In this smart and timely book, the distinguished moral philosopher Sissela Bok ponders the nature of happiness and its place in philosophical thinking and writing throughout the ages. With nuance and elegance, Bok explores notions of happiness—from Greek philosophers to Desmond Tutu, Charles Darwin, Iris Murdoch, and the Dalai Lama—as well as the latest theories advanced by psychologists, economists, geneticists, and neuroscientists. Eschewing abstract theorizing, Bok weaves in a wealth offirsthand observations about happiness from ordinary people as well as renowned figures. This may well be the most complete picture of happiness yet.
This book is also a clarion call to think clearly and sensitively about happiness. Bringing together very different disciplines provides Bok with a unique opportunity to consider the role of happiness in wider questions of how we should lead our lives and treat one another—concerns that don’t often figure in today’s happiness equation. How should we pursue, weigh, value, or limit our own happiness, or that of others, now and in the future? Compelling and perceptive, Exploring Happiness shines a welcome new light on the heart of the human condition.
For as long as human beings have been capable of articulating needs beyond basic survival, one subject has occupied their thoughts perhaps more than any other: happiness. How do we achieve it? How do we maintain it? If it springs from deception (of self or others), as has been suggested, is it any less valid? Thinkers great and small have wrestled with questions such as these for millennia. Bok seeks to synthesize differing opinion and explore the many views on happiness from philosophers to neuroscientists and organizes her findings around themes such as luck, illusion, and transience. Happiness is such a subjective concept that it's difficult to imagine an author managing to even touch on it, let alone offer a comprehensive survey. Still, Bok culls a careful collection of thoughts into a surprisingly dense philosophical examination, chronicling what great thinkers have had to say about the subject. Though the title may suggest something from the self-help shelf, this is indeed an exploration, not a guide; readers who want help getting happy should look elsewhere.