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The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science Paperback – 5 Apr 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; 1st Thus edition (5 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099478897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478898
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"Riveting... Brilliantly synthesising ancient cultural insights with modern psychology and even holding out some faint hope that your happiness, if not your tallness, might be marginally adjustable after all." (Sunday Times)

"Marvellous... Haidt...takes us on an extraordinary journey... I don't think I've ever read a book that laid out the contemporary understanding of the human condition with such simple clarity and sense." (James Flint Guardian)

"A superbly argued, crystal clear and intelligent blend of new directions in contemporary experimental psychology with traditional philosophical thought... And you know what? Reading it did actually make this reviewer happier." (Arena)

"A delightful book... By some margin the most intellectually substantial book to arise from the 'Positive Psychology' movement." (Nature)

"With singular gusto, Haidt measures ten 'Great Ideas' against past/present research in psychology and science. "LJ" 's verdict: Dr. Phil et al. don't have diddly on the old-school sages. No man is an island, indeed, and no modern reader should be without this carefully considered demystification of life" (Library Journal Best Books 2006)

Book Description

A brilliantly original exploration of what we can learn about the meaning of human life and how we should live our lives, drawing both on the wisdom of the great thinkers and on the insights of modern science. For all readers of Alain de Botton.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 20 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
This, in many ways, is the "self-help" book for people who don't read self-help books.

Its conclusions probably won't surprise anyone - the way to find happiness is mostly just what Socrates, Jesus, Buddha et al suggested - be nice to people, do a job that satisfies you, stop chasing after material wealth, etc.

All of which might lead you to think there's no point in reading it. But there is. Haidt is that rare beast, a serious academic who can write engagingly for the general (educated) readership. Somehow, seeing his synthesis of many, many areas of psychological research creates a real feeling of enlightenment, and I would be very surprised indeed at anyone who didn't find some serious "food for thought" within its pages.

Did reading it make me happier? Well, this is where I'm supposed to say "Well, no, but...", but - to my own surprise - the answer is actually "yes"! Just a little, but enough to justify making the book a "keeper".

Read it, and think about the way you live. Highly recommended.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
What does Haidt mean by happiness? It means finding meaning within life, even if one cannot find the meaning of life. He offers a robust vision of how happiness can be found in this world without the absolute certainties of fundamentalist religious faith, but also considers seriously and sympathetically the sense of the divine that religion offers to underscore our moral sense. He avoids falling into the sort of hopeless posturing indulged by existentialist philosophers or nihilism. He seeks to put the wisdom of the ancients of both East and West to the test of whether their exhortations withstand scrutiny from modern science. Most ambitiously of all, he seeks to step into the cross fire of the US culture war to try and find some sort of reconciliation between the competing visions of liberals and conservatives, and between the secular and the sacred.

First of all he sets out what the nature of the self is - a divided self, a thin crust of rationalism that has evolved relatively recently on the bedrock of a brain better attuned to threats rather than opportunities. This is what makes us so susceptible to forms of thinking and behaving that make us miserable. But here the wisdom of ancient philosophers resonates with modern cognitive behavioural therapy that 'thinking makes things so' - you can change the way you think about events and shape the way you see the world.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Mr. T. White TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is an underrated masterpiece and should be proudly occupying all thinking persons' bookshelves. Haidt couldn't have written this book better, and he is most certainly to be commended for producing a guide to finding happiness which trumps all others.

His narrative meanders a most cerebrally scenic course via ancient philosophy, comparative religion, science and modern day psychology and literally tests the paradigms of happiness. Thus e.g. : Was Buddhism right to preach the renouncing of all material things? Or, just partly right? What part does gossip really play in our lives? What should the depressed do about their condition? What is the best way to find true happiness in your life, assuming such a thing can be found at all?

These and many other thought engaging questions are analysed with no stone unturned by a most gifted thinker. This reviewer cannot recommend this book more highly (and I normally can't be bothered with the so called "self help section"), buy it you must! A brilliant book. I am left wondering what Haidt will write about next.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Peter Jackson on 15 Jan. 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was my best non-fiction book of 2006. Haidt is an academic of genuine flair. In the Happiness Hypothesis he has produced for the general reader a synthesis of robust thinking and research around happiness. It is expressed in an accessible style, using some very simple metaphors to hold the reader's attention on key themes, as the author reviews the best of the philosophy, psychology and neurology of happiness.

To put it another way, this was accessible enough to read in bed, and robust enough to fill over 24 pages of references.

My only caveat, I thought the subtitle - 'Putting ancient wisdom and philosophy to the test of modern science' - did not get to the heart of the book. This makes it sound like a series of tests of famous aphorisms. In face, Haidt is primarily interested in evidence, but uses literary and philosophical sources to illustrate and enliven his science; to ask questions of it, and to keep an open mind. But then I think that's just good science.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan C. Shipton on 30 Nov. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a very readable humane book. It is both funny and insightful. I finish almost every chapter thinking yes that makes perfect sense. He expresses what we already know in our hearts about happiness; money doesn't do it,material goods don't do it for longer than five minutes. What makes us happy is a combination of genes, upbringing and lifestyle. Happiness is a journey not a destination.
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