Fall 2023 Reading Schedule and Class Notes

From Alfino
Jump to navigationJump to search

Return to Happiness and Wisdom


1: AUG 30 - Course Introduction

  • Welcome - personal introduction and welcome.
  • About the Course
  • Course Units
  • 1. Some Classical Ideas on H&W
  • 2. Some Obstacles to H&W
  • 3. Measuring and Finding Happiness
  • 4. The Berlin Wisdom Paradigm
  • 5. The Enlightenment, American Experience, Money and Happiness
  • 6. Relationship, Community, and Happiness
  • Course "Practica"
  • Mindfulness & Meditation
  • Savoring
  • Gratitude
  • Yoga Philosophy
  • Other Spiritual Exercises (Some student introductions.)
  • Course Websites: Wiki & Courses.alfino.org (Some student introductions.)
  • Overview of Teaching Approach.
  • 1. Grading Schemes. You will be able to make choices about what you are graded on and the weight of different assignments. This is your "grading scheme." You can customize up to 30% of your grading scheme to suite your learning style or motivations in the course. Briefly show courses.alfino.org.
  • 2. Transparency of student work and grades. In this course we use pseudonyms to allow sharing of grade information and student work - You will see most of the writing and scoring for required writing assignments, including my assessments of other student's work. This has many benefits.
  • 3. Approach to writing instruction.
  • a. Learning to assess writing. Writers improve when they acquire skills in evaluating their own writing. We will cultivate these skills directly and through peer review.
  • b. Building from small, short writing, to longer, more complex writing. The writing skills in this course are sequenced and early assignments give you performance information without affecting your grade much.
  • c. Looking at reading comprehension. We will do a few quizzes early on to give you some information about your reading skills. There are ways to compensate for this with good note taking, but we will also talking about active and critical reading and how to retain reading information. (Some student introductions.)
  • Succeeding in the Course:
  • There is no final exam in this course, so your success depends upon demonstrating the philosophical skills we build toward in required assignments.
  • Prep Cycle - view reading notes as you are reading, read, note, quiz, evaluate preparation. Hierarchy of skills and goals.
  • Reading - Keep track of the time you spend reading for the course. Mark a physical text. Contact me if your reading quiz scores are not what you expect. There are lots of ways to improve your reading skills.
  • Writing - Try to learn the rubric early on, read lots of other students' writing and compare scores, discuss your writing with me, especially during office hours. Because everything is transparent, you can compare your work to slightly higher and lower evaluated student work. This often leads to productive office hour discussions. (Some student introductions.)
  • Required Assignments and Default Grade Weights for your Grading Scheme
  • Points 35-65% default = 55%
  • Position Paper 1 15-25% default = 20%
  • Position Paper 2 20-30% default = 25%
  • First Day TO DO list
  • Make sure you can find the two course websites and that you understand what information and tools each provides.
  • Browse some links on the course wiki page, including old Happiness & Wisdom News!
  • When rosters are upload to courses.alfino.org, I will send you a confirmation email.

2: SEP 6 - 1. Some classical ideas on H&W


  • Hall, C2 – “The Wisest Man in the World” (18)
  • Labouvie-Vief, "Wisdom as Integrated Thought"(27)


  • 1st Writing and Dropbox Practice

Hall, C2 – “The Wisest Man in the World”

  • Socratic wisdom -- Chaerephon and the story from the Apology.
  • Socratic wisdom -- Knowing that you do not know something. Awareness of ignorance, but also, by implication, of standards for knowing.
  • Does Socrates behavior in the Apology, toward Meletus and his verdict, show wisdom or contempt?
  • Axial Age Hypothesis, 23 -- for more on this, see the wiki page, "Axial Age"
  • digress on cultural evolution -- maybe a better way to theorize this idea.
  • Greek
  • Heraclitus - wisdom in recognizing the "flux" of reality. Note contrast with Platonic/Socratic model - forms.
  • Contrast between Pericles and Socrates, p. 28
  • Pericles -- "civic wisdom" - Athenian model for decision making. Quasi-democratic. (Wise culture/ wise person)
  • Socrates -- anti-body. renunciation of desire. p.29: Hall hints at the modern research on emotion and evolved responses. He might have said: Emotions are "epistemic".
  • both selling "deliberation" as a virtue
  • Confucius
  • 6th century BC China - collapse of Zhou dynasty. Period of chaos and suffering.
  • Characteristics of Confucian ideas of wisdom - concept of "gen," put above even wisdom. (gloss)
  • By contrast with Plato, Confucian wisdom is practical, meant to guide life, recognizes primacy of emotion.
  • Like Socrates, Confucious was not personally well-integrated into society.
  • Buddha 563-483bc.
  • slight corrective to Jaspers quote on 32. A bit old school
  • "awakening" vs. "wisdom"
  • Theological (divine wisdom) vs. Secular (practical wisdom)
  • Hall makes the point that Christian thought re-emphasizes the distinction between "Sapientia" and "Scientia"
  • Solomon's wisdom came in a dream from the divine. (More about him later.)
  • Are models of divine wisdom at odds with secular views?

Labouvie-Vief, "Wisdom as Integrated Thought"

  • Main ideas:
  • Sees the modern resurgence of interest in wisdom as a way of counteracting the tendency to theorize cognition only in terms of objective forms. Contrasts "objective" vs. "organismic" (emotions, subjective, interpersonal) thought.
  • Explores a historical thesis about the development of Greek culture from Homeric to the philosophical, that Homeric man was embedded in action in a way that Greek philosophy is not. On the other hand, philosophy opens up a split in consciousness that requires integration. Plato's anti-body philosophy needs to be surpassed.
  • In her own work, she came to find Piaget as having an objectivist bias. (Similar to other critiques of pre-evolutionary psch. Haidt's "rationalist delusion".)
  • Modes of Knowing
  • Mythos and Logos - Her terms for a contrast she finds in Piaget, Freud, others. Oral - meaning derived from shared experience / Written - meaning disembedded from context. Ultimately in Homer vs. Plato/Socrates.
  • Mythos - speech, narrative, plot, dialogue ::*Logos - gather, read, count reckon, explain, reason objectively. Deductive certainty.
  • Her question: which of these is associated with mature (and by implication wise) thinking?
  • Mental Models
  • Birth of logos - Pythagoras, abstraction from matter. Associates it with rise of complex and larger societies. (Disgress with update on cultural evolution.) By contrast, Homeric thought shows "mythos"
  • 58: "In the Homeric poems, there is little evidence for the self-consciousness typical of the modern person. The Homeric heroes do not engage in reflection but are embedded in action. Theirs is a concrete, sensory existence. It shows little evidence of the mental types of regulation mastered by the modern adult: impulse delay and monitoring and self-ownership of action and feeling (Onians, 1954). There is no language of a self different from its concrete actions and assets - a self as a permanent, persistent agent who authors its actions but is not identical with them. Indeed, there is no word at all, no specific designating concept, for the self, since "... no one in Homer thinks of himself, but rather engages in an interaction or dialogue, be it with another person, with a god, or with a part of himself (Simon, 1978, p. 72).
  • 59: "By Plato's lifetime, a dramatic change in the language of the mind had occurred, and Plato's writings represent the culmination of a new way of speaking about the mature adult. For Plato, the adult is no longer embedded in a concrete, organic, and participatory reality. Rather, the new reality is one defined by a new function, psyche, variously translated as soul, mind, or spirit. Most of Plato's writing is concerned with delineating the new faculty that allows us to live in that new reality and with differentiating it from a reality of concrete sensory textures. "
  • The dissociated mind
  • Claims that Plato's model is limited bec. it focuses on mind over body, inner over outer...p. 60. Can a mature mind be described only in terms of logos?
  • Mind without body, suspicion of imagination, identification of thought with the masculine (62)
  • The reconnected mind
  • The problem of the dissociated mind is address in the 18th-19th centuries during the Romantic era: Kant saw the problem, but later thinkers theorized a more "connected" mind, rejecting rationalism. Habermas is a positive example in 20th century.
  • The Loss and Gain of Wisdom
  • 70: cites evidence from developmental psych. younger vs. older adults: read.
  • 71: "More mature adults, however, were able to create more symmetrical representations of self and other. They were able to accept responsibility for the conflict and to understand that the other is not necessarily motivated by malevolent intentions. Thus for anger, lack of maturity involved an overpolarization of self and other, whereas maturity brought a compensating ability to experience empathy and to maintain connectedness.
  • 77: "The view of wisdom I am proposing, therefore, retains many of the elements significant in Plato's theory. It squarely rejects the position that the abstract and theoretical and the concrete and practical constitute incommensurable domains of mental functioning. Instead, it accepts the position that a theory of mind, self, and reason for better or worse also implies a prescription for how to conduct and evaluate one's life. The limits of the Platonic vision of wisdom as it has persisted through the ages derive, however, from the attempt to dissociate the two poles that are necessary to the evolution of wisdom. Hence, the objectivist Platonic vision proposes a concept of reason that rejects rational evaluation of elements deriving from one of these poles, mythos. Thereby it opens itself to profound irrationality. "

1st Writing and Dropbox practice

  • Please write a 250 word maximum answer to the following question by September 11, 2023, 11:59pm. This assignment will give us some initial writing to look at and give you practice with the dropbox protocol for turning in pseudonymous writing in the course. For this assignment, the writing itself is ungraded, but you will receive 15 points for following the instructions accurately.
  • Topic: Drawing on our class discussion and reading of Labouvie-Vief, what do you see as the main contrast she is trying to show? What would be some contemporary examples? Do you agree with her main claim about this contrast?
  • Prompt Advice: While this is ungraded and informal writing which asks for your opening impressions, try to give your answer some organization and structure. Try to pay attention to word choice and sentence structure. I strongly encourage you to draft your answer the night before it is due and return to it on the night that it is due.
  • Advice about collaboration: Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes, and your own notes, verbally. Collaboration is also a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs in the class. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  1. To assure anonymity, you must remove your name from the "author name" that you may have provided when you set up your word processing application. For instructions on removing your name from an Word or Google document, [click here].
  2. Format your answer in double spaced text, in a typical 12 point font, and using normal margins. Do not add spaces between paragraphs, but do indent the first line of each paragraph.
  3. Do not put your name in the file or filename. You may put your student ID number in the file. Always put a word count in the file. Save your file for this assignment with the name: MythosLogos.
  4. To turn in your assignment, log into courses.alfino.org, click on the "1 Points Dropbox" dropbox.
  5. If you cannot meet a deadline, you must email me about your circumstances (unless you are having an emergency) before the deadline or you will lose points.

3: SEP 11


  • Haybron, C2, “What is Happiness?” (16 short)
  • Haybron, C3, “Life Satisfaction” (10)
  • McMahon C1, “Highest Good” (19-40)


McMahon, "Chapter 1: The Highest Good" (first half 19-40)

1. Classical Greek Models of Happiness

Key theme: Greek cultural break with accommodation to destiny. Recognition of possibility of control of circumstances determining happiness. The emergence of "autonomy" (self-rule, self-government) at the social and individual level.

Implicit historical narrative: Classical Greek philosophy has a point of connection with Periclean Athens, but develops Athenian cultural values in a radically new way. This begins a distinctive kind of narrative about happiness in the West.

1. The Greek Cultural Model
  • Connection of the culture with tragedy, appreciation of fate, happiness as gift of gods.
  • Dionysian culture
  • Athenian democracy as a contrasting force representing control of the destiny of the polic by the peeps.
  • Socratic culture as a radicalization of autonomy. Socratic method intended to liberate us from tradition and the pretense of knowledge. (Socrates was, however, no demo-crat.)
  • Post-Socratic Schools -- Hellenism and Hellenistic culture (we'll be returning to some of these schools later in the course)
2. The Greek Philosophical Models of Happiness: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno.
A. Plato - Symposium gives us picture of Plato's view.
  • Summary of the Symposium (not McMahon)
  • The Symposium is presented by Plato as the record of a drinking party in which each participant was obligated to give a speech on the nature of love. You can check the wikipedia for an overview of the specific speeches. Our excerpt is taken from Socrates famous speech on love, in which he quotes Diotima, a real female ancient Greek philosopher (rare then). Love turns out to be a semi-divine force that motivates us to pursue the highest forms, including Wisdom. Wise people do not get stuck chasing pretty lovers (especially boys for these guys); they realize that beyond the specific beautiful people, there is the form of beauty. Climbing the "ladder of love" reorients our lives in a practical way toward less transitory things. That is supposed to be a wise thing to do. Start at 201D for the main part of the reading.
  • Socrates/Plato raise the question of happiness in the Euythedemus
  • Contrast the Symposium with the cult of Dionysius - Dionysian 'ecstasy' (quote at p. 29) vs. Platonic transcendence. A private symposium often replicated public debauchery for the elite. "Komos"
  • Reasoning our way to the Good (Happiness). Symposium as purification ritual (Summary including Alcibiades twist). bad desire/good desire. We will find real happiness in the pursuit of transcendent knowledge.
  • The Symposium itself: Speeches on love. (Eros as a force that draws us toward happiness.)
  • Phaedrus - Eros is the oldest of gods, most useful to man.
  • Agathon - Eros is the most happy, most blessed.
  • Pausanias - distinction bt Common Eros / Heavenly
  • Erixymachus - eros as broad natural force in all life.
  • Aristophanes - the fable of "finding your better half"
  • Socrates - Eros is the child of Poverty and Plenty. (Socratic analysis of desire - lack.) Eros needs guidance, not auto-telic. Socrates proposes an educational model, a "ladder of love" (read at 35) that guides eros toward its proper object.
  • Object of desire is transcendent. (Reminder about Platonic metaphysics.) "intellectual orgasm" (36)
  • McMahon: "radical reappraisal of the standards of the world" 37
  • Stop here for 9/13 reading assignment
B. Aristotle (note McMahon pp. 41ff and Aristotle reading)
  • end, function, craft, techne. Hierarchy of arts.
  • end vs. final end -- the universal good is the final end, not relative. sec. 6-7.
  • happiness as activity of the soul in accordance with virture (def., but also consequence of reasoning from nature of human life)
  • Section 13: nature of the soul. two irrational elements: veg/appetitive and one rational. Note separation/relationship.
  • As M notes, Aristotle's focus on the rational part of the soul leaves him with a similar problem as Plato -- a model of happines that few (not the Alcibiades in the world) will attain.
  • Is the Greek Classical model of happiness (as seen in the Symposium and Aristotle's thought), a revelation of truth about happiness or the beginning of a repressive line of thought in happiness studies?
  • If happiness requires a disciplined practice, how do you maintain solidarity with those who do not maintain the discipline (the Alcibiades problem)? Possible weakness of an individual enlightenment model of happiness.
  • Surgery for the Soul
  • Zeno (335) and Epicurus (341). Vitality of Platonic/Socratic teaching in Hellenistic schools. Eudaimonia a common focus.
  • General thesis: Epicurean and Stoic thought might be related to political changes (53). From city-state to Empires and tyrants. Note how this might track away from Aristotle, with his "external goods" list.
  • Epicurus' definition of pleasure. Not really hedonism. absence of pain (aponia), absence of mental anguish or anxiety (ataraxia). Internal strategy: Eliminate unnecessary pleasures, be satisfied with simple ones.
  • Note near overlaps with Stoic message.
  • Note metaphor for both schools -- surgery for the soul.
  • Prodicus' The Choice of Hercules - represents the tragic cultural motif in contrast to Platonic/Hellenistic thought.

