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The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
de Jonathan Haidt
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Jonathan Haidt is psychologist who primarily researches how people come to ethical opinions/actions. This book takes an evidence based look at some big ideas of philosophy and great thinkers through history about how to be happy.
It uses a pretty wide array of illustrations of ideas, referencing scenes from The Godfather to demonstrate social strategies, Edwin Abbott’s Flatworld, and using the Bible, Buddha, and Machiavelli to present the history of ideas, then examines some of the experiments by modern psychologists that are applicable to those ideas. It’s not a perfect book and I won’t claim to agree with every conclusion made, but it’s fairly easy to follow the difference between citing research and conclusions drawn from that research.
I have a hard time judging the approachability of this one because I’ve read a disproportionately high number of books in psychology, but it doesn’t seem to assume that much knowledge. It does get somewhat dense and technical at points, and I intend to give it a second read, but I believe it’s something you can follow without a strong background if you know what you’re getting into.
It covers a wide range of ideas from structural elements of the brain, to childhood development, the role of trauma in personal growth, religious experiences, psychedelics, and how ideas about ethical decision making differ and contribute to happiness. It’s a lot, packed through with citations, but it’s reasonably well structured and presented. Overall, if you read everything printed in psychology you’ll recognize a lot of the research, but might think about some of it in new ways. If you haven’t read much, it might be a bit daunting but even if you miss details I think you could take away a lot of understanding of how our brains work by reading this book.
I found very interesting the hypotheses described in this book, and will definitely study more some of the concepts that the author explained in order to improve my own “happiness level” and become more conscious of my own behavior. I fully recommend this book to anyone that wants to understand more clearly how our mind and emotions work together.
I liked the book a lot but I wish it had a better title. Makes me embarrassed! But the content was very good.
This book is squarely in the genre of experimental psychology digested for a popular audience. As such, it is full of commentary on experiments, many of which are familiar to readers of this genre (yes, he mentions the marshmallows).
That said, this is a particularly good example of this genre. Unlike many authors in this genre, Haidt is both author and researcher. This seems to have had some positive effects. He makes clear the difference between the well-agreed upon results of the research and his own extensions of those interpretations. Even when talking about his own work, the distinction is there, although less so. He also gives the impression of having thought more deeply about his subject matter than non-researching authors.
As the title implies, this book is about happiness, and it is about evaluating ancient wisdom from the viewpoint of modern science. Happiness, not surprisingly, covers everything from relationships and stuff to work to morality and religion. I think the breadth of Haidt's explorations is part of what I like.
But what really makes the ideas in this book stick is Haidt's juxtaposition of ancient wisdom and modern findings. After realizing that he could use quotations from various sources of ancient wisdom to help his students remember ideas in his psychology classes, Haidt decided to find the common pieces of ancient wisdom and then evaluate them against the experimental results. The resulting pieces of wisdom come from many sources: the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Dhammapada, the Tao Te Ching, Aristotle and other Greek thinkers, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, and more.
Many of these pieces of wisdom hold up well under modern knowledge. Many others, however, are at odds with how people actually work. The evaluation is interesting. And independent of the validity of the ideas is the way that this book makes clear how almost all of the really big ideas about happiness and human nature are common across many cultures, religions, and times.
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Wikipedia en anglès (2)
With 10 great ideas, each chapter is an attempt to savor one idea that has been discovered by several of the world's civilizations--to question it in light of what we now know from scientific research, and to extract from it the lessons that still apply to our modern lives.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)170 — Philosophy and Psychology Ethics Ethics -- Subdivisions
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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Hachette Book Group
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Each idea is examined in the light of the latest neurological, psychological and sociological science. Some are found wanting, some very accurate and some useful in particular circumstances or cases.
It is a fascinating read, at times depressing because of just poorly our minds work in some cases, but at other times very inspiring. Today we really do have a vast body of knowledge and set of tools to apply to both our own happiness and well-being as well as understand that of others.
The facts and analysis presented are more broadly applicable - in politics most especially, but he dips into other fields as well.
I can't thinking of anyone who shouldn't read this book for the knowledge and analysis it contains alone. ( )