Happiness Fall 2016 Class Notes

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AUG 30

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Note on Method

  • Today's readings come from a history of happiness and a contemporary philosophical reflection on "living well" -- one of our core methods in the course will involve this kind of interdisciplinary study.
  • In your group exercise today, you will be working with methods such as: generating cases, ordering cases by principles, "pumping intuitions".
  • Thought experiment are part of a contemporary philosophers' toolkit. Nozick's "Experience Machine" is a thought experiment.

Some notes on Teaching Methods and Advice

  • grading schemes -- you may start editing your grading schemes, but it is early.
  • transparency and anonymity -- Saint names, pseudonyms, dropboxes, peer review, sharing student work, grade distributions
  • Note on finding audio.
  • Note on finding old class notes.
  • prep cycle -- check out "focus" notes on reading list, read, follow study questions from class, make notes in light of class, repeat.
  • Note your responses to things in your notes so that you can go back and collect them for the paper.
  • Mark or note your readings so that you can answer study questions for exams (only one required).

Some general notes on Classical Views and the problem of criteria for living well

  • note how happiness emerges as a concern in Greek culture -- (and in other cultures -- will be looking at Buddhism later)
  • Plato's (Socrates') view as exemplified in the Symposium -- finding happiness in the search for good accounts of things; knowledge.
  • Structure of Symposium -- Love and Happiness as being drawn toward a transcendent and complete reality. (and later in Christianity)
  • Specific term of Socrates' view -- eros --> desire --> lack vs. happiness --> fulfillment --> possession (self) -- problem of Alcibiades
  • Aristotle's view -- telic, developmental, but also privileging the rational, similar problem as Plato. Not an account of happiness for the masses.
  • Experience Machine. [1]
  • Raises the question of criteria for living well --

McMahon, "Chapter 1: The Highest Good"

1. Classical Greek Models of Happiness

Key theme: Greek cultural break with accommodation to destiny. Recognition of possibility of control of circumstances determining happiness.

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
  • Post-Socratic Schools -- Hellenism and Hellenistic culture
2. The Greek Philosophical Models in Greek Philosophical culture: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno.
A. Plato - Symposium gives us picture of Plato's view.
  • Contrast the Symposium with the cult of Dionysius
  • 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.
  • Object of desire is transcendent. (Reminder about Platonic metaphysics.) "intellectual orgasm" (36)
  • McMahon: "radical reappraisal of the standards of the world" 37
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.

Cahn and Vitrano, "Living Well"

  • considers how various philosophers would evaluate the contrast between the fictional cases of Pat and Lee
  • Taylor and Frankfurt: P&L are equal. "living in accord with your desires"
  • Living well: tied to distinctions between
  • "successful lives" vs. "wasted lives"
  • lives pursuing "intrinsically valuable" goals
  • lives that are "works of art"
  • fame and achievement vs. mission and meaning vs. satisfaction with one's own activities
  • concern about the possibility of ideology or cultural bias.
  • Wolf's list: computer games and crossword puzzles not on the list, but why not, asks Haidt?
  • why disparage making money, swimming, driving cool cars?
  • why do philosopher's think they can put philosophy at the top of the list?
  • Example of Phil Saltman
  • Cahn and Vitrano's answer: p. 21.

Small Group Work

  • Starting with the contrast between Pat and Lee, consider some of the criteria you might advocate for saying that someone was living relatively well. Is this a judgement that you can easily make? Does Aristotle's view help? Then consider whether there is any sort of relationship (from none to necessary) between living well and being happy?



  • conceptual analysis of subjective and objective in Vitrano
  • Haybron's mention of method, p. 10.

