Tuesday, May 31, 2005
First Aired: 
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

What Is It

Is happiness a mere psychological state? And if so, what's so important about it? Is there anything more to being happy than just thinking you're happy? Or is happiness a way of life? John and Ken get happy with Robert Solomon from the University of Texas at Austin, author of True to Our Feelings: What Our Emotions Are Really Telling Us.

Listening Notes

Is happiness just an emotion? Emotions usually have two aspects: the feeling and the thought. There seems to be two kinds of happiness. One is transitory, the other is a long-term state. Ken introduces the guest, Robert Solomon, professor at University of Texas, Austin. Solomon thinks that all of the possibilities for happiness discussed are wrong. He says that Aristotle focused on long-term happiness. John distinguishes between subjective and objective happiness. Aristotle focused on the latter. Solomon talks about self-deception and happiness; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we're happy when we're not and we can be happy without realizing it.

Is happiness the same as the good life? Solomon does think that says much. Happiness may just be one component of the good life. Does an objective component to happiness mean that it does not vary across cultures? Different cultures have varying standards by which to judge whether someone is happy. If one can be wrong about whether one is happy, then it seems like there is an objective part of happiness. What is the relation between contentment and happiness? Does one entail the other or are they mutually exclusive?

Do we have the power to choose to be happy or unhappy? Solomon thinks we can choose to do anything, but can we choose to be one way or another? Are all kinds of happiness created equal? Some people are happy taking prozac while others are happy helping orphans. Solomon thinks this is misguided since happiness is not a single all encompassing concept. Solomon wants to emphasize how complex the notion of happiness is while most people think of it in a very simplistic way. There are two other notions that are important to happiness are self-actualization and joy. Self-actualization seems to support Aristotle's notion that happiness is the good life, reaching one's potentials. John points out that joy goes in and out of vogue as important for happiness.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:35): Amy Standen asks several people about what happiness is. 
  • Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 50:04): Ian Shoales gives a brief history of the philosophy of happiness.


Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, March 25, 2022 -- 3:37 PM

This goes far back---before

This goes far back---before my acquaintance with Philosophy Talk.; before my interest in philosophy. I sent something today, to your non-blog comments email. Check it out, if you so desire., remembering that Davidson called that attitude 'propositional'.

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