The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

by Jonathan Haidt

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The bestselling author of The Righteous Mind and The Coddling of the American Mind draws on philosophical wisdom and scientific research to show how the meaningful life is closer than you think
The Happiness Hypothesis is a book about ten Great Ideas. Each chapter is an attempt to savor one idea that has been discovered by several of the world's civilizations -- to question it in light of what we now know from scientific research, and to extract from it the lessons that still apply to our modern lives and illuminate the causes of human flourishing.
Award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the author of The Righteous Mind and The Coddling of the American Mind, shows how a deeper understanding of the world's philosophical wisdom and its enduring maxims -- like "do unto others as you would have others do unto you," or "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" -- can enrich and even transform our lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465003686
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 12/26/2006
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 104,672
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is a social psychologist whose research examines morality and the moral emotions. He is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, and the coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Too Much Wisdom     ix
The Divided Self     1
Changing Your Mind     23
Reciprocity with a Vengeance     45
The Faults of Others     59
The Pursuit of Happiness     81
Love and Attachments     107
The Uses of Adversity     135
The Felicity of Virtue     155
Divinity With or Without God     181
Happiness Comes from Between     213
Conclusion: On Balance     241
Acknowledgments     245
Notes     247
References     265
Index     291

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Happiness Hypothesis 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. There is a tendency in reviewing contemporary psychological study to think about human activity in a scientific or sociological context, without addressing what it all adds up to, what it means. Mr. Haidt does a great job of weaving current research together with wisdom literature's common precepts, in a way that brings new focus on our humanity -- the best, the imperfect and the between.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Author's chatty style helps provide a winding trip thru conventional wisdom (and sometimes its debunking), and a hearty blend of quotations, scientific studies, and blending of religion, philosophy and practicality. I found myself underlining numerous passages and considering this topic as it applies to me, my family, and the world around me. Ultimately, I suspect that I'm happier for taking the time to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bits of wisdom fly at us constantly from fortune cookies and the like. Perhaps because of this, you may only rarely stop to savor a great idea and make it your own. Author Jonathan Haidt provides a remedy to modern habits of superficial thinking with this accessible update on 10 great ancient philosophical themes, examined within a scientific framework of positive psychology. He demonstrates that the questions of the ages are still worth kicking around. We recommend this book to those who want to know why change is so difficult and happiness so elusive. It will give you plenty to think about and possibly change your life. At the least, it will point you in a positive direction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're ready to begin working on yourself and starting on the road to both understanding the underlying psychology and happiness, this is a great book. Practical, well-reseached, motivating without being too directive.
nicolette86 More than 1 year ago
I looked forward to this book as an introduction to emotional intelligence. I was dismayed to find that most quotations used to defend points were biblical. I could not finish the book after I got to the chapter on religion as I felt that is what the book had been about the whole time. There are certainly better books that present the science of emotion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The editorial reviews have done a nice job of reporting on the content & context of this book. I wish to report on the rewards of reading this book. I review a lot of material on happiness & other optimal emotion & mood states & I highly recommend The Happiness Hypothesis as an example of scholarly work written as a very pleasurable read. I appreciate this educator's focused & grounded recommendations for achieving a well-lived & loved life, amidst easy to assimilate constant, scholarly research. Pleasure, engagement, new perspectives, on top of great personal meaning, are tremendous rewards for reading a book. Wouldn't you agree?
porch_reader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist with a background in philosophy. Drawing on this rich foundation, Haidt seeks to answer the question of how people can find happiness and meaning in life. Books about happiness and meaning are common these days, but [The Happiness Hypothesis] is different from the majority of popular psychology offerings. In each of the ten chapters, Haidt considers one great idea - an idea that has its roots in ancient wisdom traditions - and considers what scientific research tells us about these ideas. Haidt considers wisdom and research on conscious vs. subconscious thought processes, individuality vs. altruism, and human growth and development. Throughout the book, we learn that individuals have a happiness set-point (a typical level of happiness), but that contextual conditions and voluntary activities play a role in happiness. Specifically, social relationships and significant work both provide us with connections to something greater than ourselves and ultimately increase our levels of happiness. Although these insights are not unique, the strength of this book is in the way that Haidt puts together evidence from diverse sources to make his points. He does not oversimplify the complexity of the question or the answers. But he does leave readers with a clearer understanding of human nature and the ways in which both the ancient wisdom traditions and modern research can inform modern lives.
Mike129 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much of it is very 4-star worthy. Some bits are less so, but overall it is a very good and non-standard treatment of happiness. Much of this book seems "right" to me, and the propositions are supported by data wherever possible.
GShuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed the way he explored wisdom from older civilizations using what we know today. Happiness is only one of the ideas.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
And thus we move, logically, to The Happiness Hypothesis. Ben Tanaka, main character of Shortcomings, could use The Happiness Hypothesis. Ginger Pye and the rest of the Pye family apparently intuitively knew The Happiness Hypothesis. Haidt looks at ancient wisdom and compares it to the result of the new science of positive psychology. Some of the things I learned from this book:*Reciprocity is the best guide to life. This is the classic ¿Do unto others¿ thought. *There are three effective ways to happiness: meditation, cognitive therapy, and Prozac. *People have good insight about other people, but are terrible in judging themselves. They cannot see their own flaws.*Instead of trying to improve weaknesses, we should work on our strengths. Often we can use a strength to get around a weakness.*The personality is now thought to have three components: (1) our basic and classic traits of neuroticism and extroversion, (2) the ways we characteristically adapt including openness to new experiences, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, and (3) our life story, the way we have made sense of our lives.*It takes adversity to reach our highest levels. Posttraumatic growth is rising to the challenges of problems, which reveals hidden abilities and changes our self-concept.
