Happiness and the Good Life

Happiness and the Good Life

Happiness and the Good Life

Happiness and the Good Life

Synopsis

What is happiness? How is it related to morality and virtue? Does living with illusion promote or diminish happiness? Is it better to pursue happiness with a partner than alone? Philosopher Mike W. Martin addresses these and other questions as he connects the meaning of happiness with the philosophical notion of "the good life." Defining happiness as loving one's life and valuing it in ways manifested by ample enjoyment and a deep sense of meaning, Martin explores the ways in which happiness interacts with all other dimensions of good lives--in particular with moral decency and goodness, authenticity, mental health, self-fulfillment, and meaningfulness. He interweaves a variety of examples from memoirs, novels, and films along the way, connecting his discussion of the philosophical issues to related topics that interest all of us: virtue, love, philanthropy, suffering, simplicity, balancing work and leisure, and much more. Drawing on wide-ranging and robust evidence, Martin also makes the case that we need a "politics of happiness" whereby government would apply the results of recent "happiness studies" in psychology to public policy.

Excerpt

How does happiness enter into good lives? Is it perhaps the highest good, and hence the most important feature of desirable ways of living? Is it instead only one aspect of worthwhile lives, and if so how is it related to other aspects? The answers to these questions are deeply personal and yet invite dialogue. They turn on how we understand happiness, good lives, and a host of practical, psychological, and philosophical issues. In my view, we are happy insofar as we love our lives, valuing them with ample enjoyments and a robust sense of meaning. As such, happiness is one vital dimension of good lives, but only one. My aim is to explore how happiness interacts with other aspects of good lives, in particular moral decency and goodness, authenticity, self-fulfillment, mental health, and meaningfulness in terms of a wide array of justified values. Here is a brief overview.

Chapter 1: Loving Life. What is happiness? The question calls for a concise definition rather than a compendium of things that make us happy. Plato and Aristotle began a tradition of defining happiness in terms of the virtuous life, which in turn they understood in narrow canonical terms. Today, however, most of us understand happiness as subjective and define it entirely in terms of emotions, attitudes, and other mental states. Psychologists aptly call it “subjective well-being.” In tune with this subjective emphasis, I define happiness as loving one’s life, valuing it in ways manifested by myriad enjoyments and a robust sense of meaning, regardless of whether the enjoyments and sense of meaning are rooted in justified values. I also understand “the good life” as shorthand for a wide diversity of admirable ways of living, ways that embody the virtues and other values in myriad ways.

Chapter 2: Valuing Happiness. How does happiness relate to morality? Happy lives are not always morally good, and morally good lives are not always happy. Nevertheless, happiness and morality are interwoven in myriad ways. Happiness is among the basic goods for a human being. In addition to being a self-interested good, it is a moral good, assuming it is not based directly on immorality. Its worth increases as it intertwines with moral values: Loving our lives has greater moral worth insofar as our lives are worth loving, and our enjoyments and sense of meaning have greater worth insofar as they are rooted in justified values. As affirmed in the Declaration of Independence, there is a human right to pursue happiness, which is implied in the basic right . . .

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