take up the EU’s “EQ-5D-5L”, which is frequently used. In addition, 5D means five indicators (dimensions), and 5L means five choices (degrees) such as “greatly” and “almost none”. This scale is simple with only five indicators. The five indicators are:

・ Degree of movement (walking around)

・ Personal management (body washing and putting on and taking off)

・ Regular activities (eg. work, study, family, leisure activities)

・ Pain and discomfort

・ Anxiety and obstruction

Looking at these indicators raises some questions. For example, “degree of movement” and “personal management” are arranged without considering the level of action. However, the former is the “basic activities of daily living (ADL)” that is the basis of human activity, and the latter is the “instrumental activities of daily living (IADL)” as part of human activity. If it can be distinguished in this way, the former corresponds to the objective quality QO of “survival L1”, and the latter corresponds to the objective quality QO spanning “survival L1” and “livelihood L2”.

The same question arises for the parallel of “pain and discomfort” and “anxiety and obstruction”. The former is in close contact with the body, while the latter goes beyond the level of close contact with the body and extends to the entire mind. In other words, the former corresponds to the subjective quality QS of “survival L1”, and the latter corresponds to the subjective quality QS that straddles “survival L1” and “livelihood L2”. Again, the level difference of “life L” is not taken into consideration.

Furthermore, what I especially wonder about in relation to “livelihood L2” is “ordinary activities”. Looking at the contents, it is only a fragmentary example of human activity, and the whole of human activity, that is, mutual communication, is not grasped.

Based on the above questions, let’s reconstruct the “EQ-5D-5L” in light of the framework of the four types of mutual communication introduced in Chapter 3 (Fig.33). Looking at this, we can reasonably explain the reasons for selecting the five indicators and their interrelationships. It should be noted that the structure of “survival L1”, which is a summary of biological behavior, is lacking here. This will be revisited at the end of this chapter.

Survival L1

Objective quality QO … Degree of movement 

Subjective quality QS … Pain and discomfort

Biological behavior … None

Livelihood L2

Objective quality QO … Personal management

Subjective quality QS … Anxiety and obstruction

Human activity … Regular activity

  External dimension I (practice activity) … Work and Study

  Internal dimension II (assistance type activity) …Family

  Others-oriented dimension III (inclusion activity) … None

  Self-oriented dimension IV (transcendence activity) … Leisure activity

Fig.33 EQ within the QOL conceptual framework

Maslow’s five-stage needs

Next, let’s take up Maslow’s needs (necessary) five-stage theory from the field of psychology. This theory has been pointed out various problems so far. Nevertheless, it is still introduced in Japanese high school textbooks. It has the following five stages.

・ Physiological needs (bottom)

・ Safety needs

・ Social (love and belonging) needs

・ Esteem (approval) needs

・ Self-actualization needs (top)

The characteristic of Maslow’s theory is the way of thinking of the pyramid staircase system that the needs of the upper stage appear in response to the satisfaction of the needs of the lower stage. In later years, Maslow set “self-transcendence needs” in the sixth stage in consideration of the old age of life. Let’s consider each one below.

The first question is how to think of the “stairs” style. This book basically considers that communication systems at each level proceed in parallel. That’s why we use the concept of “dimensions” rather than hierarchies and stairs. The level of the framework of the QOL concept also means a dimension. You may not be able to capture the “living” movement on the stairs.

Next, the “physiological needs” at the bottom belong to “survival L1”. The “safety needs” above it can be seen as straddling “survival L1” and “livelihood L2”.

Furthermore, turn your eyes to the “social (love and attribution) needs” and “esteem (approval) needs” in the middle layer. Based on the four types of mutual communication systems, the former corresponds to the internal dimension II of “livelihood L2”, that is, assistant communication. The latter also corresponds to the others-oriented dimension III of “livelihood L2”, that is, integrated communication. The two have different intentions (dimensions), and are not in a stage relationship.

The last is the top layer “self-actualization needs”. The question that arises here is that this need is at the top. Although this view is a reflection of the society and times in which Maslow lived, it does not apply to humankind in general. Rather, “self-actualization needs” should be seen as straddling “livelihood L2” and “whole life L3” as well as both practical communication in external dimension I and transcendental communication in self-oriented dimension IV. Furthermore, it also supports the goal-achievement type of “whole life L3” described later. In other words, Maslow pushes the ambiguity included in “self-actualization” into one.

Based on the above, we reconstruct the Maslow theory. In light of this, the ambiguity and bias of the “needs stage” will be obvious.