KanyonKris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An engaging book. The premise is intriguing: does the wisdom of the ages hold up in our modern society and with all that science has revealed? I like how Haidt looks at happiness from this unique perspective. The book is a bit jumbled, and the author at times injects a bit too much enthusiasm, but the ideas presented are of such value (at least to me) that it's easy to forgive any shortcomings. As a parent this book has helped me explain and discuss the idea of having a good life with my children because it's given me new ways to view and describe it.
riotex on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Quantity undermines the quality of our engagement. With such a vast and wonderful library spread out before us, we often skim books or read just the reviews. We might already have encountered the Greatest Idea, the insight that would have transformed us had we savored it, taken it to heart, and worked it into our lives." - The Happiness Hypothesis is not a self-help book, but a very well written psychological view of Happiness. Taking concepts from ancient wisdom and the Bible - adding in modern psychological research -- Haidt confirms what the ancients already knew. Happiness comes from the striving and progress, not from having. Happiness comes from relations with others, not things. We should follow the Golden Rule, but it is difficult because it is very easy to see faults in others, but not faults in ourselves. "The mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict. Like a rider on the back of an elephant, the conscious, reasoning part of the mind has only limited control of what the elephant does."
SamTekoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Haidt doesn¿t believe in angels and doesn¿t accept reports from people that do. He does however believe in evolution and is quite convinced it is the operative cause of everything we are and can ever hope to be. So with that premise in mind he explores human happiness.The research he presents is often fascinating, helpful and quite humorous. There is much to be gained by all of us in studying what makes us happy and what we can do to move ourselves into the happy column of life and away from sadness and its always worse than welcome cousin, depression. This is an extremely worthy subject and I would say quite challenging for a determined atheist. Jonathan tells his readers that he is an atheist. I do wonder why Jonathan couldn¿t say he was agnostic. It would seem to fit more with his commitment to science and research to say one doesn¿t know about God than to put one in the group that believes he has garnered enough evidence to prove that God does not exist. But this is for another day. Regarding the subject of happiness, no matter what spin you put on this, as an atheist, you will not escape its daunting conclusions. Jonathan refers to, and as no surprise, confidently concludes that happiness while not really out there (there is no divine meaning or purpose to life), can only be something that you bring from within. I disagree with that conclusion but do agree with another conclusion of his that Happiness is found not so much in achieving the goal, as it is in the action of pursuing the goal as we relate to people, or engage in activities. This is a valuable insight and Jonathan credits much to ancient wisdom for this understanding. We today, more than not, hear a different message, that happiness is not found in the activity but only in the final getting, having, and acquiring of the things we desire. Jonathan, through much of his research shows that we miss the truth that happiness is really found in the doing, in the action, in the relationship in the activities themselves as they relate to ones goals in life. This is nothing more than Aristotle. Again Jonathan has to remind us of his premise and conclude that it is really evolution that is the driving force behind our happiness. He does suggest that we have some freewill in the process. You can make choices so as to bring on the positive evolutionary effects. Of course all this hypothesizing and research will not quite get yourself off the ground since the most it will get you is ¿an act as if it is real¿ kind of experience. This is what makes Jonathan¿s task so daunting. For being an atheist and an evolutionist you must conclude that you are really only electrical synapses in a fleshly body with nothing more real than that. This brings me back to angels. Remember the shepherds on the hill watching their flocks and an angel of the Lord appeared bringing good news? It seems to me we really have only two choices, either to accept the testimony of Jonathan and others like him who say, life is only what you can see and test - there is nothing more. Or you can consider that an angel really did bring news. There is hope. Life need not end in death for us to be dissolved back into the dirt to be recycled into some different form of matter. The angel did speak and he spoke of God, love, hope and the resurrection of the body into life everlasting. That is the ancient wisdom of faith. Now there is some real happiness!
whyvonne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nice overview of the meaning of happiness -- what it is, where it comes from, why we strive for it, how we try to achieve it. Draws on basic, foundational tenets of psychology, philosophy, biology and religion to discuss corroborative concepts of morality, love, virtue, and how these are each learned/known/taught/understood. It's well-written and accessible -- an easy read, I'll be done by tonight -- and also pretty engaging. And reminds me of some important concepts I haven't reviewed since undergrad.I really couldn't get into it when I picked it up last year, on the recommendation of a friend, but whizzed through this time through.
dazzyj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Profound and ultimately extremely practical synthesis of what makes human beings happy, What other subject is there?
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this good to be a much deeper look at happiness that I thought it would be. The author examines the happiness condition from a number of different aspects and delves into the realms of psychology and philosophy searching for answers. The book is well written and easy to read but I also found it very engaging on an intellectual level. It provides a level of analysis that really makes you think and goes beyond the normal 'self help' style book. The author covers a lot of ground but does so in a very logical and well set out manner. I think the power of the book is that even though it covers some deep intellectual ground it can be read and understood by anyone. I really got a lot from this book and would recommend it to anyone
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Kentuckians More than 1 year ago
Good review and update on the psychology of happiness by an experienced university researcher. Happiness Hypotheses may have been a more appropriate title.
Carolyn-Janik More than 1 year ago
Haidt manages to bridge the gap between academic writing and material that "everyone" can not only read but also understand. The personal stories that he includes add warmth and reality to the theories!!
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