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UConn– April 6-8, 2010- J. Hughes.  Are all goals reducible to the desire for happiness / pleasure / less pain ?  Are there different kinds of happiness.

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Presentation on theme: "UConn– April 6-8, 2010- J. Hughes.  Are all goals reducible to the desire for happiness / pleasure / less pain ?  Are there different kinds of happiness."— Presentation transcript:

1 UConn– April 6-8, 2010- J. Hughes

2  Are all goals reducible to the desire for happiness / pleasure / less pain ?  Are there different kinds of happiness or pleasure?  Can we ever really measure or compare happiness?  Intersubjective utility  How do we know we mean the same thing?

3 Caroline West 1. A momentary sensation, such as pleasure or enjoyment. 2. An enduring mood, like tranquility or contentment. 3. Believing that you're achieving your desires, that you're getting what you want (even if you aren’t). 4. Actually achieving your desires, and not simply (perhaps falsely) believing that you are. 5. Believing that your life as a whole is going well by your own standards or priorities. 6. Leading a life that's considered by some objective standpoint to be worthwhile, or worth living, or a flourishing human life. Eudaimoniac theories; “True happiness” through virtue Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Epicurus on happiness (24min) Epicurus on happiness

4  Can people be wrong about whether they are happy or not?  False consciousness  Is there a difference between thinking you are happy and being happy?

5 Pain Chronic Pain Depression What is depression? Fear, Stress, Anxiety Anxiety Disorders Boredom

6  The rise of hedonic philosophy over eudaimonic  Life Liberty and pursuit of happiness  Jeremy Bentham  John Stuart Mill  Consequentalism & Utilitarianism (9:41min)Utilitarianism  Freud: civilization and repression  Rational actors and utility maximization

7  Happiness set-point  Resilience  Personality

8  Openness - appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience.  Conscientiousness - a tendency to show self- discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior.  Extraversion - energy, positive emotions, urgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others.  Agreeableness - a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.  Neuroticism - a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability; sometimes called emotional instability. OCEAN


10  Individual predictors may not be the same as social level predictors  Wealth effects mostly between people not societies  Religiosity positive at individual level, negative at social level

11  Wealth – being wealthier than your neighbors makes you happy  Age – younger people more positive moods, older people more content  Politics – conservatives are happier than liberals  Religion – the religious and church- going are happier  Friends and marriage – social connections make us happier  Children – reduce happiness Problem of cause and effect: happier people tend to make more money, be healthier, live longer, have more friends, get married, and see fewer problems with the status quo

12  Encourage wealth accumulation or redistribute wealth?  Discourage divorce and atheism?  Provide social and health security with high taxes, or lower taxes and social security?

13  Aristotlean/Stoic: societies with the most virtue  Hedonist: wealthiest societies  Mill: societies with tolerance for individuality  Marx: least alienation, most equal  Durkheim: least anomie (strongest normative cohesion)  Freud: least repression, most sexually open  Maslow: wealthy but post-materialist

14  Gini index  Equality Trust and The Spirit Level  “Quality of life” vs. happiness



17  Human Development Index = 1/3 (life expectancy) + 1/3 (education index) + 1/3 (GDP)  2007 HDI Rank Iceland 0.968 (▲) Norway 0.968 (▼) Australia 0.962 (▬) Canada 0.961 (▲ 2) Ireland 0.959 (▼ 1) Sweden 0.956 (▼ 1) Switzerland 0.955 (▲ 2) Japan 0.953 (▼ 1) Netherlands 0.953 (▲ 1) France 0.952 (▲ 6) Finland 0.952 (▬) United States 0.951 (▼ 9) Spain 0.949 (▲ 6) Denmark 0.949 (▲ 1)

18  What does it mean if happiness is not correlated with objective measures of quality of life?

19  Ruut Veenhoven  Director of the World Database of Happiness  Editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies  Key idea: happy life expectancy or happy life years = Life-expectancy at birth x 0-1 mean happiness




23 Values between 0 and 1 assigned by:  Time-trade-off (TTO) – Rs choose between remaining in a state of ill health for a period of time, or being restored to perfect health but having a shorter life expectancy.  Visual analogue scale (VAS) – Rs rate a state of ill health on a scale from 0 to 100, with 0 representing death and 100 representing perfect health.