Haybron, Chapter 2: What is Happiness?

  • Brief Small Group discussion: Think about a unique or typical experience you have that you would identify with endorsement, engagement, or attunement. Are there experiences that relate to more than one of these? To all three?
  • Recall the distinction between H(s) and H(l).
  • Haybron takes us into a rich phenomenal account of emotional state happiness (Share our examples.)
  • Endorsement -- Being "at home" in your life. An "emotional evaluation". Satisfying criteria you accept as counting toward the claim, "my life is positively good" Haybron associates this most closely with joys and sadness, gains and loss.
  • Examples -- Feeling from actual endorsements (give examples), but also from savoring accomplishment or appreciating need fulfillment (parents seeing contented children, a full pantry...)
  • Engagement - vitality and flow. But note, this aspect of H(s) is compatible with "negative affect".
  • Attunement -- peace of mind, tranquility, confidence, expansiveness
  • Is Haybron making a recommendation or describing objective, transcultural features of emotional happiness? How do we know this isn't just "a few of his favorite things"? How do we ground these?
  • Problem of "false happiness" -- discrepancies such as Robert's (also Happy Frank) -- adaptive unconscious might be part of the explanation -- interesting that we can go wrong in this way. mood propensity or dispositional happiness. These cases seem to show that a deeper analysis of H(s) is needed.
  • Can you also be happy and not know it?
  • The Haybron discussion also gets at the idea of superficial vs. deep happiness. Ricard, or the sage, presumably has it.

Haybron, Chapter 3, "Life Satisfaction"

  • More cases of lives that require narratives (interesting connection to our wisdom discussion of mythos) to understand: Moresse "Pop" Bickham. Note what Bickham says. It's possible that Bickham has deployed a powerful version of the "internal strategy".
  • Haybron considers whether we should infer from his life satisfaction that he was happy
  • Claim: You can judge your life favorably no matter how you feel. (Probe this. Even if H(s=0)?
  • Claim: (33) There may be a diff between being satisfied with your life and judging that it is going well.
  • Comment: Bickham is the extreme case in which its hard to get our intuitions around the idea that Hs and Hl could go together. But let's do our own investigation of this.
  • Was Wittgenstein's "wonderful" life plausibly happy or satisfying?
  • LS defined at p. 35: "To be satisfied with your life is to regard it as going well enough by your standards."
  • That's a puzzling definition since early he convinced us that you "satisfied" and "going well" can be judged separately.
  • Claim: It's a mistake to call life satisfaction a hedonic good because it is "not just a question of pleasure"
  • Comment: This doesn't tell us that it doesn't also involve a kind of feeling. The fact that it involves judgement doesn't mean emotion isn't involved.
  • Small Group Problem: How do you make life satisfaction judgements? How will you decide if your life is "going well" in the coming 2-3 years? Can you be satisfied with your life even if some aspects are not going well? When you think of what is good in your life, do you experience a kind of affect? (Mention the tenure study.)
  • Problems with LS judgements:
  • they are global judgments of complex sets of events over time. too reductive a judgement to make 1 - 10.
  • it sounds like a simple judgement of the relationship between expectation and outcome (like ordering a steak), but it isn't, really, now is it?
  • Good point: more like assessing a "goal-achievement gap" -- example of tenure happiness study
  • determining "well enough" is pretty subjective (variable). -- maybe, but that could be explained within the "goal-achievement gap" model since we're always "resetting" in one direction or another ("Things won are done." or "I guess that's not working") recall point about hedonic structure of this.
  • most people seem to be able to assert satisfaction with their lives independently of whether they were "choiceworthy"
  • For Haybron, this implies that Hl judgements are basically much less relevant to assessing happiness than emotional states. He even suggests with the Calcutta workers reports that they are not grounded judgements.
*kidney patients, colostomy patients.

4: SEP 13


  • McMahon C1, “Highest Good” (40-50)
  • Epictetus, Enchiridion (12)


  • Lecture notes on modern stoicism (Irving)
  • The Stoic Worldview
  • Some writing concepts

Plato v Aristotle - McMahon (40-50)

  • Repasting McMahon notes from p. 40-50
  • big contrast between Plato and Aristotle -- School of Athens fresco.
  • end, function, craft, techne. Hierarchy of arts.
  • end vs. final end -- the universal good is the final end, not relative. sec. 6-7.
  • happiness as activity of the soul in accordance with virtue (def., but also consequence of reasoning from nature of human life). Gloss on eudaimonia.
  • Section 13: nature of the soul. two irrational elements: veg/appetitive and one rational. Note separation/relationship.
  • As M notes, Aristotle's focus on the rational part of the soul leaves him with a similar problem as Plato -- a model of happiness that few (not the Alcibiades in the world) will attain. In spite of the huge contrast between them, they are both classical Greek philosophers who see Reason as central. Perhaps "hyper-rationalists".
  • Note how Aristotle's analysis of happiness entails a view of wisdom.

"The Stoic Worldview"

  • Example of modern stoic / CBT connection: [1] and a broader net. [2]
Briefly on Stoic "Theology & Ontology" -
  • pantheism -- theos is in all things - pneuma = fine matter.
  • ontology - All is corporeal, yet pneuma distinguishes life and force from dead matter.
  • determinism and freedom - Ench. #1
  • The Hegimonikon ("A ruling or governing power; specifically human reason"): God in us.
  • Model of Growth and Development toward Sagehood & Wisdom - Soul-training. Realizing the divine in you.
  • Some similarities to Ashtanga philosophies like Buddhism.

Epictetus, The Enchiridion

  • Our challenge is to pick through Epictetus' language and give the most useful reconstruction we can. Often this involves re-interpreting some of the radical claims.
  • Key Idea: To realize our rational nature (and the freedom, joy and, really, connection to the divine, that only rational being can know), we need to adjust our thinking about our lives to what we know about reality.
  • Key Claim: You need wisdom (soul training) to realize your nature, but if you succeed, you will flourish and be happy. (This is a typical way to unite wisdom and happiness.)
  • Some passages that define the practical philosophy:
  • 1: A first principle, really. "Some things are in our control and others are not."
  • Notice the "re-orientation" which is recommended in #1 and #2. "confine your aversions" and understand the limits of things. (Sounds like an “aversion” retraining program based on knowledge claims.)
  • 3: Infamous. ceramic cups, but then at #11, your partner's death. Read with #7, #8, and #14, in case we’re being too subtle. "confine your attractions". Very much like "attachment" in Buddhism. Or, in CBT.
  • 4: Something like mindfulness?
  • 6: Limits of pride. Catching the mind exaggerating.
  • 8: Alignment
  • 11: awareness of change
  • 15: Desire,
  • 26: observing asymmetries. I find this interesting and challenging. It might need modification.
  • importance of commitment
  • 34: note specific advice in 34 (attend to the phenomenology of desire and future pleasure), 35 (own it). "measure" in 39, read 41. 43
  • 46: Advice about comportment. -- stay inside yourself, don't be showy or ostentatious.

Example of a modern "update" to Epictetus

  • William Irvine does a great job of updating Epictetus with a more modern psychology. We'll will look briefly at his "trichotomy of control. See links for two chapters from his A Guide to the Good Life: the ancient art of stoic joy

5: SEP 18


  • Epicurus, Letter and PD (9)
  • McMahon C1, “Highest Good” (50-65)

In-class Segment

  • Looking at writing from the practice exercise.

Some writing concepts - Review of first writing

  • A general challenge of good writing -- Getting outside of your head -- looking at the writing as if you didn't write it.
  • Here are a few good writing concepts to look for in the samples on the handout.
  • Flow -- How well does one sentence follow another? Do you notice places where flow is interrupted?
  • Good starts -- Without good introductions and signals of organization and thesis readers are disoriented and confused. Set context by framing the topic. Tell your readers where you are going to take them.
  • Efficient writing -- Literally, how much you say with so many words. Awkward phrasing and limited word choice reduce efficiency.
  • Review of writing samples.
  • I haven't looked at all of the writing yet, but I will share some samples, mostly of good things you are doing. The samples will be drawn from the other section of Ethics. They all do many good things as writers, but there are some differences.

Hellenistic Hedonism: Epicurus -- Letter to Menoeceus and Principal Doctrine

  • Key Idea: Pleasure is the Good ("Alpha and Omega of a happy life." - Letter)
  • Fundamental distinction between Katastematic pleasures and kinetic pleasure.
  • Accepts reality of gods, but thinks it's human error to think that the gods bestow blessings and punishments. They're not thinking about you.
  • Death is nothing to us. Arguments: good and evil dep on awareness, no terror in ceasing to live. Assess: "The wise person.... Also PD2
  • natural desires vs. groundless desires, of the natural, some necessary some only natural. Of the necessary, some for happiness, curing disease, surviving. Direct yourself toward satisfying the natural necessary desires.
  • "For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid to rest" (The desire for pleasure is also a kind of pain.)
  • Epicurus is telling us that while we think pleasure is endless stimulation, it is really found in satisfaction, which is a state of non-desire (rather than lack of desire).
  • "They have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it."
  • "Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet." "When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean..."
  • Small Group Discussion: Consider Epicurus' advice about pleasure in light of the hedonic treadmill, and the distinction between kinetic and katastematic pleasures. Should you literally accept that "water is as good as wine" and "plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet" or, is Epicurus making a different point, or, should we just reinterpret him to allow for a few more kinetic pleasures?
  • Tetra-pharmakos:
  • 1. Don't fear gods.
  • 2. Death is nothing. - note his arguments here (see above).
  • 3. What is good is easy to get.
  • 4. What is evil is easy to endure.
  • PD 3: Limit of pleasure is removal of pain. Note how this could be true given a view of desire. (also, PD18.)
  • PD 5: Relation of virtue to pleasure (wisdom to happiness!)
  • PD 8: Pursuit of pleasure complicates your life.
  • PD 18: close to adaptation. hedonic treadmill.
  • PD 25: something akin to mindfulness.
  • PD 27-8: priority of friendship. (This is a major type distinction for Epicurus. Does friendship habituate?)

2nd Thoughts on Epicurus

  • As with Epictetus, Epicurus' advice on how to achieve sagehood regarding pleasure strikes us as extreme. And so it is. But what might be some enduring lessons from his thought?
  • To be a good hedonist
1. Reason must be involved to evaluate pleasures and pleasure seeking behaviors. (Examples: food examples, affect forecasting failures are not limited to Hellenists!)
2. Simple pleasures savored can be superior to complex pleasures consumed without attention or at frequent intervals.
3. Negative mental states can ruin any pleasure. (For Epicurus: fear of the gods, for us: anxiety, stress.)
  • Maybe some things that separate him from us:
1. Overgeneralizes the strategy of extinguishing desire. With control, connoisseurship is possible and desirable.
2. In a wealthy educated world, we might feel secure with higher levels of pleasurable activity.
3. We're not them.

6: SEP 20


  • McMahon C3, “From Heaven to Earth” (141-164)


  • Some notes on Perpetua and Felicitas.

Perpetua and Felicitas

  • I'll present their story from a chapter of MacMahon we are not reading.

McMahon, Chapter 3: From Heaven to Earth (Renaissance & Reformation)

  • Background of emerging wealth: The Great Divergence [3] - not really significant until 19th century.
  • Contemptus Mundi: 13th-15th century: characteristics. Life in the European Middle Ages. But don’t think of transition as from “dark ages” to renaissance opulence. The theme of contemptus mundi continues into the 15th/16th centuries. Arguably the plague is a good reference point for loss of confidence in earthly happiness. Metaphysics and psychology of “original sin”.
  • Contrast with Renaissance Humanism:
  • studia humanitis -- 141 - rebirth of faith in human potential and knowledge.
  • Pico: 1463. Oration on Dignity of Man. key ideas: protean character of man. read quote on 144. 146: still traditional model (in line with Aquinas' dist.) — note the flirtation with heresy by focusing on our ability to change. True happiness still beyond this world for Renaissance Christianity.
  • Renaissance Neo-platonism 151: vertical path to happiness.
  • Felicitas p. 153
  • Bronzino's Allegory of Happiness -- connection to earthly happiness evident.[4] "This complex allegory represents Happiness (in the centre) with Cupid, flanked by Justice and Prudence. At her feet are Time and Fortune, with the wheel of destiny and the enemies of peace lying humiliated on the ground. Above the head of Happiness is Fame sounding a trumpet, and Glory holding a laurel garland. This Happiness, with the cornucopia, is a triumph of pink and blue; the naked bodies of the figures are smooth, almost stroked by the colour as if they were precious stones - round and well-defined those of the young women, haggard and leaden that of the old man."
  • Lorenzo Valla's On Pleasure -- represents after life as pleasurable; connecting epicureanism to a Christian life. Note biographical detail. Valla also unmasks claims about Dionysius the Areopagite from Acts, with it, undermining authority of mystical otherworldly current of thought. 161
  • Smiles -- also, Mona Lisa, early 1500's
  • Melancholy as disease: expressed in theory of humours; Note how classical tradition, which is not bound to a doctrine of original sin, enters the cultural conversation with the theory of humors to give diagnosis.
  • Thomas More and the concept of "utopia" - new idea. "eu" from "eudaimonia" (flourishing, happiness for Aristotle); in his good Christians devote themselves also to enjoyment of this world.
  • For Monday:
  • Reformation - The reformation can be seen as a huge step toward bringing personal faith life and spiritual happiness together.
  • Martin Luther and happiness: 1534 letter, ok to be happy
  • Problem: How can we be justified before God? Luther’s solution involves not denying our corruption, but also focusing on faith as a gift from God. Faith can be a cause of our happiness. “Killing the old Adam”.
  • Priesthood of all believers - Taylor: Sanctification of the ordinary.
  • Practices: conjugal life, no more hair shirts. “All sadness is from Satan.”
  • English Civil War -- opens up wide range of alternative views p. 175-176. (Side note on cultural evolution.). McMahon’s point: this radical speculation was heavily themed on the problem of happiness. English Dissenters [5]
  • Locke, late 17th century. Two treatises and Essay Concerning Human Understanding: radical ideas, quick celebrity. Mind is a tabula rasa, nb. 180. Mind is impressed upon by experience and nature. Has its own imperatives. Note what is left out: original sin. Note the confidence in mind here. We are not born broken.
  • Locke: Reassertion of happiness as driver of desire. Epicurean influence on Locke 181.
  • Note enlightenment model of reasonableness of christianity here. Roughly: God made us to desire our happiness. Trick is to discern true happiness. This should lead us to Christian virtues. Happiness found in pursuit of everlasting life. Locke’s version of Christianity is controversial. Seems secularized to many, and very individualized. But then, Locke’s experience of the Wars of Religion. We need liberty to choose our own paths. Government shouldn’t legislate salvation. Hence, the “pursuit of Happiness”
  • Locke also important to history of happiness for political thought, which supports democratic republicanism over monarchy
  • McMahon cites Allestree’s Art of Contentment as an example of a happiness self-help book that seems consistent with Locke’s view. Earthly and divine happiness are found in Christian values. Conservative. But others examples: Purcell’s Ode, “Welcome to All the Pleasures” Point: Focus is turning to earthly happiness.
  • Read 195.”Nor were such…”. And last sentence of the chapter: Why not dispense with divine guidance all together? (Implication that we can know about our happiness by studying our natural state.)

