Grateful to No One

How does gratefulness work?

This article is part of a series on gratefulness, itself part of a bigger series of trying to live six theories of happiness within the space one year. Click on the links above to get the whole story!

Dear friends of Daily Philosophy,

My apologies that today we are (again) delayed by a day in what is supposedly the regular “Friday” newsletter. I had to review a 320 page philosophy book for a publisher, and this takes up a bit of time…

In the past week, we again had a number of fascinating articles on Daily Philosophy. In case you missed any, here is a short overview:

It has been argued that the consequences of uncontrolled AI would be so severe that even a very small risk justifies AI safety research. In reality, the chances of creating misaligned AI are not small. In fact, without an effective safety program, this is the only possible outcome. We are facing an almost guaranteed event with the potential to cause an existential catastrophe. This is not a low-risk high reward scenario; it is a high-risk negative reward situation. No wonder that so many people consider this to be the most important problem ever to face humanity. And the uncomfortable reality is that no version of human control over AI is achievable. [Read more].

By the way, we will from now on have more interviews with philosophers on the site. I’m trying to bring you the most interesting thinkers that everyone is talking about, but also new voices that do fascinating work in philosophy!

On the coming Monday, we’ll be speaking to Luis de Miranda, founder of the Philosophical Health movement, philosopher and novelist. He will talk about his life and works, and also about philosophical counselling and what philosophy can contribute to mental health. Don’t miss it! (A link to the interview will also be in next Friday’s newsletter). In a few weeks, we will speak to Roman V. Yampolskiy, the author of last week’s article about the dangers of AI. And in the near future we will have an interview with the author of a new book about the phenomenology of elegance, which is a fascinating topic in itself. Stay tuned!

Last week, we began our exploration of gratefulness by distinguishing between gratefulness and gratitude. While gratitude, we said, is the feeling of being thankful to a particular person for a particular (undeserved) benefit, gratefulness is a more general feeling of happiness and thanks towards nobody in particular; as in: “I am grateful for the glorious sunshine.”

It is interesting that in ancient times, the symmetric version of gratitude was the only one that was commonly recognised. Ancient authors write about gratitude generally as a relation between two people, and most of the time about the lack of gratitude as a vice:

Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Read on...

[1] Emmons, The Psychology of Gratitude. An Introduction. In: Emmons R. A. and McCullough M.E. (eds). The Psychology of Gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.