Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt

Two days ago, I watched (yet again), Jonathan Haidt's TED Talk about the moral roots of, and the real differences between liberals and conservatives. This talk touched on Ideology and Openness to experience, among other things...

After the very informative talk, I sought to find out more about Jonathan Haidt, who is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.

The Happiness Hypothesis

It was then that I came upon his book 'The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.'

[caption id="attachment_79" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt"]The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt[/caption]

At the Happiness Hypothesis web site, this book is introduced as "a book about ten Great Ideas. Each chapter is an attempt to savor one idea that has been discovered by several of the world’s civilizations - to question it in light of what we now know from scientific research, and to extract from it the lessons that still apply to our modern lives. It is a book about how to construct a life of virtue, happiness, fulfillment, and meaning."

The book is divided into five major topics:

  • How the mind works

  • Social Life

  • Happiness

  • Flourishing

  • Meaning

10 Great Ideas

Each topic is then subdivided into a few key topics or great ideas. Following are the 10 Great Ideas:

  1. The Divided Self: Small Rider, Large Elephant

  2. Changing Your Mind

  3. Reciprocity with a Vengeance

  4. The Faults of Others”

  5. The Pursuit of Happiness

  6. Love and Attachments

  7. The Uses of Adversity

  8. The Felicity of Virtue

  9. Divinity with or without God

  10. Happiness Comes from Between

What you will learn:

  • How humans make decisions

  • Why change is so hard

  • What elements shape human happiness

  • What techniques you can use to increase how happy you feel

Read all the chapter summaries and download (FREE) the Introduction, chapters 1, 4, 6 and 8 here.


Bits of wisdom constantly fly at us. Perhaps, that is why we may only rarely stop to savor a great idea and make it our own. In the Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt provides a remedy to modern habits of superficial thinking, by demonstrating that the questions of the ages are still worth kicking around.

This book is recommended to those who want to know why change is so difficult and happiness so elusive. It will give you plenty to think about and possibly change your life. At the least, it will point you in a positive direction.

You can download an Abstract of The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt here (PDF 83KB).

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