7: SEP 25


  • McMahon C3, “From Heaven to Earth” (164-195) Happiness in the Reformation
  • Come to class with some work done on your SW1 writing. You will be in small groups discussing your approaches.

In Class

  • SW1 assigned.

Small group discussion

  • Let's start by taking a look at the prompt together to see strategies for addressing it.
  • Then we'll get into small groups to discuss the approaches we are taking.

SW1: Evaluating Stoicism and Epicureanism (800 words)

  • Stage 1: Please write an 800 word maximum answer to the following question by Thursday, September 28, 2023 11:59pm.
  • Topic: What advice about happiness and wisdom should we take from the Stoics and Epicureans? Where should we modify or resist their counsel? Give roughly equal space to each school of thought. Engage the texts, but use them to develop your own thinking on happiness and wisdom.
  • Advice about collaboration: Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes, and your own notes, verbally. Collaboration is also a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs in the class. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  • Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way. You will lose points if you do not follow these instructions:
  1. To assure anonymity, you must remove your name from the the "author name" that you may have provided when you set up your word processing application. For instructions on removing your name from an Word or Google document, [click here].
  2. Format your answer in double spaced text, in a typical 12 point font, and using normal margins. Do not add spaces between paragraphs and indent the first line of each paragraph.
  3. Do not put your name in the file or filename. You may put your student ID number in the file. Always put a word count in the file. Save your file for this assignment with the name: StoicismEpicureanism.
  4. To turn in your assignment, log into courses.alfino.org, click on the "1.1 - SW1 - StoicismEpicureanism" dropbox.
  5. If you cannot meet a deadline, you must email me about your circumstances (unless you are having an emergency) before the deadline or you will lose points.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will be using the Flow and Content areas of the rubric for this assignment. Complete your evaluations and scoring by Thursday, October 5, 2023, 11:59pm.
  • To determine the papers you need to peer review, open the file called "#Key.xls" in the shared folder. You will see a worksheet with saint names in alphabetically order, along with animal names. Find your saint name and review the next four (4) animals' work below your animal name. If you get to the bottom of the list before reaching 4 animals, go to the top of the list and continue.
  • Use this Google Form to evaluate four peer papers. Submit the form once for each review.
  • Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow a day or two for it to show up. If it does not show up, go back to the key and review the next animal's paper, continuing until you get four reviews. Do not review more than four papers.
  • Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. Assuming the process works normally, most of my scores probably be within 1-2 points of the peer scores, plus or minus.
  • Stage 4: Back-evaluation: After you receive your peer comments and my evaluation, take a few minutes to fill out this quick "back evaluation" rating form: [6]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. You must do the back evaluation to receive credit for the whole assignment. Failing to give back-evaluations unfairly affects other classmates.
  • Back evaluations are due Monday, October 16th, 2023, 11:59pm.

8: SEP 27 - 2. Some Obstacles to Happiness and Wisdom


  • Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves, C8, “Introspection and Self-narratives” (24)


  • Possible mention of research in Wilson, Redirect (2011).
  • Rubric Training: Reminder on Norming Scores, Process for Peer Review, & Giving Peer Criticism

Reminder on Norming Scores

  • We'll take a look at the numbers associated with the two rubric areas you are evaluating.
  • In each rubric area, start reading the essay by thinking of a “5” as “pretty good, no obvious problems”. As you encounter difficulties in writing or content, start to lower your numeric assessment. If you start to be impressed by the writing or content, raise your estimate.
  • There may not be any 1s or 2s (though it is possible - look at the semantic cues in the rubric). Maybe some 3s and definitely 4s. Likewise, 7s should be pretty scarce (let yourself be really impressed before giving a 7).

Process for Peer Review

  • I will send a link to everyone who turned in the assignment. Do not share this link as a few students may still be working on their assignment.
  • Use that link to open the file “#Key for Peer Review - Saints and Animals”. Find your Saint name. The animal on that row is your animal pseudonym for this assignment. You will review the next four animals, looping to the top of the list if necessary. Show examples.
  • Note: Some animals may be missing. Wait a few days for them. If they do not arrive, go to the next animal on the list and review it. Continue until you have reviewed 4 animals.

Giving Peer Criticism

  • The Goal: Giving criticism someone would want to consider.
  • You are only asked to write two or three sentences of comments, so choose wisely!
  • Give gentle criticisms that focus on your experience as a reader:
  • "I'm having trouble understanding this sentence" vs. "This sentence makes no sense!"
  • "I think more attention could have been paid to X vs. "You totally ignored the prompt!
  • Wrap a criticism with an affirmation or positive comment
  • "You cover the prompt pretty well, but you might have said more about x (or, I found y a bit of a digression)"
  • "Some interesting discussion here, esp about x, but you didn't address the prompt very completely ...."
  • General and specific -- Ok to identify general problem with the writing, but giving examples of the problem or potential solutions.
  • I found some of your sentences hard to follow. E.g. "I think that the main ...." was a bit redundant.
  • I thought the flow was generally good, but in paragraph 2 the second and third sentence seem to go in different directions.
  • Also avoid: Great Work! Score 4.

Wilson, Chapter 8, Strangers to Ourselves, "Introspection and Self-Narratives"

  • Introspection -- flashlight metaphor -- Freud's metaphor: archaeology
  • Wilson doesn't support these metaphors, seems sceptical that we get such clarity, thinks evidence supports a different view:
  • "Introspection is more like literary criticism in which we are the text to be understood. Just as there is no single truth that lies within a literary text, but many truths, so are there many truths about a person that can be constructed." 162 like wirting a self-biography from limited source information (or bad memory)
  • Introspection as personal narrative. Like writing your biography, but with limited information. Agrees that there are “hidden” facts.
  • Julian Barnes story: Ander Boden becomes aware of his love for Barbro due to his wife's accusation. In his reading, there isn’t really a “fact of the matter” about whether they love each other.
  • [Do we introspect too much? Should we be doing other things to gain self-knowledge?]
  • Real Estate story -- Do we know what we want or do we sometimes “show” what we want?
  • Analytic methods (Ben Franklin method) vs. Intuitive or behavioral (Yogi Bera method)
  • People are "too good" at giving reasons for their feelings, but not necessary accurate when they do. They rarely say, "I don't know why I feel this way..."168. [Or, “I don’t know what I think?”]
  • Analytic methods can change our experience (movie critic example, p. 166).
  • Major Claims:
  • Sometimes we use faulty information to decide what our reasons for our feelings are. Then, using faulty reasons, we actually may alter our feelings.
  • Introspection is a process of construction and inference, not “internal perception”.
  • Study in which subjects in one condition analyze their relationships and in a control condition others don't. Analyzed condition showed greater change in feeling. Also, weeks later, subjects cite very different reasons for how they feel. It's as if a story were being retold rather than objective reasons being located. "availability bias"
  • In a related study, the unanalized condition predicted relationship longevity.
  • Which is the real you? The analyzed or unanalyzed? Wilson is saying that you shouldn't assume the analyzed is. Sometime the analysis changes the underlying experience (Vargas Llosa on watching movies with a rubric.)
  • Poster satisfaction study 171. Note both results. 1. In general, analysis decreased satisfaction. 2. For people with aesthetic expertise, however, analysis matched prior feelings.
  • Wilson's advice isn't to act on impulse, but to delay rational analysis, in some situations, let yourself say "Not sure how I feel" -- gather external information and perceptions. Those in the poster study who knew a lot about art didn't experience a change in satisfaction.
  • "The trick is to gather enough information to develop an informed gutfeeling and then not analyze that feeling too much." 172
  • Wilson's advice: try to become aware of implicit feelings, implicit motives.
  • Major piece of "implicit feelings" research:
  • Schultheiss and Brunstein study -- determined implicit feelings (such as need for power or affiliation) and then asked subject to predict their happiness in being in a situation that is geared to stimulate those needs. Subjects don't accurately predict impact of the experience (they are strangers to themselves). "Consistent with many studies that find that people are not very aware of their implicit motives, people who were high in the need for affiliation and power did not anticipate that the counseling session would make them any happier or feel more engaged than other participants." 174 But "goal imaging" and "prefeeling" changed that. “Instead, they were able to imagine a future situation well enough that the feelings it would invoke were actually experienced…”
  • Rumination -- definition 175 -- increases depression in depressed.
  • Pennebaker Study -- subjects write about negative experiences from their lives and it makes them happy. How to explain this? How is it different from rumination? -- Wilson claims that it's because writing involves construction of a meaningful narrative. Our natural bias toward life kicks in.
  • Doesn’t want to suggest that Pennebaker’s method and psychotherapy are interchangeable. Good random control studies show that psychotherapies are effective. But they might both involve changing our narratives.
  • Lessons from the chapter:
  • Be careful of the reasons and stories you use to narrate your experience. You might actually conform your experience (feelings) to the narrative.
  • But the positive side of that . . . Could you prime someone (yourself) to write a wise or happy narrative?

9: OCT 2


  • Gilbert, "Why we Make Bad Decisions" (Ted talk) [7]
  • Gilbert, C6, “The Future is Now” (16)

Meditation Notes

  • Some patterns and recurring problems in meditation.
  • the persistence of mental content.
  • the problem of “thought suppression” (Ironic process theory. [8]
  • Meditation effects.

H&W Exercise

  • Things in your future that are clear, fuzzy, and opaque.
  • We are looking at obstacles to happiness that have to do with our limited ability to imagine the future. What sorts of things in your near and long term future can you imagine clearly, less clearly, or not at all? Take 3-4 minutes to share some of these with each other. Do you have different or similar “future clarity”?

Daniel Gilbert, TED talk, "Why We Make Such Bad Decisions"

  • Bernouli's formula for expected value: Expected value = odds of gain x value of gain.
  • two kinds of mistakes: estimating odds and value
  • Errors estimating odds:
  • Availability heuristic: works when estimating likelihood of seeing dogs vs. pigs on a leash, not when estimating odds of good or bad things happening (4:30). Example of words with R is diff places, things that get on the news -- dying of asthma vs. drownings. Lottery winners distort our judgement.
  • Already implications for wisdom if you think living well requires a rational approach to threats and gains. Do mostly fools play the lottery?
  • Example of not buying a 10th lottery ticket because Leroy has the other nine.
  • Mistakes estimating value
  • Big Mac example - we compare to the past, instead of the possible; vacation package with price change; salaries that increase over salaries that decrease.
  • Comparisons to the past - price cuts vs. price increases; salary preference for increases even if total salary is less, theatre tickets (mental accounting -- loss aversion affects our judgement. We imagine the play costs $40.) (11:00), liberals relative affection for Bush1, retailing (comparison of wine by price), potato chip / chocolate / spam study (14:30) (Note possible application to wisdom for wealthy culture), saving $100 on a large amount is less attractive than on a smaller amount, speaker comparison.
  • Expected value problems involving the future: (18:06): People have trouble with future value calculations(discounting): "now" is better and "more" is better, but we don't do well when those rules conflict. When both of the expected value calculations are in the future we do better (pay offs in 12 vs. 13 months). Favors locating choices in the future when possible.
  • Explanatory hypothesis: brain evolution not geared toward abstract calculation of rational alternatives.
  • Implications for wisdom: 22 min: interesting comment about Bernouli in relation to evolutionary history 22:30 (and biases such as those underlying these expected value problems).
  • What part of living well is comprised of expected value problems? Isn't there also qualitative version of this problem?

Gilbert, Chapter 6, The Future is Now

  • Being wrong about the future: possibility of heavy planes flying. 112
  • "When brains plug holes in the conceptualizations of yesterday and tomorrow, they tend to use a material called today"
  • 113: Long list of examples of current experience displacing past experience: dating couples, worries about exams, memories of Perot supporters. We “cook” the past.
  • Examples of how we fail to predict how future selves will feel. 115: Volunteers choosing candy bars or knowing answers. Different preferences after the experience.
  • We fail to account for the way future experience will change future preferences.
  • Sneak Prefeel -- evidence suggests brain can have emotional responses to imaginings of the future. We simulate future events, we don't just experience them reflectively. visual experience vs. imagination.
  • How to Select Posters: In poster selection study, the "thinkers" are less satisfied with their choices. 121 "Prefeeling allowed nonthinkers to predict their future satisfaction more accurately than thinkers did." 121
  • Limits of Pre-feeling: "We can't see or feel two things at once, and the brain has strict priorities about what it will see, hear, and feel and what it will ignore. ... For instance, if we try to imagine a penguin while we are looking at an ostrich, the brain's policy won't allow it."122 2 other research studies on unconscious bias in future predictions. 123
  • Note from the gym/thirst study: emotional contagion from one experience to another. The "availability heuristic" comes in here again. Priming. practical advice: you can see how mindfulness might be part of the remedy here.
  • Read cartoon on bottom of p. 125 "Imagination cannot easily transcend the boundaries of the present, and one reason for this is that it must borrow machinery that is owned by perception. The fact that these two processes must run on the same platform means that we are sometimes confused about which one is running. We assume that what we feel as we imagine the future is what we'll feel when we get there, but in fact, what we feel as we imagine the future is often response to what's happening in the present."

