The Happiness Hypothesis

The Happiness Hypothesis

Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Book - 2006
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Jonathan Haidt skillfully combines two genres-philosophical wisdom and scientific research-delighting the reader with surprising insights. He explains, for example, why we have such difficulty controlling ourselves and sticking to our plans; why no achievement brings lasting happiness, yet a few changes in your life can have profound effects, and why even confirmed atheists experience spiritual elevation. In a stunning final chapter, Haidt addresses the grand question "How can I live a meaningful life?," offering an original answer that draws on the rich inspiration of both philosophy and science.


" The Happiness Hypothesis is a wonderful and nuanced book that provides deep insight into the some of the most important questions in life--Why are we here?  What kind of life should we lead?  What paths lead to happiness?  From the ancient philosophers to cutting edge scientists, Haidt weaves a tapestry of the best and the brightest.  His highly original work on elevation and awe--two long-neglected emotions--adds a new weave to that tapestry.  A truly inspiring book."  - David M. Buss , author of The Evolution of Desire:  Strategies of Human Mating   "In this beautifully written book, Jonathan Haidt shows us the deep connection that exists between cutting-edge psychological research and the wisdom of the ancients.  It is inspiring to see how much modern psychology informs life's most central and persistent questions -Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less    "In our quest for happiness, we must find a balance between modern science and ancient wisdom, between East and West, and between 'left brain' and 'right brain.' Jon Haidt has struck that balance perfectly, and in doing so has given us the most brilliant and lucid analysis of virtue and well-being in the entire literature of positive psychology.  For the reader who seeks to understand happiness, my advice is: Begin with Haidt." - Martin E.P. Seligman, Director, Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Authentic Happiness   "Haidt is a fine guide on this journey between past and present, discussing the current complexities of psychological theory with clarity and humor. . . Haidt's is an open-minded, robust look at philosophy, psychological fact and spiritual mystery, of scientific rationalism and the unknowable ephemeral - an honest inquiry that concludes that the best life is, perhaps, one lived in the balance of opposites." - Bookpage
Publisher: New York : Basic Books, c2006.
ISBN: 9780465028016
Characteristics: xiii, 297 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.


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Jan 14, 2021

Leo says 4 stars

Mar 08, 2020

A refreshing review of the ancient wisdom regarding individual growth within the group; self- realization while being a good neighbor and contributing to the larger society. The type of read from which we can all benefit.

Jan 23, 2019

probably SSC

Apr 30, 2018

This book was recommended to me and I want to say I do not recommend. A waste of time. If you are a well read person, you will find the ideas here are nothing new.

Sep 02, 2015

Poorly written and overly simplistic. I do not agree with several of his ideas. Do not recommend.

ksoles Aug 23, 2014

In "The Happiness Hypothesis," Jonathan Haidt engagingly presents a myriad of social-psychological studies on state of mind. He covers ten ideas that recur in major historical texts including reciprocity, love/attachment and the pursuit of happiness, ultimately producing a highly readable, practical volume about human existence. Although Haidt occasionally over-simplifies his points, he does provide an exhaustive reference list for further reading and he certainly succeeds in creating a comprehensive overview of research on happiness.

The book's main analogy parallels an elephant and a rider: the elephant represents emotion, our subconscious disposition and inclinations whereas the rider symbolizes our conscious mind. Though the rider strives to steer and control the elephant, the elephant has it's own mind, one created by both evolution and culture. The conflict between the two leads to a divided self, one that unjustly criticizes others and gives into the temptation of positional goods such as bigger houses and fancier cars.

Haidt neither promotes apathy regarding one’s development of greater happiness, nor does he offer any easy answers. He does however discuss the advantages of meditation, cognitive-behavioural therapy and even medication. Additionally, he reveals features of daily life that increase happiness most dramatically: minimal disturbing noise, a shorter commute to work, greater autonomy in work/life, minimal shame in appearance and action, and an extended social network. Haidt concludes that we all have a genetic set-point; some people simply channel happiness with greater ease than others. But everyone should try to change the things within our reach, make some effort at changing the less mobile structural restraints and attempt to accept our dispositional nature.

May 07, 2013

wonderful insights into the scientific underpinnings of happiness, but with the, unavoidably I guess, underwhelming conclusion that the Golden Rule is still the very best, learn to love your neighbour

Jul 24, 2012

Fascinating study of the psychology of happiness. Written in an accessible but intelligent style -- not too heavy on the self-help, but still applicable and useful. Especially the metaphor of the rider and the elephant. Highly recommended.

May 17, 2012

This is a fantastic book that looks at the intersection between philosophical theory of a the good life and psychology research on what makes us happy. The author was a student of philosophy himself, so, unlike a lot of other works, he is clearly sympathetic to the field of philosophy while still critically evaluating some claims.


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