Vitrano, The Subjectivity of Happiness

  • "objectivist view" of happiness,
  • connects happiness and the good life, living a good life.
  • especially from Aristotle: happiness is objectively related to moral and prudential goodness, "living well" and "doing well"
  • objectivists limit happiness to those who can develop their capacities and talents.
  • subjectivist view:
  • "satisfaction criterion" (note: an objectivist can still require that one also be satisfied with one's life)
  • modified objectivism:
  • Warner: satisfaction, but also of "important desires" that are thought "worthwhile". Simpson adds that the desires must actually be worthwhile.
  • Annas: stronger still. We can assess our desires and goals objectively.
  • Kekes: We can assess whether someone's satisfaction is warranted.
  • Nozick: can't call someone happy if their emotions are unjustified and based on false evaluations
  • Counterarguments to the objectivists:
  • Case of Jane, who is happy in part because of her marriage, which she considers a success, but wrong about that because her husband is having an affair.
  • might want to say that Jane would be "better off" knowing the truth, but then happiness and being "better off" are at odds, which is a problem for an objectivist who thinks happiness is the "best" state.
  • second, to the extent that happiness is an emotion, we will have to credit the experience of the emotion as a form of fulfillment of the state.
  • Other considerations supporting a subjectivist view:
  • satisfaction criterion compatible with improvement. Someone can be happy and satisfied and yet they might still be happy if they made better moral and prudential decisions.
  • therefore, subjectivism and appraisal are not incompatible.
  • subjectivists explain behavior better.
  • people actually behaves as though happiness were one among many goals.

Haybron, Dan. Chapter 1: "A Remarkable Fact"

  • compares happy Socrates from a culture we regard as impoverished to us. and
  • compares Amish, Maasai, and Inughuit to us.
  • Paradoxical for our intuitions -- they are happy but don't have things we regard as necessary to happiness.
  • International data on happiness -- What does it mean?
  • the Piraha (Pidana) - outliers
  • maybe happiness is too variable to have a theory about. his approach, p. 9-10
  • advocates theorizing happiness as a psychological state, separate from life satisfaction.


Method notes

  • Today we're exploring (through 14 centuries!) the range of the cultural phenomenon of Happiness, adding information from Roman culture and Christian culture. It's hard to have a good theory without a sense of the variability and behavior of the phenomena. History discloses this in unique ways.

Gilbert, Chapter 1. Journey to Elsewhen

  • the difference, to the problem of happiness, from our ability to imagine a future.
  • Calls "Nexting" predicting immediate future for me; "predicting" both conscious and unconscious. surprise. measurable in the very young and primates. Notice the levels of "nexting" from simple to entirely imagined futures.
  • nexting happens in the frontal lobe; Phinneas Gage; lobotomies; tradeoffs between planning (being able to think about the future) and anxiety. N.N. - cognitive awareness of time without ability to imagine the future.
  • Prospection and Emotion: 12% of time we think about the future. ways that we enjoy anticipation of a future (18), even as substitute, American optimism and distorted sense of the future. imagining the future changes our predictions about the likelihood of our imaginings coming true. Cancer patients more optimistic about future than the healthy.
  • Control. study at 21ff. lots of specific results on control read 22.

Darrin McMahon, Chapter 2, Perpetual Felicity

  • Note time period being covered: 0-500 ad Roman - Christian culture
  • Roman culture of happiness: propsperity, fertility, power, luck. Also images of simplicity.
  • "Horatian" images of happiness: Carpe Diem, read p. 72, note M's hypothesis: idyllic imagery a response to urban decadence and disorder. also contains an element of fantasy of plenty, of a "cornucopia". note critical element in Horace: p. 74: finds that the wealth of Roman culture may have undermined happiness.
  • Early Christian Model of Happiness: 76-77: "worship of sorrow", major symbol about execution, but...blessed, beatitude, makarios (Greek). -- radical inversion of classical and Roman thought. To be happy is to walk in the way of the Lord.
  • Judaic culture of happiness/blessedness term: Asher -- note how terms and concepts from Hellenic/Judaic/Roman cultures are being mixed. Happiness model as a path or program of formation. (cf. East/West) Beatitudes from Matthew, p. 82. change in role of suffering Judaic to Christian...
  • Story of Perpetua and Felicitas (150ad). Martyrdom and Happiness.
  • Transitions in Christian thought on happiness after Early Christianity: Augustine, Pseudo-Dyonisius, Aquinas
  • Augustine, 96: personal history, symbol of Christian critique of pagan conception, yet also assimilation of Hellenic culture. "To be happy is to be suffused with truth, to 'have God within the soul," to "enjoy God". Note the big development here: positive happiness as a state of Christian joy. Also, Augustine makes the argument that the classical model fails to deliver this sort of happiness. City of God: explaining sacking of Rome, but also a model. Also, an articulation of the doctrine of original sin. need for grace in salvation. Pelagian controversy. Note summary at 105.
  • John the Scot (Eriugena) 847 ad, problem: how do we return to God from our exile? new articulation of free will (note importance to later history of happiness). rediscovers Pseudo-Dionysius, falsely thought to be contemporary of Paul (who mentions a Dionysius): Erugena's Dionysius was really a 6th century Syrian influenced by neoplatonism. mystical traditions both pagan (Plotinus) and christian (desert fathers)113. Great example of the fusion of classical and Christian thought. Platonic, Neo-Platonic, and Christian. Mystical bliss as a higher form of happiness.
  • Aquinas distinction between perfect and imperfect happiness. Idea of order of creation, ladder of being. (Ladders everywhere. Also a version in Plato's divided line.) Humans on top among mortal creatures. (need to appreciate how "hot" Aristotle was in 13th century Paris, among university students! some concerns for the church: condemnation of theses including the idea of happiness here.) Fusion with Aristotlean conception of nature, to an extent. note p. 126. connects Aristotle's ideal of contemplation to Christian spirituality.