Advice/Useful Questions for Happiness Problems Related to the Future

  • We need humility about predicting the future. (Examples at start of C6). We are often anxious about things in the future that we can’t know how we will feel about but think we should. (Stoicism helps here.) Practice saying, “I don’t know how I will feel about that. I can't know right now.” "Maybe I can "pre-feel" it?"(We may need to counteract a bias toward assuming the future will be like the past.)
  • Watch what you reach for to plug holes in your imagination of the future. (Availability heuristic.)
  • Presentism, or "hyper-discounting of the future" might keep us from imagining the future.
  • Figuring out our future happiness is not so much a discovery as an investment/curating process.
  • We may overvalue the uniqueness of our subjective experience. This leads us to discount the comparability of our experience with others.
  • We are sensitive to the way comparisons are framed. Watch out for others how offer to frame comparisons for us. (Wine bottle marketing example, availability heuristic.) The further into the future you go, the less certain you should be about the comparison sets for your choices.
  • What is conditioning my perception of the future right now? Will the future feel different the day after graduation? (gym/thirst study). Change in environment and "comparison set" suggests it will.

10: OCT 4


  • Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves, C9, “Looking Outward to Know ourselves” (20)
  • Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves, C10, “Observing and Changing our Behavior” (18)

Wilson, Chapter 9, "Looking Outward to Know Ourselves"

  • Using 3rd person information to gain self-knowledge.
  • Research as one type of 3rd person information. (Important caveat about averages.)
  • Research on ineffectiveness of subliminal ads could correct our mistaken choice for regular ads. Priming effects occur in the lab, but hard to measure in real life. (Other examples: we routinely talk about being “triggered”. Muting ads.)
  • Implicit Bias test 188 92-3: really gets into the question of how to explain results. what's the construct? Real life implications: white police reacting from their constructs of African-Americans. Point: We have a model for changing our introspective reports. Not sufficient to base them on conscious awareness alone.
  • Using information from others to modify our "self-theory:
  • Mike's shyness. (Catching lag times in updating our “self-theory”.)
  • Cooley: "reflected appraisal" and "looking glass self" p. 195
  • How well do we see what others think about us? (Research looking for discrepancies between our view of how others see us and how others see us.)
  • Airforce recruits study: .2 correlation.
  • Should we try to see what other think about us? Sometimes…
  • positive illusions
  • Einstein example: inauspicious beginnings. (Sometimes a discrepant view of ourselves can be motivating.)
  • Catherine Dirks, student with too low a view of her abilities. 201
  • For discussion: How do you balance external appraisal with the need to be committed to a self-theory that might usefully include positive illusions?

Wilson, Timothy, Chapter 10, "Observing and Changing Our Behavior"

  • 205: People can sometimes infer their internal states just as an outside observer would"
  • Note how we "bifurcate" our consciousness at will. "There you go again..."
  • Bem's self-perception theory: If you practice inferring your own internal states from your behavior you might get the sort of insight that you have into other people's internal states.
  • Tension between self-revelation and self-fabrication (Example of Sarah accepting a date with Peter, whom she didn’t like at first meeting.)
  • Fundamental attribution error, we tend to think of our own behaviors as driven by situational factors whereas we attribute other's behaviors to their character and motivations. (Also an example of using psych research to know ourselves.)
  • But, under strong situational influence (if you are paid a lot to do something you love, you might eventually lose you sense of internal motivation -- passions become "just a job"). Point: situational influences can lead us to missattribute our internal motivations. (Lower faculty salaries and you will find out who really “loves” their work.)
  • Ultimately, observing yourself as a third party might be difficult if your "adaptive unconscious" is already "cooking the books" (makes judgements and attributions of behavior).
  • General problem: misattribution of internal states (motivations and beliefs) due to situational cues or influences. Schaffer and Wheeler study on movie goers, some get adrenaline, some don’t, first group misattributes their movie experience.
  • How do we work on our non-conscious biases and attributes. Normally, we think of change starting with reflection. But there’s another strategy: Doing good in order to be good. (211). Aristotle: you become just by doing justice.
  • James quote 212: point: Keeping your best self-description in mind and acting on it.
  • Related slogans: Fake it till you make it. [Sometimes you have to treat yourself like a dog! (explain)]. Self-improvement is sometimes about changing both conscious narratives and unconscious states. Example of extroversion / introversion at parties. 213. Feedback loop between behavior and self-concept.
  • Example (more developed in new book, Redirect of two strategies for addressing teen pregnancy. A teen volunteer program that works indirectly on teens by involving them in meaningful volunteering. Turns out to promote wise behaviors better than other interventions that involved getting at risk teens together to talk about their feelings.
  • Ends with discussion of the role of “truth” in narrative approaches to the self.

11: OCT 9


  • Gilbert, C8, “Paradise Glossed” (21)
  • Gilbert, C9, “Immune to Reality” (23)


  • SW1 update

Gilbert, Chapter 8: Paradise Glossed

  • Opening examples of people "re-narrating" horrible events in their lives, including wrongdoing and public humiliation. Asymmetry between people's estimates of misfortune (loss of ability) and estimates of people in those situations.
  • "If negative events don't hit us as hard as we expect them to, then why do we expect them to?" Interested in discrepancy between cs forecast and actual experience.
  • Suggests that the process of creating and attending to meanings is crucial (154-155). Evidence from examples of mind actively interpreting/seeing stimuli through mental structures like the “letterbox” (The Cat). Or Necker cube. (1) We respond, in part, to our own representations of reality. (Recall the Truck cubby hole perspective taking experiment)
  • Definers and self-rating study (159). importance of relative complexity of experience (over visual illusions). (2) Complexity creates ambiguity which we exploit with narrative Kale and ice cream study, 159. Our immediate experience can change our relative perceptions of arrays of other objects and experiences.
  • major thesis on 160. (3) Once our experience becomes actual, our unconscious goes to work re-narrating the story with positive bias. A kind of "psychological immune system" (psychological investment system). (recall the poster study.) Interesting practical advice follows: You might be able to choose a more or less positive way of looking at situations that have ambiguous interpretations.
  • You are trying to strike a balance between disabling self-criticism and panglossian self-delusion.see 162.
  • We Cook the Facts (164): The mind needs something like a fact for belief, (but facts are not always readily available), so... it cooks the evidence. IQ test takers selection of article on IQ bias. By selecting sampling (attending to ads for the cars we bought), by conversational practices (not, "Am I the best lover..., but ....").
  • Evidence that we cook the facts comes from situations in which there are symmetrical and predictable inconsistencies in a group's interpretation (sports fans 168), or studies that show that we select evidence that fits our views (169). (This is also the evidence that is moving some faculty to blind grading!)

Gilbert, Chapter 9: Immune to Reality (Openness to Investment in Reality)

  • Clever Hans
  • Confabulation: People are unaware of many influences on them, but when asked will create a story or reason that provides a plausible explanation other than the actual influence. Priming studies. Negative words flashed on screen produces more negative judgments. (note about being "strangers to ourselves" -- connects with Leary, Curse of Self)
  • Thesis is that we also do this (exp uncs priming and confabulation) at the narrative level as well. “Because experience is inherently ambiguous, finding a positive view is like seeing a Necker cube differently.” 160.
  • thesis on 174: Not only do we cook the facts, but we need to consume them in a way that doesn't reveal the fabrication or alteration. (One way that we become "strangers to ourselves" is that we need to conceal the fact that we're cooking the facts.)
  • Looking forward/backward (recall examples from 153, in which we over-predict the effect of negative events): asymmetry in judgments of events when looked at prospectively and retrospectively. Thesis: We assume that the views looking forward and backward are symmetrical, but they are not. You won't value things the same way once events transpire, but the process of revaluation is largely hidden from us.
  • You can see this asymmetry in the “Judge/Jury Rejection study”: prospectively we aren't aware that we'll more easily write off the judge's decision than the jury's. (176) -- key issue: if the explanation for the result is so obvious, why can't the test subjects anticipate it?
  • great example of confabulation too. (Basically, we don't realize the jury decision threatens the immune system more.)
  • Regret: when we blame ourselves for outcomes we might have anticipated. A kind of "personal liability" emotion. Sometimes useful. Problem of the number of things you didn't do. (research on p. 179: suggesting that we regret omissions more than commissions, though we predict that we'll regret commissions more.) Why is this? Gilbert's thesis: It's harder for the immune system to re-narrate an event that didn't happen. (Note on my “Philosophy of Regret” - and from morality - commission and omission.)
  • Psychological Immune System: Very bad things trigger it more than slightly bad things. "it is sometimes more difficult to achieve a positive view of a bad experience than a very bad experience. Concept of "psychological investment" in initiation rites study (181). Triggers at work in the negative feedback study (182).
  • Claims that we experience "sunk costs" in relationships. Trade offs between changing our experience and changing our view of our experience. Photo selection satisfaction study involving "escape" and "no escape" conditions p 184. Subjects in the escape condition were less satisfied with their choices. Yet test subjects asked which they would prefer say that want the escape option. (notice prospection/retrospection asymmetry)
  • Speculative Theory about how we use explanations: "Explanations allow us to make full use of our experiences, but they also change the natures of those experiences." 186. beneficial effect of writing about trauma, simulated student study involving identified vs. unidentified admirers. 187. Happiness buzz lasts longer on unidentified (power of unexplained) . (Interesting implication for seeking "love from the world".) Suggested as support for theory. Unexplained events have bigger impact. Other studies suggest explanations can get in the way of emotional impact. Point: We respond to unexplained and mysterious events with higher interest and affect, even attributing great significance to them, but we also relentlessly try to explain things, thus diminishing their emotional impact. Example of research with Smile Society cards. Details may have detracted from positive impact. (Again, people think the card with the explanation will have higher impact.) "The price we pay for our irrepressible explanatory urge is that we often spoil our most pleasant experiences by making good sense of them." 191

12: OCT 11 - 3. Measuring and Finding Happiness


  • Haybron C4, “Measuring Happiness” (10)
  • Gilbert, C2, “The View from in Here” (26)


  • Something on intercultural aspect of wisdom...
  • SW2 prompt reveal!

Haybron, C4, “Measuring Happiness”

  • We can identify which groups of people are happier and what sorts of things, on average, make people happy.
  • Measures of anxiety and depression are reliable and they measure a kind of unhappiness.
  • Problems:
  • People could read the same question on a H survey, but think of diff meanings of happiness.
  • You might try to find a ratio of + to - emotion. 3:1? But cultures vary in these baseline ratios. (See Argyle).
  • There is reason to think the high % of self-reported happiness is implausible. (?)
  • % of people with depression and loneliness and stress.
  • Positivity bias or positivity illusion may explain this over-report.
  • We might be better at measuring change in happiness than absolute happiness.

Gilbert, Chapter 2: The View from in Here

  • Twins: Lori and Reba. How to assess their preference to stay together? How would you feel at the prospect of being joined that way? View from inside vs. View from outside.
  • Types of happiness: emotional, moral - good feeling from realizing potential or acquiring virtue - (some elements of H-l), judgement happiness (H-l).
  • How can the twins be happy? What is the role of "objective conditions"?
  • Subjectivity of Yellow, 32. Yellow isnt’ the wavelength of light, it’s the experience, the psychological state. The idea of a preference is tied to something being more pleasant.
  • Nozick's experience machine, 35. Happy Frank - we can’t deny that he might present as having a happy emotional state. (Perhaps goal of this analysis is to see that normal understanding of happiness includes life happiness, virtues, and perfective activities. These can’t be obtained by the experience machine and Frank doesn’t have it either.). This is progress. Lesson: you need to listen closely when people use the word “happy”.
  • 40: How similar are two people's experience of happiness? How would you know?
  • Problem: we don't compare experiences, we compare memories of experiences. You can’t have someone else’s experience.
  • Describer's study on memory of color swatch, 41. What do we access when we make happiness judgements?
  • How reliable is our judgement from one minute to the next?
  • Interviewer substitution studies Daniel Simon's Lab: [9]. Other perceptual aspects, 43-44. The card trick creates the illusion that he guessed your card, but that’s because you only remembered your card.
  • Conclusion: 44-45: read. Not so much about how bad we are at noticing change, but how, if we aren't paying attention, memory kicks in.
  • Happiness scales
  • Language squishing and Experience stretching: Addresses the question: Does the range of my experience of happiness lead me to talk differently about an identical experience (of the cake) as someone else, or does it cause me to experience things differently? (Point about guitar experience (52) -- moving targets problem.)
  • Language squishing hyp: We "squeeze" our happiness scale (language) to fit the range of our objective exp. Same subjective experience of birthday cake, but different label.
  • Consistent with the idea that someone is having the same experience as you from the same event, but labelling it differently because of limited experience.
  • Can’t really say that aren’t as happy as you because they didn’t have your range of experiences. You don’t have theirs either.
  • Experience stretching hyp: We take the range of our objective experience and stretch it to fit our scale.
  • R&L talk about experiences the same as you do but feel something different.
  • Consistent with the idea that someone is having a different experience than you from the same event because of their limited background AND that that experience is a real peak experience because of the limited background experience.
  • Maybe a rich background of experience (exotic experience, diverse or challenging experience, luxurious experience, experience of rarefied environments) "ruins" mundane experience. In which case, absence of peak experiences is not a problem.
  • Drawing the theoretical conclusion: Our relationship to our judgements about happiness is changed by our experience of happiness and vice versa, creating a kind of ambiguity in intersubjective assessments of happiness. There is no “view from nowhere” (as in science). (Top of 53)
  • Small group discussion: Thinking about R&L and "experience stretching" and "language squishing", Is our happiness limited by the limits of our experience? Can enriched experience (luxury, peak experiences, exotic experiences) "ruin you"? Does connoisseurship really pose a risk to happiness? Think of specific cases that may work differently.

