I rated this one 5 stars so you will probably see it pop up again in my end-of-the-year 5 star reviews.
In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt draws on his understanding of philosophy and psychology to define happiness and how to achieve it. He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, Confucius, and the Bible. He mentions Maslow, Adler, Kant, and Socrates. The book covers a wide range of philosophies, religions, and worldviews. It is no lighthearted self-help book designed to help you achieve maximization in five easy steps. And for that I truly liked it.
Mr. Haidt and I approach the world from two very distinctive worldviews but I think that only added to my enjoyment of the book. It made me think more deeply. I am familiar with all the studies and philosophers quoted – as I think anyone with a recent liberal arts degree should be – but I’d never thought to combine them the way he does. It was quite interesting. There is a lot of intellectual thought here made understandable but not overly simplified.
Mr. Haidt is an atheist but he does his best to fairly present religion and spiritual experiences and their importance for happiness. (Of course, he considers it mostly biology and sensory experiences but he is up front with his biases.) He also holds an appreciation for wonder and awe that I appreciated. I’d love to see how he squares his atheism with the writings of C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton…
Overall, quite an enjoyable and worthy read. While it didn’t “teach” me anything new, it had me thinking about old things in new ways. In that sense, the subtitle “Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom” is pretty spot on.