1. What is radically distinctive about Christian models of happiness and what is borrowed from the philosophical and historical culture of the time?

2. How does the existence and function of the pre-frontal brain complicate the problem of happiness?

SEP 13

Method Notes

Today's reading is an overview of research which might help us build a "construct" for happiness. Brief mention of a structure for understanding how constructs (theories) develop through observation and experiment.
A core philosophical method, especially these days, is to try to synthesize the results of diverse research programs to represent a construct for something that, in the case of happiness for example, is too complex to know precisely.

Haidt, "Chapter 5: The Pursuit of Happiness"

(gloss on "elephant" vs. "rider")

  • Major theme -- happiness as internal or external pursuit.
  • About the structure of pleasure....
  • diminishes on repeat...evolutionary gloss
  • pre-goal attainment positive affect vs. post-goal attainment positive affect (Davidson)
  • Progress Principle: happiness in the journey -- "Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing."
  • The Adaptation Principle
  • we return to baselines for + and - experiences
  • we are sensitive to changes more than absolutes.
  • Problem: If the adaptation principle and heritability of happiness are both true, does it matter much what we do?
  • Attempt to "outrun" adaptation is "hedonic treadmill"
  • Buddha and Epictetus take a relatively "internal" path. Haidt suggests research shows this to be somewhat extreme direction to go -- there are things to strive for outside of yourself. (Kind of lumping alot together, but we'll be looking at this more.)
  • Haidt's list of happiness makers and unmakers(correlates and major causes)
  • Adaptation (habituation, also relative sensitivity to change -- nb. bottom of p. 85), hedonic treadmill, set point theory (heritability of happiness).
  • Bob and Mary comparison (87): relationship, meaningfulness. Bob's list more susceptible to adaptation. (Note some initial complications: Does marriage make people happy or do happy people marry? wealth effects (good topic for research paper).
  • Small group discussion with Report: In 20 minutes, develop a set of critical responses (or a single response) in 200-300 words to the following question: Why are so many people in the culture focused on raising their kids to be like Bob when it looks like Mary has more of the components of happiness in her life? Don't be reluctant to challenge perceived presuppositions of the question. You might want to agree on a strategy such as 5 minutes individual study, 10 minutes to produce the paragraph (5 minutes to get a draft, 5 to improve).
  • Happiness Formula
  • H = Set point + Conditions + Voluntary action
  • Is the lack of adaptation for cosmetic surgery disturbing or comforting? what's shallow vs. what matters.
  • from 92f: Noise, Commuting, Lack of Control, Shame, Relationships,
  • "It is vain to say that human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it." (Charlotte Bronte, 1847) (he implies, but incorrectly, that the inward path to happiness involves a choice of inaction.)
  • Flow (experience sampling) and Seligman's "Pleasures" vs. "Gratifications"; Strengths test www.authentichappiness.org,
  • Ways of working against your happiness
  • False hypotheses about material goods.
  • Comparisons and biases. Conspicuous consumption is a zero sum game.
  • Schwartz maximizers and satisficers.
    • Note concluding reflection: What are we to make of the Calcutta reports?

