In this brief history, philosopher Nicholas White reviews 2,500 years of philosophical thought about happiness. Addresses key questions such as: What is happiness? Should happiness play such a dominant role in our lives? How can we deal with conflicts between the various things that make us happy?Considers the ways in which major thinkers from antiquity to the modern day have treated happiness: from Plato’s notion of the harmony of the soul, through to Nietzsche’s championing of conflict over harmony.Relates questions about happiness to ethics and to practical philosophy.
* A brief history of happiness, reviewing 2,500 years of philosophical thought about the concept. * Addresses key questions such as what happiness is and whether or not happiness should play such a dominant role in our lives.
Preface vii 1 Introducing the Concept 1 2 Conflicts, Perspectives, and the Identification of Happiness 6 3 Pleasure, Hedonism, and the Measurement of Happiness 41 4 Happiness as Structure and Harmony 75 5 Morality, Happiness, and Conflict 116 6 Happiness, Fact, and Value 142 7 Doing without the Concept 162 Glossary and List of Historical Figures 175 Bibliography 181 Index 187
Do we really know what happiness is? Should happiness play such a dominant role in shaping and orienting our lives? And how can we deal with conflicts between the various things that make us happy? In this brief history of happiness, philosopher Nicholas White reviews 2,500 years of attempts to answer such questions. White considers the ways in which major thinkers from antiquity to the present day have treated happiness: from Plato’s notion of the harmony of the soul and Aristotle’s account of well-being or flourishing as the aim of an ethical life, to Aquinas’ idea of the vision of the divine essence, Bentham’s hedonistic calculus, and the modern-day decision-theoretic notion of preference. We also encounter skepticism about the very idea of a complete and consistent concept of happiness in the writings of Nietzsche and Freud. Throughout, White relates questions about happiness to central concerns in ethics and practical philosophy.
"White takes his readers on [a] journey, aiming to reach an appreciation of the nature of happiness. He splendidly suceeds in making the journey as fascinating as it deserves to be. White has produced a unique, thoughtful work that provides a meaningful excursion through our conceptions of happiness. Readers will be left with a gift of greater insight into both the triumphs and limitations of our efforts to understand ourselves." PsycCRITIQUES "A valuable aid to the flourishing literature on happiness and its history." Ethics "Nicholas White offers a brisk, informative, and readable account of various attempts, throughout the Western philosophical tradition, to articulate the meaning of that elusive term 'happiness.'" Review of Metaphysics