The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom Hardcover – Dec 26 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is very psychologically and philospohically based. Thus, it should not be embarked upon lightly for it is quite dense. However, I have never read anything that so completely reframes everyday experience as this book. I really love it.
It starts with looking at the evolution of the human brain and talks about the two parts of it: the elephant (wise emotional) and the rider (wise logical). Then the book continues to take the reader through the most popular spiritual, philospohical and psychological theories and compare their postulates against current psychological research. The results
are pretty amazing.
One of my favourites was the exploration of the adage : "money can't buy happiness". The author quips "It turns out it can if you just know where to shop". A short summary...
Humans are excellant at adapting to their environment. So for most of us, the everyday becomes somewhat hum drum no matter what your everyday is like. (The author takes the time to explain when and why we don't adapt.) However, we feel happiness thoughtout our day when we are engaged in activities that suit are greatest strengths (possibilities such as compassion, creativity, learning, honesty, justice). The author
further states that if we use money to buy experiences that allow us to use our strengths then we feel more happy on average than others. The same if we use our money to buy
us time to use our strengths. (Examples... pay a cleaning service to free up time, painting classes (create your dustables instead of buying them), vacations, family picnics
etc.Read more ›
The book's main analogy parallels an elephant and a rider: the elephant represents emotion, our subconscious disposition and inclinations whereas the rider symbolizes our conscious mind. Though the rider strives to steer and control the elephant, the elephant has it's own mind, one created by both evolution and culture. The conflict between the two leads to a divided self, one that unjustly criticizes others and gives into the temptation of positional goods such as bigger houses and fancier cars.
Haidt neither promotes apathy regarding one’s development of greater happiness, nor does he offer any easy answers. He does however discuss the advantages of meditation, cognitive-behavioural therapy and even medication. Additionally, he reveals features of daily life that increase happiness most dramatically: minimal disturbing noise, a shorter commute to work, greater autonomy in work/life, minimal shame in appearance and action, and an extended social network. Haidt concludes that we all have a genetic set-point; some people simply channel happiness with greater ease than others. But everyone should try to change the things within our reach, make some effort at changing the less mobile structural restraints and attempt to accept our dispositional nature.
Just like the promise in the title, much of the wisdom is ancient, but it's complemented in surprising ways by modern research.
Haidt at times undermines his story by relying on mere assertions and rhetoric to make his points, in areas where many might find cause to dispute what he takes as a given. Nonetheless, despite any problems, the sheer originality and good humour of this book make it well worth reading.
Most recent customer reviews
Incredible book. It started me on a journey that I may never finish. Revelations all the way.Published 29 days ago by Kevin Thomson
Great overview of Psychology in general. I like that it has a touch of philosophy as well. Very interesting, thought provoking, and scientific. Best psychology book I've ever read.Published 1 month ago by Dan
This book actually made me feel depressed -- ironic, given the title.Published 2 months ago by L A Pitcher
Very interesting book. I borrowed from the library first then I bought it.Published 3 months ago by Agnes
Incredible! This book is one you go back to many times throughout your life and continuously apply the techniques Jonathan has discussed. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Shay
One of the best basic books on the new positive psychology topic.Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
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