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Outrageous FortuneGloomy Reflections on Luck and Life$
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William Ian Miller

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197530689

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197530689.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 25 January 2022

The Law of Conservation of Good Things

The Law of Conservation of Good Things

(p.23) 2 The Law of Conservation of Good Things
Outrageous Fortune

William Ian Miller

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines people’s deep set of beliefs about the scarcity of the good, that so much of what one calls happiness is of doubtful virtue, a good portion of it being comparative, requiring the misery of others. One may experience it either as overt delight, as in some kinds of Schadenfreude, or merely as relief that an expected bad thing did not materialize; even much of this relief depends on the misfortune of others, as when one experiences “that there but for the grace of God go I” sense of your good fortune prompted by another’s misfortune. Even the pleasure of sex might sum out at zero, depending on when the calculation is made, it being too a form of the pleasure of relief, and then there is the tristesse afterwards. This chapter treats heaven as an attempt to provide a plenitude of happiness, still however by some accounts depending on enjoying the spectacle of the damned in hell and then too the joy of heaven is more than balanced out negatively by the larger numbers of souls in hell, universal salvation being a heresy. The chapter also discusses smiles, laughter, and smirks and deals with happy, dour Danes, who always win those happiest of people silly studies, perhaps because they can congratulate themselves on not being Hungarians or Americans.

Keywords:   heaven and hell, salvation, Schadenfreude, relief, laughter, smiles, universalism, gifts, happy Danes, law of conservation

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