SW2: Obstacles to Happiness (800 words)

  • Stage 1: Please write an 800 word maximum answer to the following question by Thursday, October 19, 2023 11:59pm.
  • Topic: Drawing on resources from both Wilson and Gilbert in Unit 2, what are the main obstacles to happiness? Explicate these problems using evidence (including from studies) from these authors (650 words). Then, identify the top three or four pieces of advice you have for addressing these obstacles (250 words). (Try not to disclose your identity in your writing.)
  • Advice about collaboration: Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes, and your own notes, verbally. Collaboration is also a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs in the class. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  • Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way. You will lose points if you do not follow these instructions:
  1. To assure anonymity, you must remove your name from the the "author name" that you may have provided when you set up your word processing application. For instructions on removing your name from an Word or Google document, [click here].
  2. Format your answer in double spaced text, in a typical 12 point font, and using normal margins. Do not add spaces between paragraphs and indent the first line of each paragraph.
  3. Do not put your name in the file or filename. You may put your student ID number in the file. Always put a word count in the file. Save your file for this assignment with the name: HappinessObstacles.
  4. To turn in your assignment, log into courses.alfino.org, click on the "1.2 SW2 Obstacles to Happiness" dropbox.
  5. If you cannot meet a deadline, you must email me about your circumstances (unless you are having an emergency) before the deadline or you will lose points.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will be using the Flow and Content areas of the rubric for this assignment. Complete your evaluations and scoring by Saturday, October 28, 2023, 11:59pm.
  • To determine the papers you need to peer review, open the file called "#Key.xls" in the shared folder. You will see a worksheet with saint names in alphabetically order, along with animal names. Find your saint name and review the next four (4) animals' work below your animal name. If you get to the bottom of the list before reaching 4 animals, go to the top of the list and continue.
  • Use this Google Form to evaluate four peer papers. Submit the form once for each review.
  • Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow a day or two for it to show up. If it does not show up, go back to the key and review the next animal's paper, continuing until you get four reviews. Do not review more than four papers.
  • Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. Assuming the process works normally, most of my scores probably be within 1-2 points of the peer scores, plus or minus.
  • Stage 4: Back-evaluation: After you receive your peer comments and my evaluation, take a few minutes to fill out this quick "back evaluation" rating form: [10]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. You must do the back evaluation to receive credit for the whole assignment. Failing to give back-evaluations unfairly affects other classmates.
  • Back evaluations are due Friday, November 3, 2023, 11:59pm.

13: OCT 16


  • Argyle, "Causes and Correlates of Happiness" (20)
  • Diener and Suh, "National Differences in Subjective Well-Being" (14)


  • Start SW2
  • Additional research from Schimmack

Argyle, "Causes and Correlates of Happiness"

  • Age
  • Education
  • Social Status
  • Income
  • Marriage
  • Ethnicity
  • Employment
  • Leisure
  • Religion
  • Life Events

Synopsis by major factor:

  • Age
  • The older are slightly happier, notably in positive affect. Some evidence that women become less happy with age. In assessing causality, we might need to acknowledge a cohort effect (older people are those who survive, hence not nec. representative of a sampling of all age groups). Older people are less satisfied than others with their future prospects.
  • Old people could have lower expectations, and hence their greater self-reported happiness might not be comparable to a younger person's self-reported happiness. (Consider Cantril's study that found older people more satisfied with past and current lives (less with future).)
  • Puzzle: objective conditions are worse for old people (health, depression and loneliness!), yet they are more satisfied. (Neural degeneration has got to be on the table as a hypothesis.) Actually, declining aspirations, "environmental mastery", and autonomy increases might help explain this. Also, old people participate in their religion more. A boost.
  • Education
  • The educated are slightly happier (on PA, not reduced NA). Effect weak in US. Data suggest the education effect is greater in poorer countries. Control for income and job status effects and there is still a slight effect from education. [From personal achievement? Finding enduring sources of flow and pleasure?] But income and job status account for most of the education effect.
  • Social Status
  • About twice the effect of education or age (could be seeing combined effect of both), but half of the effect is from job status. Greater effect for stratified societies. [How professors are treated in Italy, for example.]
  • Note 356: social class predicts a big bundle of goods that also have measurable happiness effects: housing, relationships, and leisure. Also, diff classes DO different things.
  • Income
  • Average correlation of .17 across studies. See chart on p. 356 -- curvilinear, with slight upward tail at highest incomes. (intriguing)
  • Steep relation of income from poverty to material sufficiency.
  • Diener found a stronger correlation when using multiple income measures (such and GNP, purchasing power indexes, etc.)
  • Bradburn pay raise studies in '69. (see cartoon) Inglehart studies in 90's: people who say their $ situation improved also report high satisfaction.
  • Famous Myers and Diener 1996 study: "In the United States, average personal income has risen from $4,000 in 1970 to $16,000 in 1990 (in 1990 dollars), but there has been no change in average happiness or satisfaction." Some evidence that happiness is sensitive to economic downturns (Belgium), some evidence of variation in strength of effect across culture.
  • Lottery winner studies may not be a good way to test income effects since you get lots of disruptions with winning the lottery.
  • Cluster effect with income: Income comes with host of other goods: p. 358.
  • Comparison groups and relative changes may be stronger than absolute income levels. (Note "pay fairness" increases income satisfaction. Gonzaga note.) Women's pay (358).
  • Michalo's "goal achievement gap model" p. 358: "whereby happiness is said to be due to the gap between aspirations and achievements and this gap is due to comparisons with both "average folks" and one's own past life (see figure 18.3).
Other Resources:
  • Kahneman and Deaton, "High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being"
  • Graham, et. al, "The Easterlin Paradox and Other Paradoxes: Why both sides of the Debate May be Correct"
  • Marriage
  • Average effect from meta-analysis of .14. Stronger effects for young. Does more for women than men, though stronger effect on male health.
  • Causal model: Married people have higher social well being indicators (mental and physical health). These indicators are independent factors for happiness. Marriage is a source of emotional and material support. Married people just take better care of themselves. Men might benefit from emotional support more since women provide that to male spouses more than males? (differently?)
  • Effects of marriage has a life-stage dimension to them. (figure 18.4) Having children has a small effect.
  • Reverse causation is a consideration, but hard to support since 90% of people get married.
  • Good example in this section of distinguishing between correlational data and causal discussion.
  • Construct for marriage: strong social and emotional support, material help, companionship.
  • Might be interesting to look at research comparing marriage to other types of social support systems. Why are people in your age group delaying marriage? Is it making them happier?
  • Ethnicity
  • Widely confirmed studies show that average happiness for US African Americans is lower than for US whites.
  • Mostly accounted for by income, education, and job status.
  • Interestingly, African American children enjoy higher self-esteem than white kids.
  • Employment
  • Studies of unemployed and retired help isolate effects.
  • Unemployed significantly less happy: "The unemployed in nearly all countries are much less happy than those at work. Inglehart (1990) found that 61 percent of the unemployed were satisfied, compared with 78 percent of manual workers."
  • Strong effects when unemployment is low; different ways of looking at employment effects (363).
  • Causal model: income and self-esteem account for most of effect.
  • Leisure
  • Relatively strong correlation: .2 in meta-studies.
  • Leisure effects observed in lots of contexts (social relations from work, adolescent leisure habits, even a short walk. Sport and exercise include both social effects and release of endorphins. Like religion, leisure activities have multi-faceted effects on happiness.
  • Flow is a factor. Comparisons of high engagement and high apathy (tv) leisure activities.
  • TV watching as a leisure activity. Predicted low SWB, but has some positive effects. Soap opera watchers!
  • Volunteer and charity work were found to generate high levels of joy, exceeded only by dancing!
  • Religion
  • The strength of religion on happiness is positive, sensitive to church attendance, strength of commitment, related to meaningfulness and sense of purpose (an independent variable). Overall modest effect, but stronger for those more involved in their church. note demographic factors: single, old, sick benefit most from religious participation. US effect stronger. (Why do protestants get more happiness from their religion than Catholics?)
  • Reverse causation: Are happier people more likely to be religious?
  • Causal model: Religion works through social support, increasing esteem and meaningfulness.
  • Kirpatrick 1992 study: self-reported relationship with God has similar effects as other relationships.
  • Life events and activities (especially on affect)
  • "A study in five Eu European countries found that the main causes of joy were said to be relationships with friends, the basic pleasures of food, drink, and sex, and success experiences (Scherer etal. 1986)."..."Frequency of sexual intercourse also correlates with happiness, as does satisfaction with sex life, being in love, and frequency of interaction with spouse, but having liberal sexual attitudes has a negative relationship." "...alcohol, in modest doses, has the greatest effects on positive mood."
  • Competencies -- Some other factors or attributes that might be causal. For young women, attractiveness, especially at young ages, has strong effect on happiness. Height in men. health (with causation in both directions). social skills predict happiness. health can be viewed as a competency: high correlation (look back at Bob and Mary comparison)
  • Note policy point: This article is from early days in the policy discussion. But the basic point has been the same: Why do we put so much emphasis on increasing GDP is happiness is affected by so many other things?

Diener and Suh, "National Differences in SWB"

  • With this article, income is once again highlighted as a factor, but now in the context of cross nation comparisons. The major issue here is, "How does culture and national grouping interact with perceptions and judgements of happiness? (Note problem of relation of national borders to tribe, ethnicity, and region.)
  • Methodological Difficulties:
  • 1. Measurement Issues -- gloss on "artifacts" as measurement problems. Example: different ways of administering a survey, moment to moment variation affecting results.
  • Wealth is clustered with other factors that predict H, such as rights, equality, fulfillment of needs, and individualism.
  • Transnational similarities (p. 435, in all nations most people are happy) might reflect some tendency to for judgements to be group-relative.
  • General validity concerns about self reports are offset by research using multiple measures.
  • Example of Russian / US student comparison, 437, west/east berliners -- second measure -- event memory bias -- confirms self-reports. Also, column B: mood memory
  • 2. Are nations meaningful units of analysis? Nationality predicts SWB in general and in sub groups (gender/age).438b
  • 3. Scale structure invariance -- non-technical version: what if the terms used in happiness surveys have different "weights" or relationships with each other and with happiness? Some evidence of scale invariance. (Note that a validated construct, such as LS/PA+NA, might be the basis for showing scale invariance. Cf to Gilbert.
  • Happiness Across Nations:
  • After accounting for measurement and methodological issues, there are real and substantive differences in well-being across nations. While wealthier nations are generally happier, there are complexities to the causal model. National income correlates with non-economic goods such as rights, equality, fulfillment of basic needs, and individualism (list at 436). These factors have effects on both SWB and income that have not been isolated. (at 441: real ambiguity about causal paths in this analysis: is it wealth or the correlates of wealth that are causal for happiness? Thought Experiment: the Nazi's won, but they really know how to boost GDP. Could you imagine the society being just as happy?
  • Some details: .69 correlate between purchasing power and LS-SWB, lower, but sig. correlations with affect.
  • The National Correlates of SWB (439)
  • Wealth and Economic Development
  • National wealth is a strong predictor of SWB. Overall .58. Per capita purchasing power, .61. Wealth .84.
  • Purchasing power parity chart: Note no increase in last 1/4 of the index.
  • Big hypothesis: Wealth is "clustered" with other happiness makers like schooling food water, human rights, doctors income equality.. 439-440. Acknowledges difficulty controlling for these variables.
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism
  • Individualism correlates with higher reported SWB, but also higher suicide rates.
  • Collectivists may be working with a different model of happiness or just a different attitude about its importance. Individualism is linked with wealth, so hard to separate effects. Note specific differences in valuation between individualist vs. collectivist culture. (442) Problem (I think): SWB is more salient to individualists.
  • Small Group discussion: Do you see the data on individualism and SWB supporting the idea that individualism (along with the political and economic culture is clusters with) is a better universal strategy for happiness or supporting the idea that individualist and collectivist cultures are pursuing different kinds of happiness?
  • Some non-correlates: homogeneity, population density.
Different models for explaining cultural differences are presented:
  1. Innate needs approach, Veenhoven, explains lack of growth in SWB in rich countries.
  1. Theory of goal striving, SWB relative to goal pursuits, which are different between rich and poor nations. Goal setting can be influenced by both universal needs, which create goals to satisfying them, as well as culturally conditioned goals, like attractiveness, or status goals. Relative standards come into play if they affect goal satisfaction.
  1. Models of emotional socialization, different cultures/nations social young to affect in different ways.
  1. Genetic explanations. (or deep cultural transmission)


14: OCT 18


  • Haybron, C5, “The Sources of Happiness” (24)
  • Csiksentmihalyi, C2, “The Content of Experience’ (17)


  • Background on Cskisentmihalyi

Haybron, “The Sources of Happiness”

  • Acknowledges cultural relativity of what counts as happiness. (Note universality of happiness itself.)
  • Focusing on things we don’t adapt to. But also that we can change.
  • Haybron’s list (expanding from Ryan Deci’s theory of basic needs)
  • 1. Security -
  • material, social, project, time. Rational approach to risk.
  • 2. Outlook -
  • the “internal strategy” -external H-makers vs internal H-making skills.
  • positivity (savoring, gratitude, pos focus) and acceptance (not passivity or low ambition)
  • caring for others. -volunteering next to dancing in joy. (But maybe not for you?)
  • extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation.
  • 3. Autonomy - general human desire for self-determination.
  • Option freedom v autonomy. (Paradox of Choice - still current)
  • Makes a case for autonomy as universal - takes diff shape in kin-culture.
  • 4. Relationships
  • Component h-makers: understanding, validation, caring, trust (also a security item)
  • 5. Skilled and meaningful activity.
  • development of skills, meaningful activity (work or not), appreciative engagement.
  • Money —
  • shows an Easterlin graph.
  • income affects H-l more.

Csiksentmihalyi, Finding Flow, Chapter 2

The Content of Experience

  • Theoretical position, p. 21: In story of woman with two jobs: looking for patterns of human commitment to a life. Wants to ask less for self-reports of happiness and more about the moods and affect that might be functionally related to happiness.
  • Two big points:
  • 1. Happiness is positive emotion that might be driven by behavior. And,
  • 2. It may be especially evident in a life of commitments and goals which reduce "psychic entropy." (Negative emotions are “entropic” for C.)
  • Discussion of emotions, goals, and thoughts in terms of the organization of "psychic entropy", 22 roughly, the cognitive / emotive state of order in my mind at a particular moment or during an activity.
  • Intentions and goals inform and order our psychic energy. Most prefer intrinsic motivation, next extrinsic, finally least productive of positive affect is no goal state. :*William James: self-esteem is a ratio of expectation (goals) to success. Set goals too high, lowers success and self-esteem.
  • Note distinction between Eastern philosophical suspicion of origin of goals and "superficial reading" that suggests it counsels renunciation of goals.
  • Three contents of consciousness: emotions, intentions, and thoughts. Their integration allows for flow. Concentration is necessary for flow, but can be impaired by lack of motivation and emotion.
  • FLOW, p. 29ff. (What a quiet mind is getting ready for.)
  • effortless action, being in the zone, altered time consciousness.
  • clear set of goals, focusing attention.
  • often at limits of skill and challenge level.
  • absorption in task, dynamic feedback. "All in."
  • Theoretical Problem about the Relation of Flow to Happiness:
  • "It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life. When we are in flow, we are not happy, because to experience happiness we must focus on our inner states, and that would take away attention from the task at hand." [Theoretical note: choice of "rather than happiness". Also could be "causes LS" or savoring model.] Think about place of flow in hierarchy of daily goals. Intensity of flow varies widely from extreme to mundane activity. Note related states.
  • Data on frequency of flow experiences, p. 33. About 20% yes, often. 15% no, never. (Again, you need to ask how much flow you want or need. Might depend upon how you feel when challenged. Ok, to live life staying “inside your game”.)

