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The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
Synopses & Reviews
An award-winning psychologist exposes traditional wisdom to the scrutiny of science to show why ancient insights still help us live more meaningful — and healthy — lives Your grandmother was smarter than you knew. In fact, grandmothers and other sages, in cultures all over the world, have handed down bits of wisdom that ring true in every language: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you; what doesn't kill you makes you stronger; and life itself is what you make of it all exist as folkloric wisdom, crossing religious, historical, and social boundaries. Now, an esteemed psychologist puts these maxims under the microscope and reveals just how true these Truths are — and why.
Jonathan Haidt skillfully combines two genres — philosophical wisdom and scientific research — delighting the reader with surprising insights. He explains, for example, why virtue is often not its own reward, why extroverts really are happier than introverts, why conscious thinking is not nearly as important as we think it is, and why even confirmed atheists experience spiritual elevation. In a stunning final chapter, Haidt addresses the grand question "How can I live a meaningful life?," offering an original answer that draws on the rich inspiration of both philosophy and science.
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.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"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, Booklist
An award-winning psychologist skillfully combines two genres-philosophical wisdom and scientific research-delighting the reader with surprising insights
An award-winning psychologist examines the worlds philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science
In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the worlds philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims-like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesnt kill you makes you stronger-can enrich and even transform our lives.
Jonathan Haidt skillfully combines two genres-philosophical wisdom and scientific research-delighting the reader with surprising insights. He explains, for example, why we have such difficulty controlling ourselves and sticking to our plans; why no achievement brings lasting happiness, yet a few changes in your life can have profound effects, and why even confirmed atheists experience spiritual elevation. In a stunning final chapter, Haidt addresses the grand question "How can I live a meaningful life?," offering an original answer that draws on the rich inspiration of both philosophy and science.
About the Author
Jonathan Haidt is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. His research has centered on morality and the moral emotions, particularly elevation and awe. He is the co-editor of Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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