24  Danes are happiest because of low expectati ons, high quality of life

25  Richard Easterlin’s 1974 paper "Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence.  Within a given country, people with higher incomes are more likely to be happy.  Between countries average happiness does not vary much with national income per person, above basic needs.  Although income per person rose steadily in the United States between 1946 and 1970, average reported happiness showed no long-term trend, and declined between 1960 and 1970.  Hedonic treadmill  Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How life gets better while people feel worse (2003).


27  2003 Ruut Veenhoven and Michael Hagerty’s “Wealth and Happiness Revisited”: GDP does matter

28  2008. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers “Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox”

29  Wealth is related to national mood  During the last few weeks did you feel…  Proud  Excited or interested  On top of the world  Upset  Restless  Lonely  Yesterday did you feel…  Depressed  Angry  In love

30  Improvements in life expectancy improve mood, economic growth depresses it  People in Africa and Eastern Europe especially unhappy  Corruption in government depressing, effective govt good for mood

31  Over 26 years, >350,000 people asked:  "Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?”  Interview (5:22min) Interview  Post-meterialism? Ron Inglehart

32 Humanistic Psychology Abraham Maslow Transpersonal Psychology

33  Hierarchy of Needs Effect?: Affluent countries begin to prioritize individual improvement, personal freedom, democratic participation, the environment. NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll Jan. 10-14, 2010. N=1,002 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.1 "If you had to choose, which of the following should be the top priority?” 38% Job creation and economic growth 17% National security and terrorism 13% The deficit and government spending 13% Health care 12% The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 10% Energy and the cost of gas 4% Social issues such as abortion and same- sex marriage

34 GDPCIVIL LIBERTIES People getting happier (2min)



37  Aristotlean/Stoic: government honesty, but not domestic virtue  Hedonist: wealth  Mill: freedom  Marx: equality  Durkheim: ?  Freud: Sexual freedom works for N. Europe at least  Maslow: ?

38 Martin Seligman director of the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania Authentic Happiness Pleasant Life or the "life of enjoyment” Good Life or the "life of engagement” Meaningful Life or "life of affiliation" TED Talk (23min) TED Talk

39 Positive psychology’s DSM IV 1. Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open- mindedness, love of learning, perspective 2. Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality 3. Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence 4. Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership 5. Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self control 6. Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

40 Jonathan Haidt The Happiness Hypothesis Peak Experiences Entheogens Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow Csíkszentmihályi’s TED Talk (19min) Csíkszentmihályi’s TED Talk Flourishing Personality Virtue Exercises Over-emphasis on capacity to improve?

41  Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener, Ed, Norbert Schwarz, (2003). Well- Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology  Prospect theory (5min) Prospect theory  Kahneman on Well-Being (60min) Kahneman on Well-Being Ed DienerDaniel Kahneman Dan Gilbert Stumbling on Happiness (20 min)Stumbling on Happiness

42  The limits of the rational actor:  Hedonic treadmill  Rationalization  Paradox of choice: more choices reduce satisfaction  Status quo bias  Loss Aversion: we work harder to avoid losses than to get wins  Depressive realism  Policy upshots  Forcing people to take vacations  Reducing people’s choices, and making the best ones the default Dan Ariely



45  We mean at least two different things by happiness: mood and a life well lived  Wealth, age, conservatism, religiousity, marriage, friends and children all effect happiness (and our friends may cause it)  Wealthier, more democratic and equal, societies happier  We are terrible at predicting what will make us happy

46  Eudaemonia– Aristotle’s term for a flourishing good life  Hedonism – valuing happiness and pleasure  Utilitarianism – Greatest happiness for the greatest number  Quality-adjusted life years – one year of quality life  Happiness set-point – genetically determined  Five factor personality model – OCEAN  Hedonic treadmill – always wanting more  Easterlin paradox – countries don’t get happier as they get wealthier (except he was wrong)  Positive psychology – focusing on happiness and the virtues  Behavioral economics – studying how people actually make decisions (irrationally)  Network analysis – happiness (and sadness) are contagious

47  Download these slides at:   Contact me at: 

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