Survival L1 … Ⅰ Physiological needs Ⅱ Safety needs

Livelihood L2

 Ⅰ Safety needs / Ⅰ Self-actualization needs

 Ⅱ Social attribution and love needs

 Ⅲ Esteem (approval) needs

 Ⅳ Self-actualization needs

Whole life L3 … Ⅰ Self-actualization needs Ⅳ Self-transcendent needs

Nussbaum’s theory of human activity

The third is the human activity theory of Martha Nussbaum, a philosopher who follows the flow of Aristotle. Nussbaum claims to be based on human cross-cultural experience and extracts the basic components of human activity. That is the next 10 capabilities.

・ Life

・ Bodily Health

・ Bodily integrity

・ Sense, imagination, and thought

・ Emotions

・ Practical reason

・ Affiliation

・ Other species

・ play

・ Control over one’s Environment(A political, B material)

These 10 components range from life and bodily ability to political activities. However, it is not clear whether they are the conditions of human activity or the activity itself. Furthermore, it is unclear how they are related. I don’t think it’s a philosopher’s theory. Let’s consider based on the unified framework of QOL.

First, look at the “survival L1” level. “biological life L0” is the basis of “survival L1”. “Bodily health” and “bodily integrity” are objective quality QO of “survival L1”. However, “bodily health” may be a subjective quality QS. “Sense / imagination / thought” are objective conditions QO that straddles “survival L1” and “livelihood L2”, but it is also a subjective quality QS.

Then move on to the level of activity. “Emotions” are assistant activities of the internal dimension III of “livelihood L2”. In addition, since “practical reason” can be inferred to be the phronesis (practical wisdom) that originates in Aristotle, the subjective quality QS and objective quality QS become related to I practical and III integrated activities of “Livelihood L2”.

The following “affiliation (A social relation, B self-respect)” is complex. Of these, “A social relation” spans the II assistant type and III integrated type activities of “Livelihood L2”. On the other hand, “self-respect” is related to III integrated activities.

Furthermore, “other species” is a transcendental activity of “Livelihood L2”. The same is true for “play.”

Finally, “control over one’s environment (A political  B material)” is also complex. “A political control” is a III integrated activity of “Livelihood L2”, and “B material control” is an I practical activity. The above can be summarized as follows.

Survival L1

Basis of survival …Biological life L0

QO / QS … Bodily health

QO … Bodily integrity 

QS / QO … Sense, imagination, thought

Livelihood L2

Ⅰ (Practice type) QS / QO … Practical reason

Ⅰ (Practice type) …Control over one’s Environment  B material 

Ⅱ (Assistance type) … Emotions

Ⅱ (Assistance type) … Affiliation A

Ⅲ (Inclusion type) QS / QO … Practical reason

Ⅲ (Inclusion type) … Affiliation  B 

Ⅲ (Inclusion type) … Control over one’s Environmental  A political

Ⅳ (Transcendence type) … Play

Ⅳ (Transcendence type) … Other species

As can be seen from the examination of the above three cases, empirical generalization alone is not enough to extract basic human activities, and rational reconstruction is also necessary. In this respect, existing theories were biased towards empirical generalization. If we rationally reconstruct the QOL under a unified framework, we will notice the empirical bias and clarify the direction to be corrected. Collation between rationality and experience is essential.

4. Basic structure of survival L1

In the unified framework of the QOL concept, “survival L1” is the basis of “livelihood L2” as a human activity, and includes the whole of human biological behavior. In order to capture this “survival L1” in earnest, we must not only trace back to the “drive (instinct)” of animals, but also return to the underlying “biological life”. However, this book is not a place to rigorously discuss “drive” and “biological life.” Here, we will only briefly discuss the basic structure of “survival” from the perspective of communication systems.

Living system

As mentioned in Chapter 2 and further explained in Chapter 9, “biological life” is a communication system among cells that exchanges biomolecules (types as information). Inside, multiple communication systems are functionally differentiated to form a multidimensional network. A biological life is an integrated body of functionally differentiated life communication systems.

The “living (communication) system” is constantly exposed to various stimuli and stressed while encountering various things in the environment. In order for the system to maintain its own stability, it needs to respond appropriately to various stresses.

However, as it continues to seek appropriate responses, communication within the system constantly fluctuates, repeating excessive reaction and underreaction, that is, double overreactions. Then, while repeating the double excess, a stable state, that is, an equilibrium is sought. The “living system” is a dynamic process that constantly seeks to restore one’s equilibrium.

The function of constantly maintaining the stable state of the system is generally called “structuring”. In the case of living systems, the core of “structuring” that maintains the integration of multidimensional communication systems will be the “environmental model” held inside the communication system among nerve cells.

