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on 10 January 2018
To many words I don't understand. Too heavy for me but not thr authors fault.
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on 26 July 2017
I'm someone who will often buy non-fiction books (of a variety of topics) but never really get properly started reading them. The Happiness Hypothesis was different. I do most of my reading on the commute to and from work and tend to have a few different books on the go at once. When I started this book, all the others got put on hold and I was finding extra reading time where I could, just because I was looking forward to learning/discovering more. It also came into my life at a very appropriate time with regards to my mental health.

Haidt's writing style is as you would expect a decent university lecturer to deliver the topic; imparting a lot of information in an accessible way, causing pause for thought and inspiration (and learning without realising). Despite having finished it now, I still have markers in certain places to flick back to - whether it is for a quote or to look up a reference that he discusses (and everything is very well referenced).

The correlations of scientific research with religious and spiritual belief/behaviours are really interesting. I must admit there was a point where I felt that he was telling the reader to "get religion" (which put my back up a bit - I'm the atheist end of agnostic) but a few more pages on and things became clearer..

Buy this book if you are fascinated by how the brain works. Buy this book to gain an understanding of why you might react to situations differently to others. Buy this book to find out how your mind can be like an elephant. It's science Jim, but not quite as we know it.
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on 16 January 2018
great book
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on 28 June 2017
If you're reading this then you know you need this book. Seriously, stop reading the reviews and start reading the book. You will not regret it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 November 2012
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. Meditation and even Prozac have a role to play and he offers a plenty of thought provoking justifications why we should not turn our noses up at the thought of psychopharmacological cosmetic interventions to alleviate mental suffering: some of us through a combination of genes and experience are more likely to be afflicted by negative affective styles and could benefit from it (he describes in vivid detail his own experimentation with Prozac and the mixed results it brought)

Haidt has much to say in praise of Buddhist meditation and its emphasis on severing ties with carnal and material desire. While there is much to be said for this, it is an overreaction to the state of things as people need ties in order to flourish. Indeed, the research of the sociologist Durkheim found that those with few or no commitments are more likely to commit suicide than those embedded in obligations. Too much freedom - in the sense of an absence of any commitment to others - is bad for you.

Further reflections are offered on the nature of human emotion. Far from being divorced from reason, emotions are chained to reason. Those who have no emotional capacity to inform their decisions are paralysed into inaction. They go to a supermarket and stand there dumbfounded by the range of choice open to them and are overwhelmed by data. Being social creatures, we value reciprocity and reputation and gossip is the lubricant of social interaction. Gossip is a form of information sharing. Altruism is the way we build favours and show our willing to co-operate with the rules as social animals. But of course the temptation to feign compliance with the rules and play a Machiavellian game of superficial compliance with social rules while manoeuvring for selfish advantage means we need to find a solution, to save ourselves from ourselves, for our own good. For Haidt religion evolves to solve the collective action problem by reinforcing the rules of good conduct with transcendental foundations.

Haidt's boldest move is to step into the cross fire of the US cultural war between liberals and conservatives, appealing to both sides to recognize that each camp is motivated by moral concerns, and to take off the blinkers and learn from each other. Whether this appeal has the remotest chance of success - judging by the state of US politics, it doesn't - is another question. And human beings are notorious for the biases whereby they spot the shortcomings of others but overlook their own. This has practical implications. The realization that your opponents are driven by moral considerations as much as you may take the vehemence out of conflict and pave the way to some sort of resolution.

This is a thought-provoking book that achieves this effect by careful, lucid and reasoned reflections. It appeals to both your heart and your head and avoids baiting or shallow provocation. It tries to mediate peace between competing visions of the world. Though one can find plenty with which to disagree -I think he verges toward the indulgent when it comes to supposed benefits religion provides in anchoring morality - none of my disagreements diminished my enjoyment of the book. I enjoyed reading it and it changed the way I think when it comes to understanding conflicting definitions of morality, disputes over which cannot be resolved by merely by shouting at each other at the top of your voice. It also offers no easy answers in the search for happiness within life but one thing I found that, while reading it, I was actually quite happy.
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on 23 April 2017
This was another audio book where I ended up buying the book as well. Both are great. The concept of the Elephant and rider is fantastic. Great book in both forms. Very highly recommended.
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on 26 June 2017
John haidt is one of my favourite psychologists
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on 18 April 2017
Offers practical insights and steps which can literally change your thought processes and help you achieve a greater appreciation of your life
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on 27 November 2014
This is a well researched book by a real expert in the field. I have recommended it to several clients who have enjoyed reading the book and found it valuable. The style is highly readable and very informative.
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on 23 April 2009
This book describes what we know about happiness, from Greek philosophers vis Buddha to modern psychology. The author has clearly thought about this topic a great deal and explains his ideas clearly and with enthusiasm.

I really liked the way that the ideas were related to how people live their lives in a modern society. The author suggests ways to increase happiness without radically changing the way you live.

I found the book really thought-provoking. Some of the ideas feel like common sense, but reading them set out in such a clear and well-explored way made me think more about the things that do and don't make me happy and why that might be.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is going through a soul-searching period. It's a good mix of science and life advice.
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