15: OCT 25


  • Bryant, Fred, C8, “Enhancing Savoring” (27)


  • Bryant, Fred, C1, “Concepts of Savoring: An Introduction” (23)

Bryant, Chapter 8: Enhancing Savoring

  • Theoretical Issues:
  • How much can savoring do given set point theory? (Lykken 2000 - "trying to be happier...") "range" (Recall Emmons study results: effects 6 months later.)
  • Similar efforts: Fordyce's happiness intervention study: savoring a common feature 200
  • Savoring in a construct relationship with Coping
  • Factors Enhancing both Coping and Savoring:
  • Social Support (sharing feelings with others) -- note imp. of having people with whom to share good news. being such a person, as well. building elements of happy community.
  • Writing about life experiences, (gratitude journals would be a positive example, or log). Pennebaker mentioned here.
  • Downward hedonic contrast (neg. visualization, but also foregrounding and isolating the positive experience. Recovering a sense that the ordinary is a treat.) (odd effect of volunteering working in absolutely poor countries) --- counterfactual thinking: recalling good things about your circumstances that have slipped into the background; thinking about how a bad outcome could have been worse, how something good might not have happened.
  • Humor, - Can you cultivate a sense of humor about things? Can you make yourself laugh? (Laughter clubs)
  • Spirituality & Religion --
  • Awareness of Fleetingness of Experience -- note connection with buddhism. Could heightening our awareness of the fleetingness of life enhance our savoring of it?
  • Essential Pre-conditions for Savoring
  • Freedom from Social and Esteem Concerns: explicated largely in terms of mindfulness... (more advice here, 206) (cynical caveat: Unless that's what you're savoring!)?
  • Present Focus: goes back to what might seem odd about mindfulness as preparatory to savoring.
  • non-judgmental orientation
  • openness to seeing something new or as if for the first time.
  • Attentional Focus: avoid multi-tasking, imagine it's the last time (it usually is -- consider the perfect day. Consider today as having a kind of perfection. Can one extend the judgement to a cloudy day? ), attention to uniqueness of experience aids savoring. (Example of priming: “A perfect day.”
  • Enhancing Savoring
  • Taking “time out” from a routine. Slowing down time.
  • Vacation in Daily Life -- (in food studies, "slow culture" (from the slow food movement). Point is to have a proactive approach to savoring. “Happy Hour” could do this.
  • Life Review -- recalling pleasurable experience, "chaining" - connecting different experiences in a pattern. Example: In your mind go around campus and recall experiences from your time here.
  • Camera Exercise. (Cell phone cameras now.) Cameras can prime us to notice things that are otherwise in the background.

Additional Issues:

  • Savoring and wisdom — savoring meaningful experiences (not just “good feels”) can contribute to a sense of having a good life, reinforcing confidence that your life is going well.
  • Savoring and Connoisseur-ship: Does Savoring require (or is it enhanced by) connoisseur-ship? How does that square with Epicurean simplicity? Note how you might use a modified Epicureanism to include some insights about complex savoring.

16: OCT 30


  • Emmons C23, “Gratitutde, SWB, and the Brain” (17)

Robert Emmons, Gratitude, Subjective Well-Being, and the Brain

  • importance of exchange of gifts, symbolic and material. Note at 471, anthropological explanation. (Consider complexity of gift giving.)
  • Broad range of gratitude: from specific feeling about a particular event or circumstance to a general attitude toward life. From satisfying "civic courtesy" to Life as a gift.
  • Definitions: "positive recognition of benefits received". "undeserved merit" Note that it is dependent upon the recognition of the benefit. From Fitzgerald (470): appreciation, goodwill, disposition that follows from appreciation and goodwill.
  • Gratitude can be a "virtue" if understood as a cultivated disposition to recognize undeserved merit.
  • Gratitude response is stronger if the beneficiary intends the benefit.
  • Gratitude as Affective Trait
  • grateful people experience more positive emotion. 473 Direction of causation? If you're happy, you may be enjoying many benefits that allow for savoring and gratitude.
  • other correlates. Hl. health, optimism, exercising, empathic, prosocial,forgiving helpful, supportive, less materialistic.
  • Evolutionary Perspective
  • "as a cognitive—emotional supplement serving to sustain reciprocal obligations. -Simmel (471) "Thus, during exchange of benefits, gratitude prompts one person (a beneficiary) to be bound to another (a benefactor) during "exchange of benefits, thereby reminding beneficiaries of their reciprocity obligations." (Obligations are also bonds.)
  • "Trivers viewed gratitude as an evolutionary adaptation that regulates people's responses to altruistic acts. Gratitude for altruistic acts is a reward for adherence to the universal norm of reciprocity and is a mediating mechanism that links the receipt of a favor to the giving of a return favor." Gratitude enacts/promotes reciprocal altruism. "places us" in social hierarchy defined by benefactor/beneficiary.
  • Emmons: gratitude functions include: moral barometer, moral motive, moral reinforcer.
  • Correlates of gratitude: greater LS, hope, less depression, anxiety, envy, prosociality, empathy, forgivingness, less focused on material goods, more spiritual and religious. Later (481) - promotes positive memory bias!
  • Gratitude as Affective Trait
  • More grateful people experience: more instances of G, more intense G, G over wider range of experience. (Primed for G every day!)
  • Core Emmons and McCullough gratitude research.
  • Developed the GQ-6 self-rating instrument. Found some correlates for G, including negative correlation with envy and materialism. Positive with prosociality. In personality model, G correlates with Extroversion. G-people higher LS, more religious,
  • Acknowledge another instrument: GRAT
  • Interventions to Promote Gratitude
  • Intervention studies: Gratitude Journals with pre/post testing. gratitutde, hassles, and events conditions, 1. 1xwk 10 weeks, 2. daily for 2wks, 3. in adults with neuromuscular disease. results: higher LS, optimism, lower health complaints, more excercise. results held up 6 months later.
  • Some evidence in kids. Some discussion of level of maturity need for Theory of Mind (necessary for taking perspective). Quasi-experiment in grades 6&7, “hassles group”.
  • Why is Gratitude Good. Mechanisms.
  • 1. strengthen social relationships
  • 2. counters NA and depression (increases positive memory bias -- a form of positive illusion by foregrounding a selected reality!)
  • 3. promotes resiliency (study of responses to disaster). (Recall Bryant discussion of savoring and coping. Gratitude is a form of savoring.)
  • Gratitude and the Brain
  • Cognitive-affective neuroscience construct (What's happening to your brain when you experience gratitude?)
  • Summary of other research, top of 483: read
  • General hypothesis: We have structures for both perceiving gratitude in others and expressing it.
  • Specific hypothesis: Limbic prefontal networks involved: "; (1) the fusiform face-processing areas near the temporal—occipital junctions, (2) the amygdala and Limbic emotional processing systems that support emotional states, and (3) interactions between these two subcortical centers with the prefrontal regions that control executive and evaluative processes." 483. Like other prosocial emotions.
Specific hypothesis tested with studies of gratitude and mood induction in Parkinson's Disease patients, who have damage to prefrontal networks. Hyposthesis: PD patients less likely to experience mood benefits of G-induction (by memory recall).
  • Gratitude and SWB
  • Strong claim for long term effects of gratitude as a trait: p. 476 -- participants show SWB boost 6 months later.
  • Psychological attitudes at odds with gratitude:
  • "A number of personal burdens and external obstacles block grateful thoughts. A number of attitudes are incompatible with a grateful outlook on life, including perceptions of victimhood, an in ability to admit one's shortcomings, a sense of entitlement, and an inability to admit that one is not self-sufficient. In a culture that celebrates self-aggrandizement and perceptions of deservingness, gratitude can be crowded out." 485 (Note again, a potential connection to the discussion of egoism from buddhism.)

17: NOV 1 - 4. The Berlin Wisdom Paradigm


  • Hall C3, “Heart and Mind” (18)

Hall, Wisdom, Chapter 3 "Heart and Mind"

  • Note that Hall is telling something of the "sociology of knowledge" about the rise of wisdom research.
  • Erikson -- idea of wisdom as end stage "8" of process of self-realization. A stage of development to deal with the approach of death and loss.
  • Interesting hypothesis in face of growth of knowledge in gerontology about decay of faculties. (Add details from Gwande, Being Mortal)
  • Vivian Clayton -- reflects on family member's traits.
  • poses question of meaning of wisdom and relation to age. (Note descriptors.)
  • her approach addressed a bias in geronotology toward focus on end of life. Nothing redeeming about dying. But maybe wisdom is.
  • Baltes - Life span developmental psychology.
  • Clayton’s approach, like Baltes, was to first read cultural literature, like the Bible, which represents wisdom in judges, but also Job. Follow statement on p. 43. Compare to Labouvie-Vief. Also, note from the end of the chapter about her story. Choice, seeing wisdom easier than doing it.
  • Hall's account of Genesis myth: It’s not only about disobedience. Also about acquiring "original wisdom" -- wisdom as the price of seeing things clearly. Wisdom as necessarily acquired through transgression vs. living within limits. Also "dark wisdom".
  • In turn toward a psychological construct, initial studies on lawyers inconclusive. Clayton’s work creates excitement, but then no funding. She leaves academia. Interestingly, becomes a bee keeper.
  • Example of early Berlin Paradigm research - response to vignette - 15yo preg teen. Is wisdom non-absolutist?
  • Baltes, Smith, Staudinger, Kunzemann. -- Berlin Wisdom Paradigm -- brief overview, 49ff. “An expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatic of life.” Show p. 95 from next reading, Baltes and Smith, “Toward a psych of wisdom..”
  • Thought of wisdom as a process, not just a personal trait. Could be instantiated in groups, societies…
  • Studied proverbs — “heuristics”
  • Note how he derived his construct and method of research. +96
  • Early critics: Carstensen and Ardelt -- felt Baltes Wisdom Paradigm (BWP) didn't focus enough on emotion. (More in Hall C4)
  • Monika Ardelt - first attempt to develop a valid wisdom rating scale. Based on three dimensions: cognitive, reflective, and emotional. Read p. 54. Some anecdotes from people who got high ratings — Not necessarily highly educated, but all confronted adversity.

18: NOV 6


Baltes & Smith, "Toward a Psychology of Wisdom and its Ontegenesis" 1990

  • Motivations for the Berlin Paradigm's research:
  • study of peak performance,
  • positive aspects of aging, General discussion question: Aren't the lessons from aging well confined to that time of the lifespan?
  • work on intelligence that reflects a concern with context and life pragmatics, Baltes & Smith p. 87
  • Point on method in discussion of problem of giving a scientific treatment of wisdom, p. 89. Wittgenstein quote. Baltes acknowledges that there are limits and differences in studying wisdom, for example, need to compare results with lived experience of wisdom. Not typical in science.
  • Fundamental assumption #1: Wisdom is an "expert knowledge system"
  • Fundamental assumption:#2: A dual-process model of intelligence (Mechanics / Pragmatics) is most relevant to understanding wisdom. Focus on p. 94 figure 5.1. Mechanics of intelligence decline, but pragmatics increase over time.
  • Fundamental assumption #3: Wisdom is about life pragmatics, understood as life planning, management, review. (Note. This is easily expanded to "wise social groups" and "wise cultures".
  • Wisdom defined as "expert knowledge involving good judgement and advice in the domain, fundamental pragmatics of life" 95
  • Small Group Discussion: When you think about times in your life when you have managed your life well, what specific things or practices have contributed to that? Try to give examples. Does it makes sense to think of this as a form or expertise that you are acquiring?
  • The "Baltes Five" Criteria Construct for Wisdom:
  • Rich factual knowledge: Accumulation of knowledge which facilitates predictive ability to see how relationships, causes, and meanings will interact in a situation. "a representation of the expected sequential flow of events in a particular situation" Both general: knowing "how people work", for example; and specific: knowing how a particular person might respond or think about something; how a particular life problem tends to go. Also, factual knowledge about the world and human psychology.
  • Rich procedural knowledge: accumulation of knowledge which facilitates understanding of strategies of problem solving, advice seeking. "A repertoire of mental procedures." (This would include characteristic biases and ways that knowledge seeking goes wrong.)
  • (Not in article, but add in) Recognizing cognitive bias and "narrative opacity" in self. Fundamental Attribute Error (FAE), intuition discount, motivated reasoning ("Can I believe it/Must I believe it?"))
  • Life span contextualism: understanding a problem in awareness of it's place in the life span. Knowing what part of your life you are in and understanding it's challenges for your goals. Think about how the model will change after graduation. (Question: Can you identify ways in which the pandemic or trends pushing marriage toward 30 have created challenges?)
  • Relativism: Understanding and taking into account the range of values, goals, and priorities that specific human lives embody. (Example of lack of wisdom: People who have trouble believing that "people can be like that." Also, cultural naivete.)
  • Uncertainty: awareness of limits of knowledge in general and in particular factual cases. but also "strategies for managing and dealing with uncertainty" 103. (Brief acknowledgement of uncertainty in the 2nd quarter and the 4th!)
  • Two sets of predictions:
  • Wisdom has a culturally accessible and commonly held meaning
  • Ontogenesis of wisdom in general, specific, and modifying factors (Fig 5.2)
  • Research on everyday concepts of wisdom (106)
  • Implicit theories (Holiday and Chandler)
  • Sworka - good character increasingly associated with wisdom by older test subjects
  • Research on wisdom as expert knowledge (108)
  • Follow preliminary findings 110

Wisdom Workshop: Practice Scenarios

  • A couple in their early 30s is living in NY and trying to decide how to get ready to have a family. They are pretty conservative and feel that home ownership is the best way to control various things that are important in raising kids. But conditions do not favor buying a home now (high interest rates, high home prices in the NY area, etc.). They both currently work at home and enjoy access to urban culture. How should they think about planning the next few years of their life?
  • Your friend is a recent college graduate who wants to get started on their career in physical therapy, but also feels a strong connection to their home town and their extended family. On the other hand, they never had an opportunity to do study abroad and have a feeling that they should get broader experience before considering returning home. How should they think about and manage the next few years of their lives?
  • You are a college senior in an intimate relationship that you and your partner both value tremendously. However, you and your partner have different career goals that require additional education in programs that are spread around the country. You are both applying to programs and hoping to wind up in the same city, but the odds are slim, and you are worried that maintaining a long distance relationship will be difficult. How should you approach the next few years of planning?