Rethinking Haidt's Happiness Formula

  • Haidt's formula: *H = Set point + Conditions + Voluntary action
  • Set point might be better thought of as "initial affect profile"
  • Relationship between Conditions and Voluntary action unclear. Actions change some conditions and habitual or dispositional responses might also create good conditions, yet not be wholly conscious and hence not wholly voluntary(?)
  • Conditions (ranging from fated to chosen) and Responses to Conditions
  • Meta -- actions and practices that we engage to develop and strengthen an orientation to life that will promote happiness and well being. These include practices that improve cognitive and emotive responses. (Haidt's "internal strategies". Also some of the capacities developed by the happiness practica.

SEP 15

Haybron, Chapter 2: What is Happiness?

  • takes us into a rich phenomenal account of emotional state happiness
  • endorsement
  • engagement
  • attunement
  • Is Haybron making a recommendation or describing objective, transcultural features of emotional happiness?
  • 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.
  • 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 have it.

Gilbert, Chapter 2: The View from in Here

  • Twins: Lroi and Reba. How to assess their preference?
  • Objectivity Issues: emotional, moral, judgement happiness.
  • How can the twins be happy? What is the role of "objective conditions"?
  • Subjectivity of Yellow, 32. Nozick's experience machine, 35. Happy Frank, p. 37. (Perhaps goal of this analysis is to see that normal understanding of happiness includes life happiness, virtues, and perfective activities.)
  • 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.
  • 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: [2]. Other perceptual aspects, 43-44.
  • 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.
  • R&L feel exactly like you do (about a birthday cake, for example) but talk about it differently.
  • consistent with the idea that the same feeling or state could receive a higher assessment by someone with limited experience.
  • 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 because of their limited background.
  • 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 a 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. (Small group prompt: Finding examples of this claim in our experience, critically evaluating the claim itself.)

SEP 20

Philosophical Methods at Work

  • In our group discussion work, you will be asked to speculate and draw inferences from Haidt's discussion of the the nature of the brain.
  • With Gilbert, we are asking about the deeper implications of psychological research related to self-knowledge and capacities for self-awareness.
  • The last part of the Gilbert chapter involves a "meta-theoretical" discussion. Philosophical investigations often raise meta-theoretical problems (more so than STEM researchers, I think. Well maybe not M).

Haidt, "The Divided Self"

  • metaphors from Plato and Buddha. Training metaphor in both. Plato's horses: rational and irrational desire. H's: elephant and rider. point: reason-based metaphors for consciousness don't explain our funny behavior with respect to our well-being. We seem more conflicted than a reason based model would suggest. Akrasia [3]
  • Freud: ego, id, superego.
  • discusses a number of preliminary distinctions:
  • Mind vs. Body - gut brain. neurons all over. GI and immune system illnesses intersect with psychological conditions such as stress and depression.
  • Left vs. Right -Michael Gazzaniga, collected evidence on split brain patients (severing corpus collasum to reduce seizures), controlled experiments with patients report of l/r brain function. split brains in everyday life... Why does this matter if you don't have a split brain??? "confabulation" - implications for our picture of csness.
  • New vs. Old -neo-cortex and frontal cortex recent - case of U VA schoolteacher in his forties who starts acting weird - massive tumor in frontal cortex. (Phineas Gage) -- moment of appreciation for the orbitofrontal cortex. Rationality embodied in part in our capacity to suppress urges and integrate desires in a social world. esp. orbitofrontal cortex (p. 12). Our rationality may be less of a stand-alone faculty than something that is socially enacted. (again, embodied cognition is trending here, but also explains connection with frontal cortex.)
  • Controlled vs. Automatic - priming research, 13. Larger background theory that rider evolved to serve the elephant. Important paper by Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber, "Why do Humans Reason?" [4]
  • Two Big examples of phenomena that arise from these structures and features of the brain.
  • Self-Control: Studied, famous in relation to failures of self control 18: Mischel and Impulse control [5] Poe and the "imp of the perverse"; 19: Wegner on ironic processes (don't think of a white bear). point: shows automatic and controlled processes at odds.
  • Disgust 21: disgust - incest scenario -
  • 22 q. final statement about rider and elephant. "We make pronouncements, vows, and resolutions, and then are surprised by our own powerlessness to carry them out. We sometimes fall into the view that we are fighting with our unconscious, our id, or our animal self. But really we are the whole thing. We are the rider, and we are the elephant. Both have their strengths and special skills."

