Presentation on theme: "+ Philosophy of Happiness Dr Caroline West The University of Sydney."— Presentation transcript:
+ Philosophy of Happiness Dr Caroline West The University of Sydney
+ Two lives A person is, over a period of time, depressed, despondent, beset with anxiety, "stressed out”, seething with rage, overwhelmed by fear, worried sick, heartbroken, grief-stricken, lonely, in low spirits, burdened with shame, overcome with boredom, deeply dissatisfied with life, haunted by a sense of dread or feelings of emptiness, or simply melancholy. A person is, over a period of time, in high spirits, joyful, exhilarated, elated, jubilant, carefree, deeply contented, at peace, delighted with his or her life, or filled with a profound sense of fulfillment or well-being. Life 1 Life 2
+ What is happiness? Psychological “happiness”: A non-evaluative term, used to denote a state of mind—otherwise known as ‘subjective well-being’ (SWB): (i)positive affect–the presence of pleasant emotions such as joy, contentment, and affection; (ii)negative affect– the relative absence of unpleasant emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness; and (iii)personal judgments about satisfaction (i.e. comparing what you have to a baseline, what you “expected yourself to have”). Taken together, a happy person is someone who is frequently cheerful, only occasionally sad, and generally satisfied with his or her life.
+ Etymology of “Happiness” It its earliest usage, happiness had little to do with feelings Formed from the middle-English “hap,” meaning fortunate or lucky Happiness depended on how things were actually turning out for you, quite apart from your state of mind
+ Lawyers and (Un)Happiness Lawyers have the highest rate of depression of any occupation— this despite income and status Approx. 10% suffer major depressive disorder (MDD): that’s 3.6 times the prevalence in the general employed community; the rest are merely unhappy
+ Lawyers and (Un)happiness Explanation? Environmental factors long working hours; high pressure/low autonomy; adversarial nature of legal system (zero sum game) Pessimism - maladaptive everywhere, except law Reference: Verkuil, Paul R., Seligman, Martin and Kang, Terry, Countering Lawyer Unhappiness: Pessimism, Decision Latitude and the Zero-Sum Dilemma (September 2000). Cardozo Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 19. Available at SSRN:
+ What Makes Us Happy? What the studies say… Money doesn’t buy (much) happiness, once basic needs are met—nor does youth, beauty, intelligence or education Comparison Adaptation - the ‘hedonic treadmill’
+ What makes us happy? Genes, which seem to account for 40-60% of happiness level (setpoint theory) The company of friends; (friends better than family-variety). This is true, regardless of gender and temperament. A good marriage Rewarding work (but not overwork) Leisure activities and projects that engage us—even better when they contribute to a greater good Decent amounts of sleep and exercise Religious belief Meditation (ideally TM) Gratitude and performing acts of selfless kindness boost happiness (significantly, but temporarily)
+ What makes us unhappy? (Even when we don’t realize it…) Commuting Watching TV Background noise (e.g. traffic, aircraft) Being alone
+ Cause or correlation? Does the law cause, or attract, pessimists? Is happiness a cause of success in love and life or a product of it? Descriptive or prescriptive? Optimists are happier, but deluded. Is it better to be a deluded optimist or an unhappy realist?
+ Studies also show… Conservative voters are much happier Racially homogenous societies are happier Married couples without children are astronomically happier than those with In fact, the happiest people in the world are conservative, church-going middle-aged male narcissists in Northern Europe. What should we make of this!? It’s a superficial kind of happiness that’s being measured There’s more to life than happiness World Database of Happiness:
+ 12 Children and Hedons As the four separate studies in this graph show, marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child and increases only when the last child leaves home. C. Walker, “Some Variations in Marital Satisfaction,” in Equalities and Inequalities in Family Life, ed. R. Chester and J. Peel (London: Academic Press, 1997),
Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A. Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method. Science, 306, Activities Net Hedonic Value (6-point scale) Intimate relations4.7 Socializing4.2 Relaxing3.91 Exercising3.81 Pray/worship/meditate3.76 Eating3.75 Watching TV3.61 Napping3.27 Preparing Food3.24 Shopping3.21 On the Phone3.10 Computer/ /internet3.01 Housework2.96 Taking care of my children2.95 Working2.65 Commuting2.56
+ Brave New World The controller, Mustapha Mond, to the Savage: “The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives or children, or loves to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma. Which you go and chuck out the window in the name of liberty, Mr Savage. Liberty!… The Savage: But I don’t want comfort…I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin. Mustapha Mond: In fact, you’re claiming the right to be unhappy…Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow;…the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind. The Savage (after a long silence): I claim them all. Mustapha Mond (shrugs shoulders): You’re welcome.
+ Trade-offs There can be trade-offs between happiness and other goods e.g. freedom, diversity, reproduction, ambition There can be trade-offs between different kinds of happiness Greater income increases life satisfaction, but does not make life any more pleasant day-to-day Having children satisfies a major life goal for many, but makes life much less pleasant day-to-day In these cases, we must decide: what matters most?
Income and Happiness - Myers
Experienced Wellbeing – Kahneman and Deaton 2010