- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow, is establishing the world's first Ph.D. program in happiness studies.
- One more profile of Martin Seligman, who is credited with making 'positive psychology' a major subdiscipline of psychology.
- Darrin McMahon on the importance of not giving too much importance to 'pursuit of happiness'.
... [O]ne of the most striking developments in Western societies over the last several hundred years is the steady expansion of the hope and expectation of happiness in this life. Concomitant with this expansion has been the steady erosion of other ways of conceiving of life’s purpose and end. If other ways of doing so have not been entirely abandoned — there are those who still live for virtue, honor, one’s homeland, or family name — in a world that places a premium on good feeling and positive emotion, these other ends have nowhere near the power to channel and constrain our choices that they once did. [...]
On one level, then, we worry about happiness today with such single-minded focus because we can: Inhabitants of the world’s developed nations are the most fortunate creatures to have walked the face of the earth. And yet for all our focus on happiness it is by no means clear that we are happier as a result. Might we not even say that our contemporary concern is something of an inauspicious sign, belying a deep anxiety and doubt about the object of our pursuit? Does the fact that we worry so much about being happy suggest that we are not?
Thanks to PTDR for the pointers.
Here's a Financial Times review of a bunch of books on happiness, including those by Darrin McMahon's The Pursuit of Happiness: A History from the Greeks to the Present, and Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness.
* * *
Before I end, let me point to Dave Munger's rant about a science book that made him so unhappy that he decided to use it as a model for his "rules of writing bad science books":
2. Don't scrimp on metaphors. Writing a science book is like flying through a cloud while juggling plates. A metaphor is an excellent way to obfuscate a difficult concept by comparing it to another difficult concept. Don't understand what I'm talking about? Then perhaps another metaphor won't help. Remember, you've got to stay on that bucking bronco and keep your ducks in a row. Now do you understand? I didn't think so. It's like decanting a fine wine: the more metaphors you use, the less clear your writing will be, thus demonstrating your superior knowledge of the complex problem you're writing about.