cover image Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science

Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science

Sissela Bok, Yale Univ., $24.00 (224p) ISBN 9780300139297

For as long as human beings have been capable of articulating needs beyond basic survival, one subject has occupied their thoughts perhaps more than any other: happiness. How do we achieve it? How do we maintain it? If it springs from deception (of self or others), as has been suggested, is it any less valid? Thinkers great and small have wrestled with questions such as these for millennia. Bok seeks to synthesize differing opinion and explore the many views on happiness—from philosophers to neuroscientists—and organizes her findings around themes such as luck, illusion, and transience. Happiness is such a subjective concept that it's difficult to imagine an author managing to even touch on it, let alone offer a comprehensive survey. Still, Bok culls a careful collection of thoughts into a surprisingly dense philosophical examination, chronicling what great thinkers have had to say about the subject. Though the title may suggest something from the self-help shelf, this is indeed an exploration, not a guide; readers who want help getting happy should look elsewhere. (Aug.)