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The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom Paperback – December 1, 2006
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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. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
Using the wisdom culled from the world's greatest civilizations as a foundation, social psychologist Haidt comes to terms with 10 Great Ideas, viewing them through a contemporary filter to learn which of their lessons may still apply to modern lives. He first discusses how the mind works and then examines the Golden Rule ("Reciprocity is the most important tool for getting along with people"). Next, he addresses the issue of happiness itself--where does it come from?--before exploring the conditions that allow growth and development. He also dares to answer the question that haunts most everyone--What is the meaning of life?--by again drawing on ancient ideas and incorporating recent research findings. He concludes with the question of meaning: Why do some find it? 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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
Top Customer Reviews
A major finding is that happiness is a set point for us, and that after good times and bad, we tend to return to our general level of happiness. At the same time, we can do things that help or hurt our happiness, and we can understand better how our minds and emotions work.
Factors that decrease happiness include persistent noise, lack of control, shame, dysfunctional relationships, and long commutes. Strong marriages, physical touch, meaningful relationships and religious affiliation tend to improve happiness. Activities with others enhance our happiness; status objects tend to separate us from others.
In terms of parenting, Haidt finds that secure children are well supported by parents who are nearby, providing safety and security. Avoidant children are neglected by their parents. And resistant children have parents who alternate between support and neglect. Haidt also shows how moral relativism is not good for children.
I was also fascinated by Haidt's observation that modernity and commercial culture slowly replaced the ideal of character with the idea personality, leading to a focus on individual preferences and personal fulfillment. This movement reached a height during the "values clarification" movement of the 1960s which taught no morality at all.Read more ›
First of all, the main hypothesis, that people make decisions with their gut and then use their brains to rationalize those decisions, is well supported. The examples are clear, real, and alive. You'll walk away from the book thinking, there are so many things that I do that I'm completely unaware of.
Secondly, my favorite thing about this book was that it was SO READABLE: it sounds like Jon Haidt is sitting across from you and speaking to you. (For example, you may have heard of the one and two marshmallow studies, but the story-like way that Haidt describes it will really capture your attention). Even the headings and section titles kept my curiosity up: what could that next section be about?
Third, the section on why human beings are hypocrites (ch. 4) is extremely interesting.
Finally, there is so much philosophy and history of psychology interwoven into the hypothesis of the book that you feel like you keep entering a new theatrical stage: one stage after the other, going to the center of a performance. And the best thing is, all the history, etc. is presented as "here is this story that shows why this happens" and "here's this other story."
Using delightful sparkling prose, Jonathan Haidt has written a meaty and worthwhile book about happiness, emotion and the creation of personal meaning. It is so rare nowadays to find people who can place their work in a broad historical and cultural context. Yet Haidt does just that. Here we have a book in which discussions of the brain rub shoulders with the sayings of the Buddha.
I am sure that nobody is going to agree with everything that he says. But neither would he want us to: he is informing and provoking discussion and understanding. I worry a little about the scientists and writers who try to reduce complex behaviors to neurons and hormones alone, and Jonathan avoids that trap.
This is an insightful book that belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in some of the fundamental problems of living a happy, fulfilled life, and of making a positive contribution to the world.
Very highly recommended.
His conversational style disguises biases and incomplete analyses. For instance, there's not enough attention to how happiness is affected by the degrees of acceptance one finds in one's community, family or culture.
There's a recurrent theme expressed by "You might need adversity to knock yourself into alignment." (p. 227) Haidt at times revels in the positive effects of adversity. While no growth is possible without challenge, his concept is so loose as to underwrite justifications for needless costs to human lives.
For all that, the book's okay. What I find to be disingenuous, even insidious, are the author's distortive conclusions and generalizations. He puts forward a simplistic dualism between religion and science, gloats about how he's "treasonous" in valuing the former (does that feel on the edge, Jon?).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is likely the best book I read in 2016 and I'm glad I did. This is one of those books one should revisit after a few years in order to understand how it changed you as an... Read morePublished 21 days ago by Leonardo Pontes dos Reis
book is not in new condition. Rather, it is evidently used with torn edges.Published 25 days ago by Tey Kian Siong
One of the best books on happiness I've ever read (and I've read hundreds!) Haidt does an incredible job of blending the main historic throughts on happiness and combines them with... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Our book group studied this book last month, and to a person we all loved it. It answered many of our personal questions--all diverse because the group is pretty big. Read morePublished 2 months ago by marva hancock