Happiness Fall 2015 Study Questions

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1. What is philosophically and practically significant about the rise of Greek philosophy for the study of happiness?

2. Describe Plato's model for happiness. What would his basic argument about the nature of happiness be?

3. Describe Aristotle's model for happiness. What would his basic argument about the nature of happiness be?

3. What would we have to know about happiness to settle the question about Pat and Lee raised by Cahn and Vitrano?


1. How do you distinguish objectivist and subjectivist positions? Why is the distinction complicated?

2. What is Aristotle's core argument for his view of Happiness? What is Happiness for Aristotle?

3. What are some strengths and weaknesses of Aristotle's view?

SEP 10

1. In light of Haidt's discussion, how might you explain the phrase, "Happiness is in the journey"?

2. How can we account for the similar outcomes of lottery winners and paraplegics?

3. According to Haidt, what are some of the factors in your life that might increase your happiness in an enduring way?

SEP 15

1. Using Schimmack as an example, how do researchers build scientific models or constructs of happiness?

2. What do we know about top down vs. bottom up constructs of happiness? How might this knowledge affect internal vs. external strategies?

3. What do we know about the relationship between positive and negative affect?

SEP 17

1. What are some of the major structural and historic features of the human brain?

2. How do tensions between automatic and controlled processes relate to the problem of happiness?

3. What does a broadly evolutionary (biological) approach to consciousness suggest about the possibilities for improving happiness?

SEP 22

1. Which of the main researched factors in Argyle seem to provide the most credible evidence for various aspects of a Happiness construct?

2. What are some of the methodological difficulties in looking at correlational data on Happiness? How do you address some of those difficulties?

SEP 24

1. What are some of the main difficulties in measuring levels of SWB across nations, according to Diener and Suh?

2. What are some of the principle results and explanatory theories for national differences in SWB, according to Diener and Suh?

3. What considerations might enter into advising a national government to adopt more individualistic strategies for raising national SWB?

SEP 29

1. What is Epictetus' advice about happiness? Critically evaluate it in light of your current knowledge and thinking about happiness.


1. What is Epicurus's advice about happiness?

2. What is the implicit model of desire and pleasure in Epicurus' thought?


1. What is negative visualization and why do Stoics recommend its practice?

2. Could the practice of negative visualization produce high affect states including joy? Consider competing arguments and yours and others reported experiences.

3. What is Irvine's critique of the stoic "dichotomy of control"?

4. How does Irvine's "trichotomy of control" and "internal goal setting" address the problem of ambition or goal setting in stoicism?


1. Identify and contrast images of happiness from roman culture (Horace) and early christianity (Perpetua and Felicitas).

2. How did the Christian doctrine of salvation and happiness emerge and develope in the first 14 centuries of Chrisitianity, especially in the works of Augustine, John the Scot, and Aquinas?

OCT 13

1. How does the renaissance thought of Pico della Mirandola constitute a break and continuity with the history of church thought on the possibility and nature of happiness?

2. How does the Protestant Reformation, and Luther's thought in particular, reorient the discussion of happiness in Christianity?

3. Taking into consideration also Locke's thought, how would you characterize the emerging model of happiness in Enlightenment Europe?

OCT 15

1. What is the basic analysis of the causes of our unhappiness in Patanjali's yoga?

2. How does Donna Farhi make use of the doctrines of the five kleshas and the Brahmivihara to create a modern statement of yogic teaching?

OCT 20

1. What is psychology of suffering is implicit in the Buddhist metaphysical paradigm?

2. How does the Buddha articulate the value of meditation?

OCT 22


OCT 27

1. In what ways does Ricard's analysis of suffering and the ego provide an updated psychology for traditional buddhism?

2. Is egolessness, as Ricard explicates it, a promising happiness strategy?

OCT 29

1. What is the structure of savoring, according to Bryant, and how is it related to other similar processes?

2. What evidence do we have for an evolutionary and neurological basis to gratitude?

3. What evidence do we have for the belief that engaging in gratitude behaviors can improve longer term happiness?


1. How are savoring and coping linked, according to Bryant?

2. What evidence do we have for thinking about gratitude as a causal factor in SWB? What are the benefits of enhancing gratitude behaviors?

3. What is distinctive about the way humans think about the future? What do we know, in general, about the localization of brain functions related to planning and thinking about the future?


1. How does Gilbert address issues of objectivity and subjectivity in happiness studies in Chapter 2 and 3 of Stumbling on Happiness?

2. What reasons to we have to doubt the accuracy of our experience, to know what we are feeling, or to remember either?

3. Why does Gilbert think a Kantian model of consciousness better fits the evidence and hypotheses he has been discussing?

NOV 10

1. What is flow? What is its relation to happiness? How does it represent a reduction of "psychic entropy"?

2. What are some results of ESM research into the way we feel while doing ordinary activities?

NOV 12

1. What is the best way to explicate the value of relationship to us and to our happiness?

2. What evidence do we have for the importance of relationships to happiness?

3. How expansive is the concept of relationship? Can it include God, nature, non-human animals, one's self, the dead?

NOV 17

1. Does attachment theory, coupled with evolutionary psychology, make a compelling explanation for the natural origins of love?

2. Why is there such a discrepancy between this evolutionary theory of love and our actual experience of love as a culturally embedded phenomenon?

3. How is the culture of love variable and of recent origin? How, if at all, should our conception of love respond to contemporary culture and the demands of an individualistic and highly competitive culture?

NOV 19

1. How should we think about solitude as a happiness maker?

2. What are some of the unique circumstances and ideas the inform the "American experiment" in politics and happiness?

3. How does Weber theorize the combination of religion and capitalism?

NOV 24


1. What is some of the most compelling specific evidence that we have difficulty making judgements about the future? What is Gilbert's general theory about why we do this?

2. Considering research such as the UVA sports fan study and the poster satisfaction studies, how might we better manage choices and anticipations of the future?

3. How do our blindspots and limits in imagining the future affect our judgements of pleasure? How do consumption rates and variety affect adaptation?


1. Why do Montaigne and Ladner feel that intentionally thinking about death can be part of a plan for your happiness?

2. How does Montaigne make the case for thinking more about death?

3. How important is the reflection on or contemplation of death for happiness?


1. How is it possible to research the ways in which we "cook the facts" according to Gilbert?

2. What evidence is there for the existence of a psychological immune system in our psychology?

3. How do discrepancies between cs and uncs motivations and prospective and retrospective judgement complicate the project of happiness?

DEC 10