"I KNOW that there is nothing better for people than to be happy
and to do good while they live," writes the author of
The author of the book Happy-People-Pills for All would
agree, but his prescription for securing this happiness has, he
says, revealed divisions among "religious people".
Dr Mark Walker, assistant professor of philosophy at New Mexico
State University, wants to see "a future where there is a cheap and
readily available supply of happiness-boosting pills for
In his book, he argues that happiness is "rooted in our
neurophysiology and neurochemistry, and, indeed, to a large degree,
in our genes". It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of happiness
is genetic, Dr Walker writes. The pills he would like to see
developed would "free us from 'slavery' to the genetic endowment
bestowed upon us by nature".
Dr Walker suggests that there are "morally compelling reasons"
to use pharmacology to enhance happiness. He lists studies that
suggest that the happiest people tend to have the most success in
love, at work, and in making friends, and says that "while success
does cause happiness, happiness also causes success".
The book concludes that, at least, governments should permit the
development of happy-people pills, but may even have a "moral duty"
to develop them.
Dr Walker cites a study by Dr David Healey, in which healthy
volunteers were given anti-depressants. Two-thirds of the sample
rated themselves as "better than well" as a result.
One chapter of the book is devoted to combating the "stereotype"
of the pills produced in Brave New World, the dystopian
novel by Aldous Huxley in which people take the drug "soma",
described by Huxley as having "all the advantages of Christianity
and alcohol; none of the defects". Dr Walker argues that the pills
he is proposing are intended as "mood-boosters, not as
Another chapter addresses the "ethical objections". Dr Walker
argues that it is "sheer fantasy" to argue that those taking the
pills would become "emotionally one-dimensional", although he does
suggest that "emotional blunting is not inherently bad".
He also rejects the idea that taking the pills would create
"inauthentic" happiness, suggesting that something can be
"artificial" but also "authentic".
Dr Walker also challenges the idea, explored in Huxley's novel,
that humanity must choose between greater happiness and "the higher
aspects of humanity". He argues that this is a "false dilemma", and
that both are possible: "Happy-people pills do not always require
us to choose between intrinsic benefits. Often, we can have it all.
"Even if suffering is necessary for the attainment of higher
goods, it seems that most of us have a suboptimal amount of
Dr Walker said on Monday that his interactions had suggested
that "religious people are as divided on the question as much as
secular people." Those in favour of the medication argued that, "If
we are God's children, given reason to improve our lot in the
world, there should be no reason not to use it."