19: NOV 8


  • Hall C4, “Emotional Regulation: The Art of Coping” (17)
  • Carstensen, “The Influence of a Sense of Time…” (3)
  • Ardelt, “How Wise People Cope with Crises and Obstacles” (11)

Hall, Chapter 4, "Emotional Regulation"

  • Emotional regulation as a compensating strength of aging. Give basic argument for connecting emo reg to wisdom.
  • Carstensen’s Stanford beeper study - longitudinal.
  • "Carstensen and her colleagues have proposed that successful emotional regulation is tightly connected to a persons sense of time—usually, but not always, time as it is reflected by one's age and stage of life. "According to our theory, this isn't a quality of aging per se, but of time horizons," she explained. "When your time perspective shortens, as it does when you come closer to the ends of things, you tend to focus on emotionally meaningful goals. " 63
  • SST: socioemotional selectivity theory (Cartensen's) “In shortening time span of later life, people focus on emotionally meaningful experience.
  • Can/How can the benefits of this view become available to the young?
  • Emotional Resilience: Job's emotional resilience. Is it patience or resilience? What is the diff? Note, Job does not suppress negative emotion, but bounces back to an equilibrium. “Surely, vexation kills the fool.” (Today’s heuristic!)
  • problem in history of philosophy -- downplaying of emotion. But then Hume, and James' "What is an Emotion?"
  • Gross: "reappraisal" and "reflection" as techniques of emotional regulation. vs. “rumination” 66. Very important! Note mechanism suggested for each. (Note connection to therapeutic writing. Possible topic for short research.) Notice this way of thinking suggests that emotional regulation is trainable. (Note Tim Wilson’s research in Redirect.)
  • Cartensens' research in assisted living homes. “Have you seen what’s out there?…I don’t have time to talk to those people.” counterintuitive answers. (67) "time horizon" theory. Implications.
  • Carstensen on the paradigmatic tasks of the young: "knowledge trajectory" (70); "collectors" 71, in older age, a shift from knowledge related goals to emotion-related goals.
  • 71: neuroscience on learning from loss; affect forecasting (accuracy in predicting how we will feel. Could dampen negative emotion, right? Examples?) young as steep "discounters"; greater appetite for risk, less for ambiguity. (Probably don’t want to change that, but it describes a problem also.)
  • 73: emotional resilience in Davidson's longitudinal neuroscience research: correlation of emotional regulation and brain pattern. (Brains that regulate emotion look diff in real time.) Gabrielli studies on young amygdalas. Gross on male/female emotional processing.
  • positive illusion (optimism bias) - note that negative visualization might facilitate it, as in the Irvine point about the two fathers.
  • "Grandparent hypothesis"
  • Concluding Group Discussion: Is emotional regulation something that a young person could use to mimic the emotional regulative experience of older people? Is such a goal possible, desirable?

Carstensen, "The Influence of a Sense of Time on Human Development"

  • Abstract: “The subjective sense of future time plays an essential role in human motivation. Gradually, time left becomes a better predictor than chronological age for a range of cognitive, emotional,and motivational variables. Socioemotional selectivity theory maintains that constraints on time horizons shift motivational priorities in such a way that the regulation of emotional states becomes more important than other types of goals. This motivational shift occurs with age but also appears in other contexts (for example, geographical relocations, illnesses, and war) that limit subjective future time.”
  • The mechanism here 1913, col. 3: shortening time horizons affect goal selection, preferences, attention and memory.
  • Comparisons of younger people with short time horizons (due to untreatable illness, for example) show parallel to older people. Likewise 1914, col 1, study showing manipulation of goal selection in older people who are told that they are going to live a lot longer.
  • SST: two categories shift: motivation for knowledge acquisition and regulation of emotion. Shift from horizon expanding goals (like job training) to emotionally meaningful goals.
  • Advertisement study. Amygdala study. NA/PA.

Summing up Wisdom Paradigms

  • Expert Knowledge system (Baltes Wisdom Paradigm) - explicit
  • Time-horizon theory (Socio-emotive Selection Theory - SST) - Carstensen - implicit
  • 3D-WS (Ardelt's Cognitive-Reflective-Affective Theory of coping. - implicit
  • All three of these involve studying people rated as wise (often older), seeing what they do, and trying to abstract that as a general method or lesson. I think it makes sense to say that when you do that you are making an implicit theory explicit.

Ardelt, “How Wise People Cope with Crises and Obstacles”

  • Introduction
  • Summarizing research field of 25 years, starting with Baltes. Note developments in 90s.
  • interest in people who face "ultimate limit situations"
  • 8: Some new language in the Baltes model -- not only individual decision making :
  • Knowledge - application of tacit knowledge mediated by values
  • Transformation of experience
  • Dis-illusioning - seeing through illusions (not becoming disillusioned!) (self-deception avoidance)
  • Follow her gloss of 3D-WS Table 1. and p. 8 col 3
  • Study
  • 180 older adults from diverse situations in Florida
  • Construction/admin of 3D-WS. Selection of 12 high and 12 low wisdom as rated by scale
  • Respondents give interviews that are structured, recorded, coded by trained judges, some blind to study goals.
  • Selected three high and three low cases for discussion
  • Results
  • Coping strategies of high wisdom respondents
  • 1. Mental distancing
  • 2. Active coping
  • Reframing: Making the best of things
  • Taking control of a situation
  • 3. Application of life lessons
  • Learning from life experiences
  • Coping strategies of low wisdom respondents
  • 1. Passive coping
  • Acceptance
  • Reliance on God (passively)
  • 2. Avoidance of reflection
  • Small Group Discussion
  • How attractive is Ardelt's 3D-WS model? Specifically, does it capture the cognitive, reflective, and affective dimensions of Wisdom? Are these the right basic dimensions? To what extent is it possible to model wisdom acquisition for all ages on the wisdom of older individuals rated high on wisdom?

SW3: Short Critical Paper (1000-1500 words)

  • For this paper, use your real name. We will not run these through the peer review process, but you are welcome to share your papers with each other if you choose. Due Tuesday, November 14th, 2023
  • Topic A: Wisdom challenges & the Baltes Paradigm: Use one of the "wisdom challenges" from last class or write your own (perhaps based on a challenge you face currently or one which someone you know faces or faced). Using the Baltes paradigm (the BWP five dimensions), generate specific advice for meeting the challenge. Then assess the adequacy of the BWP. Were there aspects of a wise approach to the challenge that fell outside of the BWP5? Are there emotional aspects of the challenge that the BWP misses?
  • Topic B: Emotional Regulation and Coping: Identify a "coping challenge" that either you or someone you know faces, or a hypothetical challenge. Then use resources from the Hall chapter on emotional regulation and Ardelt's 3D-WS and coping strategies of wise people to distinguish more or less wise ways of coping with that challenge.

20: NOV 13 - 5. The Enlightenment, American Experience, Money and Happiness


  • McMahon, C6, “Lib and discontent” (313-331)
  • "Economics of Happiness" [11]


  • Introduction to Easterlin Paradox [12]

McMahon, Chapter 6: Liberalism and Its Discontents (1st half to 331)

  • Enlightenment liberalism and Classical Republicanism in the American experiment
  • example of Franklin as quintessential representative of the American appropriation of Enlightenment liberalism.
  • symbol of thrift and accumulation, self-made, tract, The Path to Riches and Happiness. But then, McMahon raises the question of whether the money - happiness connection is really central to the American experiment. Need to go into Enlightenment thought behind the “pursuit of happiness” phrase.
  • Trivial Pursuits
  • Dec. of Independence: tracing "pursuit of happiness" in enlightenment texts. Jefferson claims that he was trying to express a “common sense” of the American mind. However, he is altering Locke’s “Life, liberty, and property (estates)” phrase. Critic might call this a smokescreen for protecting property.
  • Locke did think of happiness as a natural part of a Christian worldview, leading us to God. Virginia Declaration on Human Rights, contemporary, shows the liberty — property — happiness connection (318).
  • Connotation of “pursuit” - Locke and Jeff understood hedonic treadmill at some level. McMahon suggests that this negative connotation is part of a deeper Christian line of thought that survived in the Enlightenment. Christianity teaches us not to expect ultimate desire satisfaction in material goods. Sermons of the time routinely linked happiness to Christian virtues.
  • Jeffersonian Christianity focused on teachings of Jesus. The Jefferson Bible…. Jefferson is identified with “Classical Republican” less individualistic than Locke, focused on civic virtue and civic participation. Quote at 324. Jefferson’s knowledge of the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers would also inform him of a critical issue in Locke (raised by Hutchison), that pleasure may just lead to self-centered hedonism. Postulated “moral sense” as counterweight. A capacity to feel pleasure from good.
  • McMahon traces this appreciation of limits of “trivial pursuits” of pleasure in Hume and Smith. Smith theorized that the illusory goal of desire satisfaction could have positive social effect, motivating pursuit of wealth, which is good for the society, even at the sacrifice of individual Happiness.
  • Strange Melancholy
  • Alexis de Tocqueville's contribution: Democracy in America 1835 1840: Sociological insight into sadness in the American experiment.
  • Of Toq's thesis: Macmahon writes: "perhaps, the cynic, or at least the skeptic, may be on firmer ground. For in a society in which the unhindered pursuit of happiness (to say nothing of its attainment) is treated as a natural, Godgiven right, the inability to make steady progress along the way will inevitably be seen as an aberration, a suspension of the natural order of things." big passage: 333-334
  • really about the dynamics of equality, freedom, and democracy vs. community and social values. U.S. a big experiment. Tocqueville also praised Americans for self-reliance and a sense of "enlightened self interest" -- realizing that it is in your self-interest to be concerned about others.
  • And that, Tocqueville concluded in a famous line, "is the reason for the strange melancholy often haunting inhabitants of democracies in the midst of abundance, and of that disgust with life sometimes gripping them in calm and easy circumstances."
  • More detail of Toqueville’s analysis:
  • ”self-intrest rightly understood” - today we document this as measureable mental adaptations of “impersonal prosociality” and “impersonal fairness” (Henrich, WEIRDEST People in the World)
  • ”a sublunary focus of religious spirit” - in other words, we took Locke’s (and maybe Calvin’s) analysis to heart. Religion in Am context serves as counter weight to Am drives to maximize.
  • A crisis of faith 343
  • Mill's contribution: Autonomy and Liberal Hope
  • 344: image of John Stuart Mill reviewing Toq's essays and longing for democracy in Europe. Maybe the problem isn’t equality, as Toq claims, but a British thing? Or just the “commercial spirit”. "Let the idea take hold," Mill warned, "that the most serious danger to the future prospects of mankind is in the unbalanced influence of the commercial spirit. .. ."
  • 347: section on Mill's depression -- famous -- finds solace in romatic poetry. why? evocative, imaginative against starker imagination of rationalist enlightenment. Also an example of the “internal strategy” for happiness.
  • also in Mill (and Butler), the problem of indirect happiness. Q347-8. ( Mill's passage 348 breaking with simple Benthamism. Happiness too complex to reduce to pleasures. “Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.” What would that “higher end” be beyond pleasure: Liberty!
  • Mill, On Liberty passage 350 - Only legit. Power of the state is to prevent harms from rights violations. Can't violate someone's liberty to make them happier... “The individual is sovreign.”
  • McM: Liberty as liberation “from” oppressive conditions. (Early feminist.) Is there a romanticism in Mill's position on Liberty? Perhaps a romantic faith that the “true self” would emerge. (Note: Also in Marx.). Anti-conformity.
  • The Capitalist Ethic and the Spirit of Happiness
  • Weber's contribution: Socio-religious insight into the dynamic between capitalism and Protestant Christianity.
  • Weber Section: 355 "In the Protestant anxiety over the fate of individual salvation, he argued, lay the motive force behind an impetus to capital accumulation, regarded as a sign and partial assurance of God's blessing. Combining ascetic renunciation, a notion of work as divine calling, and a critically rational disposition, the Protestant faith, Weber argued, brought together nascent capitalism's essential qualities: the restriction of consumption in favor of the accrual of capital, and a religiously consecrated ethic of discipline, delayed gratification, industry, and thrift.” (Digression on contemporary approaches in cultural evolution that qualify, and enlarge, Weber’s point.)
  • Think Ben Franklin, heir to dad’s Calvinism (though a bit of a libertine, I’ve heard). His “ethic” was, however, about foregoing short term pleasures to accumulate wealth.
  • Weber claimed that as the after-life diminishes as a goal, wealth accumulation becomes an end in itself. “… a man exists for the sake of his business, not the other way around…”
  • 358: "Indeed, it was during the very period when Weber was writing that America, and the West more generally, began to undergo what the sociologist Daniel Bell has described as a monumental transformation, "the shift from production to consumption as the fulcrum of capitalism." Bringing "silk stockings to shop girls" and "luxury to the masses," this transformation made of "marketing and hedonism" the "motor forces of capitalism," driving over all restraints that stood in the way of the enjoyment of material pleasures with a momentum that would have surprised even Tocqueville." (Note: Galbraith, "The Dependency Effect; reliance on raising GDP; sustainability of economy and population)
  • "Material goods," he observed at the end of The Protestant Ethic, "have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history."
  • And yet, Weber was no hedonist. 359. Close the chapter with the “specter of Marx” and the Russian revolution, which had it’s own (also Romantic) assumptions about liberation.

Crash Course on Happiness Economics, Adriene Hill

  • Typical correlates: $82K, keep your job, don't compare too much.
  • General historical assumptions of economics: unlimited potential for desire and satisfaction, linear relationship with money.
  • H&W Economics news!!: "Happiness economics" starts by studying the disconnects and gaps in theory based on this assumption. The Easterlin Paradox is a central area of study.
  • Example: non-economic satisfactions. Cooking a meal for someone. Being offered money could ruin the satisfaction.
  • Thought bubble: relative income and satisfaction. beyond some level of income the value of additional money has diminishing returns. Basically, the idea that the law of diminishing marginal utility applies to income. "The law of diminishing marginal utility says that the marginal utility from each additional unit declines as consumption increases." 2010, about $82k in the US.
  • Life satisfaction judgements (H-l)do track income and wealth across time.
  • Unemployment trashes H-l. Especially middle aged unemployed. Greater than the money loss. Affects future outlook.
  • U-shaped curves: for unemployment, long commutes, ccard debt, inflation.
  • Reference income hypothesis: Satisfaction from your income depends in part upon your reference set, who else you compare to. Living in a rich neighborhood in poor county give you a boost. Status.
  • Easterlin Paradox introduced: "The 'Easterlin Paradox' states that at a point in time happiness varies directly with income both among and within nations, but over time happiness does not trend upward as income continues to grow."
  • Explanations: status, set point theory, hedonic adaptation (Rousseau quote 6:45), not a paradox (possible counter evidence from low income countries).
  • Steverson and Wolfers - average levels of happiness do rise in relation to GDP.
  • The GDP debate -- Is GDP the right focus for economic policy? Bhutan...GNH. (Some details from Easterlin on what that might mean.) Kennedy observations: GDP counts everything, even bad things, and misses lots of things we do value.

