The Happiness Battles: Aristotle vs. Nietzsche vs. Buddha vs. Mencius vs. a Rabbi

A boiling red ocean of demented, feisty, irrational, fearful, hateful, ungrateful beings wailed in sorrowful pain. As if this repulsive existence had pitied them, a crack of kind light fissured their stormy sky. From this window into another world, descended an old man, Aristotle.

Aristotle paced back and forth in a stone slab that floated on the tears of the creatures below, his white tunic fluttering about in his cool wind. Pitying them, he decided to say some words: “Behold, ye. I have the solution for your ailment, your unrighteous sorrow and fear.”

Some eyes flickered with anger, others were buried in the sea of blubber and sharp elbows, but a few managed to catch fleeting sights of the man above.

“The solution is to fulfill your nature. And your nature is to reason.”

The sea festered along, its motion untainted by the hollow word. After all, what did it mean to reason? To one who is helplessly buoyed upward by the bodies all around and crashed against these same at the wave’s break, what the hell can reason mean?

Aristotle dug into his robes for thermometers and rulers, and dropped these like fish food on the masses. “Go on, establish facts in accord with experience. Do it repeatedly, observe carefully, and adhere to the rules of logic. This is what you must do.”

The beings fumbled the instruments in their decrepit hands, they were confused and attempted to measure everything: legs, teeth, and tongues were all targeted and pinned down by the most fanatical of the bunch. After a long frenzy they had accumulated information, and had established tough logic enforcement, but yet this did not stop the calamity of their heaving; the sea toiled on. The waves changed their form, but not their fundamental nature.

From the fission in the sky descended an angry mustache-man. “Behold, ye. I am Nietzsche. And I say that your suffering is valuable. There is nothing to fix here, toil on. Crack at the ribs; earn your worth and achievement!” With his head raised in self-entrancing speech, Nietzsche could not see where he was stepping, and fell to the call of gravity. As cutting as his voice had resounded, so cutting was his sudden slip into the hellish torture down below.

Next from on high, a being materialized from the light: the Buddha. He descended cross-legged and haloed. “What a way to eat your words,” he said in a loving and compassionate tone to the poor Nietzsche being digested below. “Behold, ye. You must follow the Noble Eightfold Path. This will lead to the ultimate freedom from suffering.”

At this, Aristotle scoffed forcefully. “You are a fool Buddha,” said Aristotle. “For one thing, they have learned to reason, and cannot simply accept your views.”

“That is fine, they must come to see the truth for themselves,” replied Buddha.

“But how can they know that they won’t be wasting their time?” said Aristotle.

“Look who’s talking. You gave them a massive free-range game to play, with no concise direction.”

Aristotle would have blushed had he not been so senile, and replied in turn, “You call this Eightfold Path of yours concise? This is the epitome of an oxymoron. There are too many things to do and no clear percentage of time that should be devoted to each aspect. The truth is we are both incapable of specifying a coherent function for these poor fools.”

The Buddha sat for a long moment knowing Aristotle was right, and so decided to amend his speech. “Okay listen up, and behold, ye … once again. I say unto you that you must overcome craving in all forms. Only this will achieve ultimate happiness.”

“Overcome craving!?” Aristotle was flabbergasted. “If they took you to your word, the rational behavior would be to commit suicide. That would surely overcome craving in all forms. And remember, you can’t say rebirth anymooore.”

“Aristotle, you have not seen the path in my words clearly enough. I said overcome all forms of craving. Craving to not exist should also be overcome.”

“Now that’s just nonsensical.”

“Aristotle,” the Buddha smiled kindly, “the action I recommend is not one of rational analysis, which would just be the fermentation of thought. No, rather, it is a direct knowing. A direct instruction to not crave in this instance. If they can remember this instruction often enough, and thus press repeat on this behavior of non-craving, then they will be much happier.”
At the sound of the Buddha’s words, the sea grew calmer, almost depressingly so. Aristotle looked down and saw the soup of animas in gentled sorrow. This was certainly not the scary hell he had once descended upon, but neither was it what something in his most inner-being desired it to be. But he could no longer argue, and simply wished it did not end this way. He sat and sat, contemplating the situation with great discomfort as the enlightened meditator sat in some strange realm beyond desires.
Like a prayer answered by the mysterious essence of life, descended Mencius and a Rabbi. “Ahh… You two, what have you done?” they tromboned in unison.

