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A Brief History of Happiness (Brief Histories of Philosophy) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
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A Brief History of Happiness Paperback – February 8, 2006

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1405115209 ISBN-10: 1405115203 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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<!--end-->

"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

Review

"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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (February 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405115203
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405115209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,806,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Irfan A. Alvi TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book, but it was a struggle to finish and I came away feeling disappointed.

First of all, this book isn't really "a brief history of happiness." Rather, it's an exploration of what Western philosophers have had to say about happiness, especially ancient Greeks and Romans. This limitation of course leaves a lot out, including both non-Western philosophy as well as ideas from outside of philosophy, so I think the book's title overpromises and is misleading.

My second complaint is that White's writing style is repetitive and unnecessarily overcomplicates matters, and thus demonstrates why so many people who search for wisdom are turned off by academic philosophy, especially the analytic approach which is evident in this book.

My third and most important complaint is that White's conclusion is anti-climactic and ultimately unhelpful, and thus reading the book turns out to be largely a waste of time. If I understand him correctly, his conclusion is that Western philosophers have been unable to propose an understanding of the concept of happiness which could gain even a smidgen of consensus, and thus there has also been no consensus on how the happiness of a life should be evaluated, nor how happiness can best be attained. This raises the question of whether "happiness" is even a reasonable goal, given the apparent conflicts between the plurality and incommensurability of our various aims, intrapsychic harmony versus creative tension, tranquility/indifference versus engagement/attachment, contemplation (theory) versus action (practice), moment-to-moment versus time-aggregated happiness, happiness versus morality/virtue, and happiness of one person versus another.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Adam C. Sloane on November 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting and challenging review of the philosophical concept of happiness. Not only is it a "brief history" of the concept as it has been used and explored by Western philosophers, but also it is a provocative and illuminating analysis of the coherence and usefulness (or lack thereof) of the concept. Readers should be aware that this is decidedly not a self-help book, and it does not purport to give advice on the meaning of life or an assessment of which of the many conceptions of happiness is best for a well-lived life. It also does not canvass the uses and discussion of the concept that one might find in Maslow or in today's "positive psychology" literature. Rather, it explores the concept and the uses and criticisms of the concept by philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Epicureans, Skeptics, Kant, Scottish Enlightenment philosophers, and Utilitarians, among many others. (The heavy representation of Ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers in the book reflects Professor White's academic specialty. He has written important works on Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic philosophers.) Readers also should be aware that this is a challenging and intellectually demanding book. It probably would be helpful to have had some exposure to ancient philosophy and some of the other philosophers discussed in the book. It definitely is not a book for the beach! But it is well worth the effort and attention it requires. Because it is so short (coming in at about 175 pages of text), there are a lot of discussions that could have been amplified somewhat.Read more ›
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