Fall 2013 Happiness Class Study Questions

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September 5, 2013

1. Distinguish the Greek philosophical conceptions of happiness in Plato and Aristotle from the Greek cultural conception of happiness.

2. What is Plato's view of happiness?

3. What is Aristotle's view of happiness?

4. How can one use ordinary reflection on experiences of happiness to start theoretical reflection?

September 10

1. Follow major concepts introduced by Haidt, such as: adaptation, hedonic treadmill, set point theory, maximizers vs. satisficers.

2. What is Haidt's happiness formula and how might if be justified given his perspective?

3. What are "top down and bottom up theories" of LS? How do researchers try to assess this, according to Schimmack?

4. What role might "positive illusions" play in top down theories?

5. What are some explanations of the independence of NA and PA, according to Schimmack?

6. How are measurements, hypotheses, and constructs related?

September 12

1. What are some of the major correlates of happiness, according to Argyle's summary? Why does it require caution in identifying correlates as causes in general and in the case of happiness hypotheses in particular?

2. How do efforts to compare national subjective well being raise questions about the objectivity or universality of happiness?

3. What do we know from cross cultural (international) comparison of happiness data?

4. Compare and contrast the four theories for explaining cross cultural or international differences in SWB. What does each theory explain well or poorly about the differences?


September 17

1. Identify and consider the implications that our knowledge of the human brain has for the problem of understanding happiness.

September 19

1. How do ideas about happiness from Greek and Hellenistic culture find their way in Christianity?

2. How does the Christian message about happiness change from the 1st, 4th, 9th, and 13th centuries?

3. How does Patanjali's metaphysics and practice model an approach to happiness? Also, be prepared to give a psychological reading of this philosophical tradition.

4. What are the Brahmivihara?

September 24

1. Reconstruct and evaluate the Buddhist critique of suffering from a psychological standpoint.

2. Reconstruct and evaluate the general themes and concepts in the Buddhist program for enlightenment and happiness.

September 26

1. What is the Epicurean analysis of desire?

2. Explain the thinking behind the tetrapharmakos.

3. What would you say to someone who was disappointed that Epicurus did not justify the stereotype of "robust hedonism"?

4. How might a stoic strategy of bringing emotional responses into line with knowledge promote happiness? Could it work against our happiness?

October 1

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Irvine's analysis of negative visualization.

2. How does Irvine update the stoic "dichotomy of control"? What are the key advantages, in his perspective, from this revision?

October 3

1. Why does Gilbert thinking the ability to imagine a future is so distinctive? How might it be problematic for achieving happiness? What would Buddha say?

2. Describe the broad changes in the Western European culture of happiness during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Use details to illustrate and support your characterization. Then try to adopt a critical attitude toward this cultural history. What is there is cheer about and what is there to be concerned about in the new culture of happiness in the enlightenment?

October 8

1. According to Gilbert, what are some of the obstacles to being able to claim that two people's report of happiness reports of happiness can be compared?

2. How does our experience affect our judgements of our experience (of happiness)?

3. Do we always know what we are experiencing?(Ch. 3)

4. How can objective research be done on subjective well being given the problems Gilbert details in Chs. 2 and 3?

October 10

1. What is attachment theory and how does Haidt think it offers an account of romantic love?

2. How do major cultural and religious traditions theorize love?

3. Are there "two levels" of activity (roughly conscious/cultural and unconscious/evolutionary) at work in love and attachment? If so, what are the implications for a theory of happiness?

October 15

1. What is "status anxiety"? Place it both in the U.S. context and historically.

2. What strategies are available for responding to status anxiety?

3. What difference does a Lockean or Kantian view of the mind make to the way you think about the realism of your experience?

4. What evidence does Gilbert offer in Chapters 4 and 5 to suggest that it makes a big difference how and whether we "fill in" the future?

October 17

1. What are some of the mechanisms that come into play in imagining the future, acc. to Gilbert?

2. What are some of characteristic mistakes we make in imagining the future (infer from studies)?

October 22

October 24

October 29

1. How does Csikszentmihalyi represent the problem of happiness in everyday life?

2. What is flow and how does it relate to happiness?

3. How does Csikszenthihalyi suggest we analyze everyday activities? What value, if any, might this have for improving our state happiness?

October 31

1. What is savoring? (not just id, but theoretical definition and considerations in distinguishing from related phenomena -- likewise for #3)

2. What state of mind or attitudes work for or against savoring experiences?

3. What is gratitude?

4. What state of mind or attitudes work for or against gratitude?

5. How have theorist thought about the sociological and evolutionary function of gratitude?

November 5

1. How are savoring, coping, and gratitude connected?

2. Evaluate the evidence for competing hypotheses about the causal direction of gratitude and SWB.

November 7

1. How important or essential are relationships to happiness?

2. How should we accurately represent the research on the relationship between marriage and happiness?

3. Reconstruct and critically evaluate Csikszentmihalyi's view of the work that relationship does for us and the status of solitude.

November 12

1. What is the evidence that our response to divinity is part of a general physiology and culture of "elevation"?

2. Does Haidt's view do justice to the distinctive characteristics of religious elevation? Is it too reductive?

3. Is it practical and desirable to cultivate relationship through elevation?

4. How are awe and transcendence related to the ego? Can the self be an obstacle to happiness?

November 14

1. How does Gilbert explain the fact that we can't imagine valuing major negative experiences (like shame and wrongful incarceration), though we know that people do?

2. How do the "psychological immune system" and "psychological investment system" work, according to Gilbert?

November 19

1. How does the "American Experiment" in political and social life raise distinctive problems for happiness?

2. What was de Toqueville's critique of American attitudes toward social life and happiness?

3. How does Weber analyze the relationships among religion, capitalism, and happiness?

November 21

1. What arguments Bok consider for and against using happiness research to guide public policy?

2. Is a single-minded commitment to growth (raising GDP) the best strategy for governments to follow in increasing SWB?

November 26

November 28

December 3

1. What Carol Graham find from research on optimism among people in absolute poverty?

2. What hypotheses does Graham's research on cross-cultural factors in happiness support and what are some policy implications of this work?

December 5

1. Evaluate the main hypotheses on the relationship between our approach to death and well-being.

December 10

December 12