21: NOV 15


  • McMahon, C6, “Lib and discontent” (331-343)
  • Aspen Institute discussion of Easterlin Paradox: Wolfers, Gilbert, and Frank (about 40 minutes) [14]
  • Clive Crook, "The Measure of Human Happiness" (3) (comments on Aspen Institute video)

Aspen Institute discussion of Easterlin Paradox

  • Gilbert - people deny money buys happiness, but they often behave as if they believe it does.
  • Justin Wolfers - Wharton -
  • Does Money buy Happiness? States paradox controversially as, "Raising GDP does nothing for well being and we shouldn't do it."
  • Data from Gallup polls (ladder of life - best and worst life you can have) (H-L)- SWB (as life satisfaction). He uses "happy". Log scale - Everyone agrees on this.
  • Easterlin Paradox - Characterized as three claims:
  • 1. Within societies richer people are happier (Hl) than poorer.
  • 2. Richer countries no happier than poor (Easterlin p. 20: "Richer countries are typically happier than poorer countries"); So, when he provides data about this, he looks like he's refuting Easterlin. -1:00 -Argh!
  • 3. As a society gets richer, it's people don't get happier (pretty rough statement here, rather polemical) Here's how Easterlin puts in p. 23 "There is no systemic relationship between the trends in happiness (Hs) and income trends."
  • Easterlin explains this by reference and relative position. Claims the Easterlin is saying "Give up on growth" (!)
  • Argument against social comparision explanation.
  • Claims the income threshold is $15,000. (!) $82K in our crash course. Defined by Easterlin curve. Compares Japanese, US, and European data. Claims the Japanese survey is corrupted by changing questions. Uses Life Satisfaction scale to explain European data. Cheap trick. US: Does show happiness flat. Claims the surveys aren't capturing the rich people.
  • Happiness rises with the log of income. -53.00. Interprets the log issue as "Median income in US hasn't risen, so no surprise that Hs hasn't risen.
  • Agrees that positional (relative income) does matter. "I don't have theories, I have facts." Argh!
  • New Data on relative position: "Rich guy in poor county happier" thesis. Claims that if this were true, we'd all move to Mexico. Argh!
  • "New Data" on Hs: Richer countries happier (Hs) than poorer. Not a new result! Argyle reports on this. Not H&W news!!
  • Happiness Economics agenda isn't new. In recession, happiness economics matches GDP focus. True, Easterlin says this is one of the zigzags - short time intervals. Happiness gap is narrowing for African Americans. Probably non-economic changes. Acknowledges that economic surveys have some subjectivity as well. Happiness is what politicians do.
  • Bob Frank - Cornell - Acknowledges that Easterlin said that about GDP, but disagrees. Absolute income does matter. Life expectancy, institutions better, makes sense to be in richer country.
  • His claims: Money does buy happiness, but not as much as it could because of the way we spend it. (Consistent with Paradox.) Historical point, Smith understood non-economic factors. Not just invisible hand. Tversky and Khaneman - behavioral economics addresses non-rational behavior, sub-Happiness maximizing. His claim: These are minor shortfalls in our potential for happiness.
  • From Darwin. Traits that help the individual may harm the group. Antlers: Good for one, Dumb for all. Individuals cant solve the problem on their own. Brains didn't evolve for happiness. Brains make you unhappy to motivate behaviors. Happiness is a the fleeting state. Adaptation (say to disability) doesn't preclude us from wanting something better (mobility).
  • Hockey players and helmets. They vote for helmet rules, but gain the advantage of not having a helmet. Antlers again. Not cognitive error (Behavioral econs) or lack of competition (Smith). Collective action problem.
  • "People care about relative consumption more in some domains than others. Leads to expenditure arms race for positional goods. These arms races take resources from non-positional goods. Expenditure cascades. Ex: extravagant weddings, birthday parties. -30mins
  • Bigger mansions are smart for one, dumb for all. If everyone had bigger mansions, they would deliver less happiness.
  • plugs his 2011 book, The Darwin Economy. recommends taxing consumption rather than income and capital gains.
  • Bottom line: The source of market failures from positional goods and expenditure cascades can't be addressed by standard economic models (Smith or Khaneman).
  • Q&A -25mins: Frank poses question about getting good education. Relative income matters alot in US.
  • McMansion problem: If it were a problem, no one would want a small house in Aspen and it would be lower priced than any house in the US. Argh!
  • Frank - Responds to school example by saying we make a judgement about life trajectory that overrides short term bummer of being the average student. Likewise for immigration.
  • Neat idea that top earners in firms pay a "premium"

Crook, "The Measure of Human Happiness"

22: NOV 20

  • No Class

23: Nov 27


  • McMahon, C6, “Lib and discontent” (343-362)
  • Gallbraith, “Dependency Effect” (6)
  • Harvard Business Review, "The Economics of Well-Being" [15]
  • Bruni, "Why GDP is not enough"


  • Start SW3: Short Writing Assignment #2: Assessing Liberalism and the Money/Happiness connection
  • Background on Civil Economy (Bruni C1)

Galbraith, Dependency Effect

  • Problem of intertemporal comparison: Who's to say that status pleasures aren't as important to us now as basic satisfactions were to our poor predecessors? It is repugnant to think that desires never lose their urgence, but maybe that's the case.
  • Flaw in the view of someone who accepts this case: If our desires and wants are "contrived by the process of production", they are not original with us and therefore can't be "urgent" for us. The whole case for accommodating business production (through infrastructure, tax breaks, etc.) falls apart if the production system is creating the needs.
  • Develops his view in Section 2: Not against consumer wants, but little doubt that many are contrived. Cites Keynes on insatiability of status needs. "the desire to get superior goods takes on a life of its own" "The urge to consume is fathered by the value system which emphaasizes the abilityt of the society to produce." (GDP)
  • Section 3: advertising and salesmanship (no social media yet). It's a problem if the producer makes the goods and the desire for the goods. Note that is calling into question the idea that the consumer is really autonomous. "independently determined wants"
  • Read Section 4.

Bruni & Zamagni, Chapter 6: Why GDP is not enough?

  • Thesis: We need additional measures of well-being to add to or replace our reliance on GDP. Analogy of multi-stage cycling races: There are many things to compete for in addition winning the overall race. GDP is just the sprinter's jersey. Promoting SWB is the overall goal.
  • Historical discussion: Smith's Wealth of Nations not just about individual production and riches, but well-being. Examples of texts from Neopolitan School Genovesi: "Work for your own interest, of course, but don't make others miserable by your gain, work also for public happiness. ....p. 88. Adds "public happiness" to "liberty, fraternity, and equality"
  • Critique of GDP: lumps good and bad economic activity together, some stats keepers even consider illegal economic activity. job creation predicts economic activity, but doesn't tell you about the quality of the jobs. "There are awful jobs." (smelt, smelt). GDP relatively new concept (1930s, against background of mercantilist approach which includes wealth of land, resources, labour, capital and stocks. (A stock is any supply of goods of any kind. Stock Market.)
  • More critique of GDP: Arguably, "stocks" matter more than "flows" (GDP). Concern about environment is concern about stocks, migration is about human resources, a "stock", security is a stock. (In food studies, egronomists argue about soil and aquifer quality as a neglected stock.)

SCP: Short Writing Assignment #3: Assessing Liberalism and the Money/Happiness connection

  • Stage 1: Please write an 1000 word maximum answer to the following question by Monday, December 4, 2020 11:59pm.
  • Topic: Assessing Liberalism: In this unit, we have been assessing both the historical models of happiness in the "American Experiment," as well as contemporary economic theory and thought about the relationship between income and happiness, the adequacy of making GDP the primary policy goal, and the possibility that something about our contemporary commercial culture is working against improvements in happiness. In your essay, make a selection from the resources in the unit to address these issues. Is there a "happiness problem" in American culture?
  • Advice about collaboration: I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes, and your own notes. Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. It's a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  • Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
  1. Do not put your name in the file or filename. You may put your student id number in the file. Put a word count in the file.
  2. In Word, check "File-->Info-->Inspect Document-->Inspect. You will see an option to delete author information.
  3. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  4. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "AssessingLiberalism".
  5. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the 2 - Short Critical Paper dropbox.

My Philosophy of Happiness and Wisdom Paper

  • In this 8-10 page paper you are invited to construct an integrated philosophy of wisdom and happiness. You should start by identifying topics and themes in the course that spoke to you. You should also bring in personal frames of reference, such as faith commitments, that may inform your thinking even if they were not treated in the course. The ultimate goal is for you to integrate your views on happiness and wisdom by thinking also about how they are related, but you may organize your paper into two main sections, one each on happiness and wisdom, and then try to bring them together in your conclusion.
  • Due date: December 15th, 2021.

24: NOV 29 - 6. Relationship, Community, and Happiness


  • Csiksentmihalyi, Relationships and the Quality of Life
  • Tiffany, Kaitlyn, No One Knows Exactly What Social Media is Doing to Teens

Why Relationships Matter

  • From Csiksentmihalyi:
  • "A relationship that leads to order in consciousness instead of psychic entropy has to meet at least two conditions. [The complexity of friendships correlates with the complexity of our minds. Big-brained creatures need complex interactions.]
  • The first is to find some compatibility between our goals and that of the other person or persons. This is always difficult in principle, given that each participant in the interaction is bound to pursue his or her self-interest." 81
  • The second condition for a successful interaction is that one be willing to invest attention in the other person's goals not an easy task either, considering that psychic energy is the most essential and scarce resource we own.
  • Friendships don't always last, but while they are good they don't habituate - they are always changing and referenced to our lives. Csik: Claims friendships don't habituate because people are always changing. If you continue to share goals and investment of energy, the pleasure never dies (until you do).
  • From evolutionary sciences. Our ability to invest in friendships is part of a complex evolved set of behaviors that do real work for us. Behind the pleasure of friendship there is real practical benefit. Friends are potential cooperators in meeting life challenges. (Story of friend with transactional view of friendship.) Real friendship are not transactional, but all friendships involve a feeling of reciprocity.

How Contemporary US culture poses challenges for friendships

  • Advanced education and the careers it opens up often require cultivating a capacity for solitary work. Knowledge work is often solitary (Academics have higher utilization of mental health benefits than other workers.) - But also other kinds of work. (Tech jobs, jobs with lots of screen time.). For highly educated Americans, establishing a career often involves moving several times without any context for the new environment than education or a job. (Unlike our early contexts for friends - family, school with shared experience.)
  • Small group questions:
  • Do you think your transition from Gonzaga will pose challenges to forming new friendships and gaining satisfactions from friendships? What are some of the things about your approach to relationship that are sources of strength or challenge in this transition? Do friendships (of various kinds) come easily to you?
  • If you were advising someone who was moving to another city and was concerned about not having proximate friends, what would you say? What would you ask them about their approach to forming friendships? What strategies would you suggest to them for finding connection with others in a large town or city that is new to them?
  • Is the cultivation solitude part of a contemporary strategy for happiness in US culture?

Preliminary discussion of social media in your experience

  • Do you have a generally positive or negative view of your own social media use?
  • What, in your experience, have you learned about how to use social media positively, or, with less negative effect?

Tiffany, Kaitlyn - No One Knows Exactly What Social Media is doing to Teens

  • Independent evidence of increase in high school students experiencing "persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness." 2011: 28% 2021: 42%. But this trend may have started before the big increase in S.M. use for this age group.
  • Some Evidence:
  • Facebook papers - unscientific, but internal research. 2021: body image and teen perception of s.m. as cause.
  • Haidt's focus on teen girls may be plausible.
  • Study suggesting that feeling in control of you social media use may be an indicator variable of health use.
  • Problems with the research.
  • Effects may dependent upon specific use patterns.
  • Study showing no correlation bt screen time and well-being in adolescents.
  • "Screen time" too broad a concept.
  • Ecological fallacy - you don't know if people reporting poor mental health are the screen users.
  • As with TV viewing research, alot depends upon what else you are doing or not doing. Time with friends or physical activity may have a protective effect.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy. Telling people its hurting them may cause them to believe that even if it's not true.

25: DEC 4


  • Hertz, Noreena, Chatper 6, "Our Screens, Our Selves"
  • Zhang, et. al, "The Effect of Problematic Social Media Use on Happiness among Adolescents"

Hertz, Noreena C6, “Our Screens, Our Selves”

  • Kaleidoscopes - popular and disparaged by elites. Is the comparison to screens reasonable? doubts, also, about printed writing over hand copies. (Print pdfs over screen reading.)
  • We check our phone 221 times a day.
  • thesis, 94: Cell phone use is contributing to loneliness. Hmm?
  • trading off digitally mediated interactions for live ones. Everyone?
  • evidence of impaired language skills. Parents distracted from kids.
  • 97: study showing effect of smartphone on table on “closeness” bt couples.
  • Jamil Zkai - “thinned” relationships reduce empathy.
  • Covid - large increase in phone volume. Video.
  • 99: evidence from empathy neuroscience - emotional engagement distinctive. Claims video interaction not the same.
  • ”How to read a face” - Cites educators who claim that students are not reading faces and non-verbal information well due to cell phone use. 102: U Bristol study on kids and emo expression. Other studies…. Intervention studies show improvement after screen-free days.
  • Would you advocate for “no cell phone” policies at your kid’s school? Harder for low income people to avoid using tech as a babysitter.
  • Acknowledges that digital media and internet connect some people more than they used to be. Example of lgbt folks finding community digitally when their live community is not supportive.
  • 106: studies connecting phone use and loneliness in adolescents. Direction of causation problem. Maybe lonely people use their phone more?
  • 107: Best Intervention studies so far. Hunt Allcott. [16].
  • 107 - trolling, doxxing, swatting, abusive language, threatening behavior, cyberbullies, “…a mean cruel world is a lonely one.” 109.
  • BOMP - FOMO - digital exclusion - heightened adverse social comparison for some.
  • Remedies - self-regulation, parental regulation of minors, age limits on some media.

26: DEC 6


  • Johnson, Fenton. "Going It Alone"
  • Kross, "Social Media and Well-Being"