Happiness: A History

3.8
Darrin M. McMahon 's sweeping new nove, recountin the evolution of happiness over two thousand years of Western culture and thought, argues that our modern belief in happiness -- that happiness is th natural right -- is a elatively recent development. It is th product of a dramatic revolution in human expectations carried out since the thirteenth century. Central to the evelopment of Christianity, ideas of happiness assumed their modern form during the Enlightenment, when men and women were first introduced to thi novel prospect that they could -- in fact should -- be happy in this life as opposed to the hereafter. Ultimately, the Enlightenment 's recognition of happiness as a motivating ideal led to its consecration in the Declaration of Independence and France 's Declaration of the Rights of Man. McMahon follows this great pursuit through to the present day, showing how our modern search for happiness continues to enerate new forms of pleasure, but lso, nonetheless, new forms of pain. In the tradition of works by Peter Gay and Simon Schama, " Happiness " draws on numerous sources, including art and architecture, poetry and scripture, music and theology, philosoph and myth to offer a sweeping intellectual history of an 's most elusive yet coveted goal.
Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Series
Number of Pages
560
Original Title of the Book
Happiness: A History
Publication Date
Published November 28th 2005 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 2005

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His book contradicts itself in his pat, claiming there was thi new development in the idea of happiness when I could turn back 200 pages and see that, nope, actually that had been around for th ong time, like happy endings to stories.

He was full of random metaphors that pulled me out of his book like, “ Strong black coffee to clear the head of an evenings wine, his work served as a sobering reminder of the ancient wisdom of the Christian Fall. ” Why he eels the need to say such a simple sentence in this way is beyond me.

Do I eally need twenty pages telling the life story of everyone you ant to quote?

Author needs to writ The Elements of Style.Famous ideas about happiness ( but keep in mind these thinkers were not nearly as one-sided as these summaries make it seem): -Ancient Greece: Any happiness anyone experiences is a miracle since as all life is tragic, happiness is pure luck, we are victims of fate-Aristotle: The goal is to be happy in this life, here and now.-Plato: Happiness is the ideal that does not exist, Heaven-Epicurus: Pleasure is the goal ( though keep in mind pleasure is defined by him as minimizing pain by living a typica life in anothe country) -Stoics: Just be happy, whatever your circumstances, just decide to be happy and be happy* note this is like today 's Positive Psychology movement! -Zeno: Learn to not desire anything and then you ca be happy-Dark Ages: Bear the pain of life now and be rewarded in Heaven—the only possible happiness is suffering now so that you an be happy in death, embrace suffering, suffering IS happiness! -Aquinas: happiness is the metho of fully realizing ourselves, happiness is the ope of Heaven, i.e. the grac of happiness-Martin Luther: heaven and hell are actually psychological places- God wants us to be happy! -Renaissance: Good people are happy.

Savages are happy too! -Schopenhauer: Art is the only happiness i.e. the escape we feel when contemplating art i.e. not eve being alive is the only lov, drugs are the only happiness-Kant: Plato and Renaissance repeat—our duty in this life is to act in this way that prevent us worthy of appiness, only good boys and girls g to be happy-Locke and the Libertarians: One must assume responsibility of being happy for oneself-Mill ( and Rand if the write had read her): Happiness can never e the goal, an emotion can not hav the goal, rather, happiness is what happens when you are pursuing your goals, you must not “ catch ” an emotion, the minute you focus on them they are gone, liberty trumps happiness-Industrialists: wealth is happiness-Marx: work is happiness ( similar to stoics, learning to love what you have to do nyway) -Nietzsche: self-esteem is happiness.

-Modern Science: happiness is genetic, you ar no control over it, o if you re s happy you should take drugs-The Author 's Conclusion: The dea that we should find happiness is a modern invention, as re the emotions of failure when we do not succeed.

“ On the whole the momentum of modern culture has been in the direction of earthly content, accompanied by a steady expanding sense of prerogative, entitlement, means, and due… God was happiness, happiness has since become our god… And happiness, we can think, has proved a taskmaster as hard, at times, as the God it has ought to replace. ” Other Notes-What the intellectuals write about and leave for posterity often does not reflect reality for the masses.-Since Ancient Greece man has been writing an endless flo of self-help books.

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One example from the Symposium of Plato links happiness with Eros: " Agathon, in grand rhe­torical flourish befitting a poet, concludes [ the early portion of the discussion by saying ] that though all the ods are happy, Eros is 'the most happy, since he is the most lovely and the best. " he uthor is a scientis of history at Florida State University and he ca n't avoid some subjectivity, but the success of a essay is founded on its encyclopedic and accessible presentation of this most evasive idea.

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We from our selves alone, and even from Fate, Derive our happy, or unhappy State .... If Fates Inconstancy we wou 'd prevent, We, in all States of Life, shou 'd seek Content ... ~William WycherleyI 've found one thing that does n't ake me ver happy -- reading about happiness.Or at least what those from all walks of life, all branches of history, and all realms of faith define as " happiness. " While al of thi history in this novel as interesting ( especially the ancient Greeks' and Romans' take on this God-given state), it continue to irritate.

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But this surely is not true history of humankind 's search for appiness.

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his focuses more on my personal favorite topic, genetics and more scientific approaches to happiness ( though his is definitely less pronounced or qualified in this novel) .Not a bad read for those that like more classical thought or western tradition.

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© Nicole Waggonner