Aristotle responded, “You mean, what has he done. I… I wanted them to fulfill something, some ideal… something that was human.”

“Pity you, who are pierced at the limbs by the chains of Samsara. Liberation from this existence is what should be sought,” said Buddha.

Mencius and the Rabbi, who had been arguing on their descent through the wormhole, realized at once that their views were much closer than those of the other two. They both believed in emphasizing something higher, something unattainable and glorious which should be bathed in and praised.

The Rabbi called this, this which was the reason for beautiful songs, God; Mencius called it the higher-self in all people. In unison they said: “You are both wrong, what these people need is not to fulfill a single function. They need to exist at the nexus between what is base and what is most-high, ever-seeking to indulge in that which is most-high. Being the Utmost defeats the purpose.”

Hearing these words, Nietzsche activated Transhuman cyborg mode and ascended from the pit, carrying everyone he could on his bionic arms. The rockets bounced him to a stable altitude from which he looked down upon the fallen and selected the spell: Vitrify. And just like that, with a swirl of magical winter dust, the slipping souls were captured in cold nitrogen crystals.

“I see now, there really is something more. More than mere happiness. It is posthuman happiness. It is liberation from mere human cravings, but it is more than what can be achieved through meditation or false utopias. I have pieced all your philosophies together, and now I see. Aristotle, you are right that we are here to do our function. Because we can’t do otherwise. Our function is our destiny, and our destiny is determined by this universe of which we are a part. From the Buddha I learned that I was wrong to mock happiness and yet, was right to emphasize something greater than it. From Mencius and the Rabbi, I reaffirmed that the path should not culminate, but should be a journey of growth.”

Then, with the sheer willpower surging through the transistors in his gadgets, he puffed up his chest and Summoned AGI to carve the world into an orgasmic puzzle for his modded ventral pallidum to chase. “Now the quest shall commence!” And in one bleeping, quickly slithering fractal explosion was the beginning of infinity.


Experiences are configurations of matter. In principle, we can engineer the best experience by specifying the electron flow architecture that is that experience.

For mysterious reasons, we live in a universe where the internal workings of a network of atoms are conscious unto themselves. The fact that experiences are bound to that which is manipulable, geometric, lawful – that which we call “material,” is a wonderful boon offered to us by this, otherwise demiurgic, embryonic bubble in the multiverse.

SEELE will be the most important project undertaken by the Earthly descendants of LUCA (last universal common ancestor). My mission in life is not to procreate, as the metaphorical will of my Proterozoic forefather might wish. My mission is to inspire SEELE – a conglomerate of volitional vectors instantiated in human flesh that come together and push matter towards the summit.

There is a summit of self-contained value. All experiences have a hedonic tone to them. The valence(hedonic tone) is as real, as physical, a property of a mind, as the spin direction is of a quark. The self-modeling networks that simulate the complex concept of “foot” in a non-masochist as the electrical signals from below informed them that nerves had been snipped and a toe gobbled up by the lawn-mower – did they doubt? Did Muhammad doubt the hedonic spectrum when he imbued the very ink of his Arabic calligraphy with unbelievers dragged through boiling water? –and on the other side– is the good. Good is not fundamentally relative. Good is good. History and Anthropology reveal that different cultures can promote different preferences. To the naive eye, this implies relativism. But to the learned eye, this implies that a brain has learned different tactics to mine the same gold. Bolivians fond of the Takanakuy mine the gold by punching their neighbor’s faces, a boy at a Chicago restaurant mines it by playing a game on his iPad, a mathematician at Oxford mines it by creatively discovering symmetrical relationships, an alien floating in the clouds of the Carina Nebula may mine this same positive valence in what seem like disturbing and unintelligible motions. There are different keys, but all open the same door.

Certain configurations of matter feel better than others.

Therefore, there is no real problem of relative values. There is, at bottom, the same value.

The ultimate design will feel as nothing human. From the outside, it may be a planet-sized cube.

“How boring,” thinks the human.

“How wrong is the human,” knows the inside consciousness of the cube.

To design this paradise life, clues lie in the basal ganglia’s limbic circuitry. What does it share with the happiness production in a baboon? What does it share with the happiness production in an alien, non-Carbon life form? If we should ever find the underlying explanatory theory that accounts for this, tiling spacetime with this pattern is the next and final step in the game of life.