Aha, okay. I see what you’re saying. Forgive me for getting into Wittgenstein territory, but…
I can’t help but see our various proxies for measuring happiness as an important way for us to communicate about happiness. Any abstract noun exists, for us, because of the language we use to describe it, and I’m framing metrics as an extension of language.
“Happiness” is not identical to “a healthy balance of serotonin,” but the serotonin is a good indicator that can help us talk about happiness. “Happiness” is not identical to “having a healthy healthy intimate relationship,” but the healthy intimate relationship is a good indicator that can help us talk about happiness.
…am I communicating? At some point, I think online platforms end up being a sub-optimal medium for these kinds of abstract and partly semantic conversations…
William B Yeats famously declared “measurement began our might,” and I agree with him. Measurement is part of how we think, even when it comes to things that can’t be measured. So I think the most productive conversations are not the ones that steer us away from talk of measurement, but rather the ones that help us see which proxies fit better or worse, and for what reasons that is the case.