Exploring Happiness From Aristotle to Brain Science Sissela Bok

Publication date:
05 Jul 2011
224 pages: 216 x 138 x 15mm

In this smart and timely book, the distinguished moral philosopher Sissela Bok ponders the nature of happiness and its place in philosophical thinking and writing throughout the ages. With nuance and elegance, Bok explores notions of happiness - from Greek philosophers to Desmond Tutu, Charles Darwin, Iris Murdoch, and the Dalai Lama - as well as the latest theories advanced by psychologists, economists, geneticists, and neuroscientists. Eschewing abstract theorizing, Bok weaves in a wealth of firsthand observations about happiness from ordinary people as well as renowned figures. This may well be the most complete picture of happiness yet. This book is also a clarion call to think clearly and sensitively about happiness. Bringing together very different disciplines provides Bok with a unique opportunity to consider the role of happiness in wider questions of how we should lead our lives and treat one another - concerns that don't often figure in today's happiness equation. How should we pursue, weigh, value, or limit our own happiness, or that of others, now and in the future? Compelling and perceptive, "Exploring Happiness" shines a welcome new light on the heart of the human condition.

Sissela Bok is Senior Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, and a moral philosopher of international renown. A former member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, Bok is a Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and sits on the editorial boards of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Common Knowledge, and Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. Her many books include the seminal Lying, Secrets, A Strategy for Peace, Mayhem, and Common Values.

'Weaving gracefully through a canon of thinkers from Aristotle and Seneca to Freud and Bertrand Russell, Bok also affirms the newer school, which regards itself as a science and whose reach extends to techniques such as brain imaging. … Amid the plethora of books about happiness, from self-improvement manuals to commentaries about improving society, it plays a distinctive and valuable role as a model of how to engage with different kinds of knowledge on the subject, and to get them to engage with each other. It demonstrates the principle that when it comes to happiness, the humanities and the sciences should be intertwined.' - Financial Times

“The book is highly recommended… [It] is a very welcome addition to the thriving literature on happiness.”—Lisa Bortolotti, Journal of Consciousness Studies (18) 2011

'Bok's humane inquiry makes a virtue rather than a problem out of the discord of ages, comparing competing accounts of happiness by Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine, Montaigne, Pope, Kant, Bentham et al, and asking questions of what she calls the “Yes but” sort.' - Guardian