Skip to content

Dean’s Talk no. 10: Happiness, Merit and Freedom

​         Living at a time when positivism is becoming the only paradigm used to perceive human life and to exert control over human lives is not easy. A strict and controlling policy that is only based on restructuring, readjusting and re- socialization has been applied during this time and even reaches into the discourse of our lives. Living and enjoying our own lives has, therefore, become more complicated because we must conform to a process of rules, regulations, laws and a concept of a static culture.

Under the unlimited growth of capitalism and the concept of a democracy based on a nationalistic view of Thainess, a new ethical system has emerged. This system does not recognize more traditional views of the importance of individual freedom and views of human rights. It does not appreciate the growing diversity of our lives within in the society and with respect to the important concepts of needs and rights. In this way, we are failing to identify important questions such as how much, when and how sufficiently we are meeting human needs. These are issues for any society that purports to be based on democracy and meeting human needs while respecting individual rights.

In academic society, the lack of recognition and/or the abuse of human rights, academic freedom and individual dignity are considered to be the big issues. They are by definition, public issues and must be treated as such. It is important to provide public forums where these issues can be discussed and considered. Recently, there have been few public forums where the concepts of social rights, public freedoms and social dignity have been discussed. But they have been few. Thus, there is little definition given to the ideas of public property and public space. It is important that more a use to discuss these issues are permitted; if not, people do not feel as if they belong to a society. At the present time, public space seems to belong to no one. People are becoming atomised and the idea of society is shrinking in such a situation, democracy cannot be achieved, Thainess cannot be understood.

Indeed, the social concept of freedom has long been a topic of discussion in the social sciences. In the Greek era, Eleutheros spoke of the idea of a social ideology based on a strong belief in individual liberty. The ancient Athenians believed that the State needed to respect individual freedom. Therefore, the Good State must not obstruct, destroy or act against individual right in terms of speech, writing, thinking and action. Put simply, it must be recognized that all individuals have power (Hansen, 2010: 3).  The rights of the individual are recognized and bolstered by the State. Athenians had learned the value of freedom through wars, becoming slaves and fighting against intruders. Their loss of life, property and homeland led them to a strong sense of how much freedom is crucial for them to enjoy happiness. The necessity of being in control of their own lives was an important learning.

In the social sciences, the emergence of law and discipline within the Good State is often mentioned by using the case of Athens. The term has becomes a symbol of good practice for achieving a society based on democracy and freedom.

The value of freedom comprises the concept of equity or fairness which is achieved by the law and maintained by the people (demos).  The ideal of equality, that all persons are equal under the law and within the society is achieved only when we have a situation where the State and people within the society respect the rights and freedoms of all people, that there is no abuse of one toward the other.  In short, all individuals have the right to receive security without discrimination and to live their lives without fear or abuse. Everybody should have rights to care for themselves, to belong to a society and to live their lives so as to achieve their own happiness (Gill 2006, Bell 2007, Wilson 2008).

However, there are differences in the concept of freedom. In the Stoicism school, for instance, the ideology aimed to explain the law of nature. Therefore, the State’s power should be kept under the rule of nature and the rule of law. Moreover, the rule of Logos led to Episteme, whereby law must be used within a system that is based on merit, ethics, honesty, justice, simplicity, self-discipline and the peaceful mind (Pesin 2010).

The ideas of happiness and merit for those who followed Plato’s school are quite different. They arise from the idea of self-control which is based on the concept of rational freedom. For Plato, freedom is separated from duty. Freedom neither arises nor is it strengthened through a model of control but by the ability of individuals to work and develop through the stage of professionalism. By this, individuals are able to create work that useful for both society and the majority.

Similarities between these two schools of thoughts include the concepts of happiness and merit based on a logic of learning from suffering, hard work and courage (Mcmahon 2004: 10).

Thus, the value of happiness, merit and freedom should be based on wisdom, logical thinking and acceptance of difference. To develop individual happiness in an open society, questions concerning liberal ideology, de-culturalization, and capitalism might only lead us to imagination. This might merely create a romantic picture of an individual’s freedom. By doing this, the other side of human beings which contain unlimited demands can be neglected.

The sole use of the positivist logical framework which is rooted in capitalism is no longer useful to examine the Thai-ness policy. Critique must be carried out without investigation seen as just selfish and self-serving to meet the unlimited demands of individuals.

In 2016, the Faculty of Social Sciences, together with others two Faculties in the University, has moved to our new building. Having to confront the limitations of public space and the seemingly unlimited space demands of the three Faculties, our sense of public consciousness concerning happiness, merits and freedom has been challenging.

In order to be happy, together with our colleagues, in such a small academic society, systematic thinking and acceptance of equality and human rights are crucial. Therefore, the ability to create dignity and happiness, use wisdom, and retain a sense of public consciousness and respectful begin, here where we are.




Assoc.Prof. Patcharin Sirasoonthorn, Ph.D

Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences

Naresuan University


Thai Edition