• The Zen of happiness

    “People may be happiest when they’re not monitoring their own happiness,’’ Mauss contends. That doesn’t mean we should completely abandon the pursuit of happiness and resign ourselves to leading unhappy lives. But rather, we should pursue happiness the right way — defining it as leading a meaningful life, rather than partaking in hedonic pleasures.

    That’s from the Boston Globe today and about “a review paper published last week in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science [in which] researchers define what they call the ‘dark side of happiness.’'”

    The article didn’t link to the paper (making me slightly unhappy) but I found it here.

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    • This journalist (or maybe the author the paper, I haven’t read it) is muddled here. The fact that we should not self-consciously aim at happiness says nothing about what happiness is. And vice versa. Happiness might be “leading a meaningful live,” or it might be “hedonic pleasures.” In either case it can be true that aiming at happiness so construed is counterproductive. So the counterproductivity thesis entails nothing about what happiness is. Yet the passage suggests that we can deduce what happiness is from the counterproductivity thesis.

      It’s probably best to begin with the question “what is happiness,” and then, once we have an answer, ask what habits of thought and action promote it best. Then again, this is a question we’ve been asking for millennia, with no consensus on the first step.