Gilbert, Chapter 3: Outside Looking In

  • How well do we know what we're feeling?
  • Determining that something is scary comes before understanding it. (That's scary.) Recall's Haidt's Divided Self: automatic processes.
  • Capilano Bridge Study -- fear and arousal. reading without awareness.
  • Blindsight - visual experience and awareness of that experience are generated by distinct parts of the brain. 62.
  • Alexithymia - mismatch of experience and awareness of experience or lack of introspective awareness, leading to impoverished vocab of phen. experience. You could be happy and not know it. (That's scary, too.) But another claim being made here is about variation in people's aptitude for emotional self-description. This seems related to "emotional intelligence." (Discussion: Do people vary in this way? What, if any, intervention might alter one's capacity for emotional self-decription?)
  • Objectivity issue summarized: 64.
  • Addressing Measurement Issues
  • physical correlates, multiple measures, avoid priming,
  • Law of Large Numbers -- resolves some issues of subjectivity.
  • "problem of subjective experience" -- relation between knowledge of patterns and individual. point, bottom of p. 69. "law of larger numbers" to the rescue.

SEP 22

Short Writing Assignment

  • discuss rubric.
  • turn in assignment on courses.alfino.org Q&R dropbox. NO names on or in file, but student id is ok.

Arglyle, "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?] 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. [Comment on being a professor in Italy, for example.]
  • Note 356: social class predicts a big bundle of goods that also have measureable 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, purcasing power indexes, etc.)
  • Bradburn pay raise studies in '69. 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.
  • 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 sig 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Height in men. health (with causation in both directions).
  • 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?

Bishop, Michael. Intro and Chapter 1, "The Network Theory of Happiness"

  • Introduction
  • Theoretical problems in happiness studies from both philosophy and psychology.
  • Inclusive approach -- methodological assumption that there is a convergence of constructs.
  • Philosophers' problem: interminable discussion of whether the best theory of happiness is hedonism, Aristotelianism, or Informed Desire Theory. Somewhat arogant dismissal, by some philosophers, of empirical evidence.
  • Positive Psychologists' problem: Model of happiness seems ungrounded and maybe culturally specific. Big cheery, optimistic American smiles.....
  • Chapter 1
  • Basic claims of the theory.
  • Happiness about being in a complex mutually supporting and reinforcing causal network. Virtuous rather than vicious cycles.

SEP 27

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
  • 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 -- memory bias effects?
  • 2. Are nations meaningful units of analysis? Nationality predicts SWB in general and in sub groups (gender/age).
  • 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.

  • 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 439). 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.
  • Some details: .69 correlate between purchasing power and LS-SWB, lower, but sig. correlations with affect.
  • 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. (Carol Graham, Happiness Around the World, is the main successor research that I'm aware of. 1999 vs. 2009). Individualism is linked with wealth, so hard to separate effects. Note specific differences in valuation between individualist vs. collectivist culture. (442)
  • 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.
  2. theory of goal striving, SWB relative to goal pursuits, which are different between rich and poor nations.
  3. models of emotional socialization, different cultures/nations social young to affect in different ways.
  4. genetic explanations.

? ?

Bishop, Michael. Chapter 2 The Inclusive Approach to SWB

  • methodological point. (Really, this whole chapter is an argument about methodology.)
  • inclusive approach: assumes well-being is real and being described by multiple perspectives, including ordinary intuition. SWB is a real object of intuition. We should be modest about accuracy of self-accounts (like talk about water). Science matters.
  • Traditional approaches -- "over optimism" -- too much faith in primacy of intuitions or philosophical accounts. Descriptive Adequacy condition too strong. When we assent to the claims on p. 22-23, we are on solid ground, but we're talkiing about the "nature" of Happiness, not giving an explanatory construct.
  • Philosophy first -- discussion of nature of H must precede empirical study.
  • Note 27: one source of evidence against the Traditional approach is inter-cultural and transnational study of H. Also, philosophers disagree about the so-called bona fide intuitions. So the game is up. The inclusive approach wins.

