The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an "elephant" of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual "rider." Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche's contention that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth. An exponent of the "positive psychology" movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don't matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness. Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues. (Jan.)
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Using the wisdom culled from the world's greatest civilizations as a foundation, social psychologist Haidt comes to terms with 10 Great Ideas, viewing them through a contemporary filter to learn which of their lessons may still apply to modern lives. He first discusses how the mind works and then examines the Golden Rule ("Reciprocity is the most important tool for getting along with people"). Next, he addresses the issue of happiness itself--where does it come from?--before exploring the conditions that allow growth and development. He also dares to answer the question that haunts most everyone--What is the meaning of life?--by again drawing on ancient ideas and incorporating recent research findings. He concludes with the question of meaning: Why do some find it? Balancing ancient wisdom and modern science, Haidt consults great minds of the past, from Buddha to Lao Tzu and from Plato to Freud, as well as some not-so-greats: even Dr. Phil is mentioned. Fascinating stuff, accessibly expressed. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
David M. Buss, author of The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating
Most helpful customer reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful.
I truly loved the book.
By Brian Johnson
[[VIDEOID:9422f9c9cd9a77a3954a14d807c67011]] “Where does happiness come from? There are several different “happiness hypotheses.” One is that happiness comes from getting what you want, but we all know (and research confirms) that such happiness is short-lived. A more promising hypothesis is that happiness comes from within and cannot be obtained by making the world conform to your desires. This idea was widespread in the ancient world: Buddha in India and the Stoic philosophers in ancient Greece and Rome all counseled people to break their emotional attachments to people and events, which are always unpredictable and uncontrollable, and to cultivate instead an attitude of acceptance. This ancient idea deserves respect, and it is certainly true that changing your mind is usually a more effective response to frustration than is changing the world. However, I will present evidence that this second version of the happiness hypothesis is wrong. Recent research shows that there are some things worth striving for; there are some external conditions of life that can make you lastingly happier. One of these conditions is relatedness—the bonds we form, and need to form, with others. I’ll present research showing where love comes from, why passionate love always cools, and what kind of love is “true” love. I’ll suggest that the happiness hypothesis offered by Buddha and the Stoics should be amended: Happiness comes from within, and happiness comes from without. We need the guidance of both ancient wisdom and modern science to get the balance right.”
~ Jonathan Haidt from The Happiness Hypothesis
That’s officially the longest intro quote of any of the Notes I’ve created so far but OMG. Makes you wanna read the whole book, eh?! :)
Jonathan Haidt is a leading positive psychology researcher/professor at the University of Virginia and this book is an incredible look at ten “Great Ideas” from ancient wisdom that he brilliantly analyzes in the light of modern science while helping us apply the super practical stuff to our 21st century lives. It’s a great blend of intellectual rigor, philosophical wisdom and nuts and-bolts practicality that I highly recommend.
If this Note resonates with you, I *definitely* think you’ll love the book. I put it up there with Sonja Lyubomirsky’s How of Happiness and Tal Ben-Shahar’s Pursuit of Perfect and Happier as some must-read positive psychology goodness.
Here are some of the Big Ideas:
1. The Rider & The Elephant - Learn to ride your elephant!
2. Epiphanies - And lasting change.
3. Meditation - The magic pill.
4. Cognitive Therapy - It works.
5. Pulling the Splinter - The joy of taking responsibility.
Let’s get clear on our ultimate purpose and move toward it, lest we step in other people’s elephant poop, yo! :)
More goodness— including PhilosophersNotes on 300+ books in our *OPTIMIZE* membership program. Find out more at brianjohnson . me.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
So much to think about
By Leonardo Pontes dos Reis
This is likely the best book I read in 2016 and I'm glad I did. This is one of those books one should revisit after a few years in order to understand how it changed you as an individual. The author does a fantastic job putting together ancient wisdom and modern psychology, pointing how one could benefit most from both.
If you think you could be happier because of all the things you've accomplished in your life but you still feel empty inside, buy this book. This is why I did it, and later in the book I discovered that the author started his research for the same reason.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
Happiness comes from within and without
By Mike G
Happiness comes from within and without. Allow Jonathan Haidt to explain through his exhaustive research why he feels this way. Allow him to explain how you are both the rider and the elephant and why coopting the two can lead to success and happiness without sacrificing one or the other. Your elephant seeks prestige and success in the eyes of others. Your rider wants to be happy. He explains how to mend the two together and why it's vital. Read it, separate the wheat from chaffe, and my guess is, that wheat will be very fulfilling. It was for me.