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The Conquest of Happiness [Paperback]

Bertrand Russell
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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The Conquest of Happiness The Conquest of Happiness 4.7 out of 5 stars (3)
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Book Description

March 17, 1996 0871401622 978-0871401625 Reissue

"My purpose is to suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, appears inescapable."

Russell held progressive, often controversial views on social issues, including sexuality. Vigorously opposed to conventional or religious morality, he sets forth here a rationalist approach to achieving a happy life.

Editorial Reviews


“Excellent. . . . Sane and forthright; should be read by every parent, teacher, minister, and Congressman in the land.” (Atlantic Monthly)

About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was born in England and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. His long career established him as one of the most influential philosophers, mathematicians, and social reformers of the twentieth century.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; Reissue edition (March 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871401622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871401625
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his "rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
202 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars just a few comments June 1, 2005
The other reviewers have done a fine job reviewing the book, and I'd just like to emphasize a few points.

1. Although a few of the references are dated because the book was written in 1930, all of the ideas are still perfectly relevant.

2. This is not a book of formal philosophy; more of introspection. Of course Russel introspected with the same brilliant and critical mind that he used to contribute to mathematics and philosophy. But this is not rigorous, apologetic or systematic. Actually, it's more like gentle advice. And quite reasonable.

I'd like to quote a few passages that I found thought-provoking, to give a reader a sense of what to expect if you purchase and read this book:

p. 27, "[T]o be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness."

p. 29, "The habit of looking to the future and thinking that the whole meaning of the present lies in what it will bring forth is a pernicious one. There can be no value in the whole unless there is value in the parts."

p. 43, "I do not deny that the feeling of success makes it easier to enjoy life.... Nor do I deny that money, up to a certain point, is very capable of increasing happiness. What I do maintain is that success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all the other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it."

p. 74, "The essentials of human happiness are simple, so simple that sophisticated people cannot bring themselves to what it is that they really lack."

p. 94, "[R]emember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself... don't overestimate your own merits... don't expect others to take as much interest in you as you do in yourself."

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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Analytic Philosophy Meets Pop Psychology July 19, 2001
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book, despite the passage of considerable time. Written shortly after WWI, there are occasional references to people and things no longer on the modern radar scope. And, as philosophical writing goes, Russell is better than most in constructing intelligible sentences and paragraphs that don't require repeated reading to understand.
This book is about life. Russell uses his analytic empiricism to discuss typically pop-psychological issues: Boredom, Excitement, Envy, Sin, Persecution, Public Opinion, Zest, etc. But his approach, dated back in time, is refreshingly new and helpful in the present. Indeed, Russell shows himself redolent in wisdom, the true aim of philosophy, and tackles issues that are at the core of what constitutes happiness and its opposites.
Because Russell appeals to his empirical views analytically arrived, there is a sense of wonderment and awe at such simple solutions to difficult problems in modern life. These solutions aren't dressed in pop-ism, but in a perennial philosophy that takes wisdom, not pop-up tapes of life, seriously.
The Atlantic Monthly claimed this book to be a "primer of self-regeneration . . . a most excellent book." This praise is not unwarranted, and given that commonsense is the center of the whole enterprise, its wisdom will endure not only when it was written in the 1920s, but today, and tomorrow.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hits the nail on the head August 19, 1999
By A Customer
In this book Bertrand Russell writes about things that cause unhappiness and--as the author himself explains--having no outside cause, are all the more distressing since they seem to have no solution. Russell proposes answers for the everyday happiness that every human being is bound to suffer. His chapters include Envy (the greatest of human passions, according to him), Persecution Mania (a VERY interesting chapter), Family, Work, and so on. A few things in the book must be taken with a grain of salt; however, I fell that on the whole Russell hits the nail on the head and offers us a work that is part philosophy, part psychology, and very effective in doing what it proposes. The second part of the book contains chapters that explain the cause of happiness, and how one can attain it. In the end, I put down the book knowing a bit more about human nature, and realizing that a book that was written so long ago is incredibly current--the truth that human nature never changes is one of the book's corollaries.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and eye-opening August 1, 2000
I must admit I'm a fan of Russell, so I tend to be a bit biased. But I also think that Russell really has, as one person put it, "hit the nail on the head" with this book on happiness.
Russell divides the book into two parts (essentially). One is devoted to the causes of unhappiness, with chapters on persecution mania, fear, envy, boredom and excitement, fatigue, the sense of sin, and fear of public opinion, among others. I found the chapter on fear to be the most interesting, although they all were fascinating. In chapter 9, Fear of Public Opinion, Russell alleges that many people drive themselves to unhappiness by trying to conform to others and/or being afraid of opprobrium from friends, family, or co-workers. Of course, the chapter itself is much better than my terse summary.
The next part of the book is devoted to the causes of happiness, with chpaters on: zest, affection, family, work, hobbies, and effort. I found this part to be of lower quality than the first. If one works backward from Russell's causes of unhappiness, than one would come across interesting ways of finding happiness. In others words, if you discovered that you were submerged in unbearable (perhaps religious) guilt all the time, than perhaps some rationalization would help. For example, let's say you're a woman, you've been raped, and you have an abortion. You are under a tremendous amount of guilt because you happen to be a conservative (theologically) Baptist. What do you do about your religious guilt, which is ruining your life?
I think Russell should've devoted a section to his causes of happiness part of the book to getting out of the causes of unhappiness.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Message
The Conquest of Happiness is Bertrand Russell’s account of what makes for a happy life. Although it was written in 1930, the wisdom within it is timeless. Read more
Published 3 months ago by pumpkin_programmer
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Russell's best.
One of the most wonderful books I have ever read. Russell's style is magnificent. Some of his views are totally magnificent and as you read them you think "That is something... Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Conquered!
Short, pleasant and inspiring book by one of the great modern thinkers of our time. Recommended as a concise and practical guide to being fulfilled.
Published 9 months ago by Sean Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Wonderful
Conquest of Happiness is a very interesting and a wonderful book by Bertrand Russell. Bertrand Russell was one of the very prominent intellectuals of the early twentieth century. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Psyops
3.0 out of 5 stars Desperation is the Enlgish way
I read this book as a young man. Now decades older I realize that the attitude "I AM GOING TO CONQUER HAPPINESS" is not the ideal approach for contemporary folks. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Nye-vee
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok. just ok.
A bit dated. Some of the advice is a bit.... old fashioned in a misogynist kind of way. There are a few good paragraphs, but you have to endure a lot of tepid nothing to get to... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sam Thorpe
5.0 out of 5 stars Russell does it again
Bertrand Russell never fails to amaze me. This book contains the best advice you can get for leading a happier life and I find myself returning back to this book occasionally to... Read more
Published 13 months ago by goker
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written
As Bertrand Russell comments in the introduction to the book the things he says may seem obvious and they are. Read more
Published 16 months ago by ReviewOfThings
5.0 out of 5 stars From the master of austere abstraction, a warm and accessible...
If, as the saying goes, there's nothing common about common sense, a self help book by one of the very greatest public intellectuals of the twentieth century might have been... Read more
Published 18 months ago by William J. Pavlik
5.0 out of 5 stars Bertrand Russell is profound
My first reading of anything by Bertrand Russell. Although he is difficult to understand with his extensive vocabulary (have a dictionary on hand), his ideas are profound and life... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Derek
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