P4C Resource for International Happiness Day

Tuesday 20th of March is International Happiness Day. You can get some interesting practical resources for children at www.dayofhappiness.net
Happiness is an important concept in philosophy. Here are some suggestions for questions and an attached stimulus for exploring the idea.
Warm-up- “Hello As If”
1.    Walk around a space at a normal pace, not round and round in a circle but walking to and fro.
2.    Say “hello” to one another as you walk.
3.    Say it as if you are sad… sadder… the saddest possible.
4.    Say it as if you are happy… happier… the happiest possible.
5.    Back to normal. (Don’t spend long at either end of the scale as it can get a bit hysterical!)
Stimulus – Make Me Happy
The warm-up activity may be enough by itself to start a discussion. Or you could use the attached stimulus, “Make Me Happy” with older children. Set in the future, six friends discuss options for making themselves happier.
Osa’s “Happiness Machine” – a brain implant that makes you see the best of everything, as if you were the most positive person in the world.
Helen’s “Best You Machine” – similar, but you still react in a way you would, just on a day when you were in a really good mood.
Lisa’s “The Happy Chap” – not an implant, but a positive thinking course that has the same effects as the Best You Machine.
Meryl’s “Imaginary Brightsider” – not a real machine, but an imaginary one. When “switched on” you notice things to be cheerful about.
Jakub is just naturally happy, and Ali is deciding what to do, so is in a way the reader’s representative in the dialogue.
These are the sorts of questions the children might create, or that you could offer them as a “question menu” if you are working towards question creation.
Which of these would you choose (if any)?
Would it be good to be happy all the time?
Do you need to experience sadness too to be happy?
Are some sorts of happiness better than others?
Is it always better to be happy than to be sad?
Is being sad the opposite of being happy? Does it work like negative and positive numbers in maths?
Can you fake being happy?
For you to be really happy, do you have to be happy about something that is real?
Can you make yourself happy?
Can you make someone else happy?
If someone is happy for an hour, and then sad for an hour, are they happier than someone who is neither happy nor sad for two hours?
What length of time should you use to judge if someone is happy? Minute to minute, day to day, a whole life?
Further reading
These machines are inspired by “The Experience Machine”, a thought experiment by philosopher Robert Nozick, which asks if you would plug in to a machine that simulated a perfect but fake life. In my variation, you still live in the real world, but your reactions to it are changed by the machines. Google “Nozick experience machine pdf”, or see a video on the subject from the Wireless Philosophy series at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ1dsNauhGE
You can also, as a practical experiment, invite people to try using an Imaginary Brightsider for a day. The day I wrote the dialogue happened to be full of unexpected, tedious problems, and I found that switching on my own Imaginary Brightsider lifted my mood considerably – try it!

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