At the level of “survival L1” as a biological behavior, the self-healing movement of “biological life” appears as bodily movements and facial expressions in objective QO and does not feel discomfort or abnormality in subjective QS, that is, brings negative or potential pleasure. This potential pleasure is a sense of health. On the other hand, the fluctuation of the self-healing movement, that is, the double excess, is a sense of “illness”.

* The original meaning of “health” is the equilibrium state (overall) as a goal of constant return. And the work to restore the whole is “healing”. Self-restoring of life is self-healing (“Desire and Peace for Health”, “Basic Concept of Bioethics”).

Four groups of human drive

The behavior of living things in the environment is governed by “drives (instincts)” that act as structuring as explained in Chapter 2. The movement of self-restoring of life is the basis of biological behavior and the source of drive from the perspective of drive. I give the name “self-restoring drive” to this fundamental drive.

Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, laid the foundation for drive theory. The framework of his drive theory is the conflict between “self-preservation drive” and “sexual drive”. In later years, these two major drives were replaced by the conflict between the “life drive (Eros)” that included both of them and the newly set “death drive (Thanatos)”.

However, Freud’s theory of drive has no room for other drives. First of all, there is no “self-restoring drive”. Using the ambiguity of the word “self-repetition”, it is forcibly resolved by “death drive (Thanatos)”. In addition, there is no “childcare” drive that is commonplace in the animal world. The basis of species conservation is the “childcare” drive that leads to “care”, and Freud’s persistent “(male) sexual drive” rather belongs to the dominance drive that competes for superiority over the opposite sex. In addition, there is no “play” drive that is clearly seen in pets.

The model of Freud’s drive theory is that of the protozoa that was the subject of research at the time, as well as the desires of men raised in Jewish culture. The former does not apply to humans in general, and the latter does not resemble familial animals close to humans. If you are looking for a model of the human drive world, the herd of familial animals mentioned in Chapter 2, “Evolution of Communication” would be more appropriate.

Based on the above, let’s reconstruct the drive that structures human biological behavior, albeit quite boldly. If it corresponds to the four groups of human activities, the following four groups can be obtained with the self-restoring drive as the origin.

External dimension I…Practice activity (consumption)
…Individual preservation drive (search / ingenuity)

Internal dimension II…Assistance activity (care)…Childcare drive (parental asylum)

Others-oriented dimension III… Inclusion activity (approval)
… Heterosexual monopoly drive (dominance within the group)

Self-oriented dimension IV … Transcendence activity (play)
… Play drive (free from preservation)

In the mutual communication of animals, which is relatively close to humankind, emotional communication controlled by drive (instinct) is integrated with imaginary communication controlled by intelligence. Emotional communication is powerful in this two-dimensional integration. This point will be the same in the human four-dimensional communication system. Because it is the governed side that supplies the energy.

Basic structure of survival

Human biological (animal) behavior is the basis of human activity, and always supports human activity from behind at the same time. It is governed not only by drive and intelligence, but also by reason and insight as explained in Chapter 2. In other words, the four dimensions are integrated on the basis of the emotional communication system. These four dimensions should correspond to the four dimension of the mind that supports human activity. Therefore, the basic dimensions of human biological (animal) behavior are reconstructed as follows (Fig.34). In anticipation of actual application, scale-oriented expressions are used.

Biological behavior I… “I like to move my body” 
… I Performance dimension of mind

Biological behavior Ⅱ… “I like calmness and intimacy”
… Ⅱ Sentiment dimension of mind

Biological behavior Ⅲ…”I prefer to be recognized by others”
…Ⅲ Negotiation dimension of mind

Biological behavior Ⅳ… “I like fun and interesting things”
… Ⅳ Reflection dimension of mind

Fig.34 Basic structure of survival

Brief Summary

In this chapter, we have taken up and examined the “EQ-5D-5L” scale, Maslow’s five-stage theory of needs, and Nussbaum’s theory of human activity. What emerges from this is the lack of a perspective of structure (structuring). “Livelihood L2” is not understood as a structure in all three. In particular, the structure of “survival L1” is missing. Keeping this point in mind, the three parties are arranged side by side as follows.

EQ-5D-5L scale

QO…Degree of movement (walking around)

QS … Pain and discomfort

Biological behavior Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ … None

Maslow’s five-stage theory of needs

Biological behavior I … Physiological needs

Biological behavior II … Safety needs

Biological behavior Ⅲ Ⅳ … None

Nussbaum’s theory of human activity

Basis of survival… Biological life L0

QO / QS … Bodily health

QO … Bodily integration

QS / QO … Sense, imagination, thought

Biological behavior Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ … None

Back to the list
© Re-Ageing. All Rights Reserved.
© Re-Ageing. All Rights Reserved.