SEP 29

Gilbert, Chapter 4: In the Blind Spot of the Mind's Eye

  • Comparions of Adolph Fisher & George Eastman. Point: Need to 2nd guess how we impose seemingly objective criteria on others' lives.
  • Just because it's easier for us to imagine that a certain kind of future will bring happiness, and what we imagine might even be in line with objective research, it doesn't follow that other futures won't.
  • Brain reweaves experience: study with cars and stop signs/yield signs. Information acquired after the event alters memory of the event.
  • Two highly confirmed results: Memory fills in. We don't typically notice it happening.
  • Model of Mind (84) Prior to 19th century:
"philosophers had thought of the senses as conduits that allowed information about the properties of objects in the world to travel from the object and into the mind. The mind was like a movie screen in which the object was rebroadcast. The operation broke down on occasion, hence people occasionally saw things as they were not. But when the senses were working properly, they showed what was there. This theory of realism was described in 1690 by the philosopher John Locke: brains "believe" they don't "make believe" .
  • Model of Mind brought in with Kant at beginning of 1800's:
Kant's idealism: "Kant's new theory of idealism claimed that our perceptions are not the result of a physiological process by which our eyes somehow transmit an image of the world into our brains but rather, they are the result of a psychological process that combines what our eyes see with what we already think, feel, know, want, and believe, and then uses this combination of sensory information and preexisting knowledge to construct our perception of reality. "
  • Still, we act like realists: truck moving study-- we are first realists, but we learn to adopt an idealist perspective in social communication.
  • We fill in details: imagine a plate of spaghetti. Very important for thinking about how we fill in the future.
  • point for happiness theories: p. 89.

Haybron, Chapter 3, "Life Satisfaction"

  • Should we say that Bickham was both satisfied with his life and happy? Problem: "You can judge your life satisfying no matter how you feel." You can judge yourself satisfied with a life that is not going well.
  • 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."
  • Problems with LS judgements:
  • they are global judgements of complex sets of events over time.
  • 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?
  • determining "well enough" is pretty subjective (variable).
  • most people seem to be able to assert satisfaction with their lives indendently of whether they were "choiceworthy"
  • Criticisms

Small Group Exercise

  • Consider the examples of Fischer, Eastman, Bickham, and Wittgenstein, along with Gilbert's point about idealism. Then try to answer this question: What is the relationship between life satisfaction and happiness?


Some Dates

"The Stoic Worldview"

Theology & Ontology -
  • pantheism -- theos - (pneuma) - matter.
  • ontology - All is corporeal, yet pneuma distinguishes life and force from dead matter.
Determinism and Freedom - Ench #1
Pneuma, Psyche, and Hegimonikon: Importance of Hegemonikon
Model of Growth and Development toward Sagehood & Wisdom - Soul-training

Late Stoicism: Epictetus

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.

Some passages that define the practical philosophy which follows from the metaphysics and this principle:

  • Notice the "re-orientation" which is recommended in #1 and #2. "confine your aversions"
  • "Some things are in our control and others are not."
  • "Confine your aversion" and understand the limits of things. (Sounds like an “aversion” retraining program based on knowledge claims.)
  • Infamous #3. Read with #7, #8, and #14, in case we’re being too subtle. "confine your attractions"
  • Something like mindfulness, #4
  • Limits of pride. Catching the mind exaggerating.
  • Desire: #15,
  • Comportment and advice in later points of the enchiridion.
  • alignment: 8
  • awareness of change: 11
  • observing asymmetries: 26
  • importance of commitment
  • note specific advice in 33, 34, 35. "measure" in 39, read 41. 43

Small Group Prompt

  • Revisit the most difficult parts of stoic moral psychology. For example, consider Stoic teaching on attachment to loved ones. What is the best way to make a criticism of Stoic teaching in this area. How might a stoic defend him/herself? Is there a plausible or insightful psychology behind Stoicism?

Hypotheses on Stoic Happiness

1. A Happiness you deserve ---
2. Happiness is a further goal from virtue.
3. Virtue is a means to happiness. (in common with Epicurus) (#12 and #13 - If you want to improve...)
4. Stoic joy is real happiness.
5. Stoicism is a council of wisdom, not happiness.


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

  • Key Idea: Pleasure is the Good ("Alpha and Omega of a happy life." - Letter)
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • "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 . . . "
  • tetrapharmakos:
  • 1. Don't fear gods.
  • 2. Death is nothing. - note his arguments here and the similar in method to stoicism - need to live the awareness.
  • 3. What is good is easy to get.
  • 4. What is evil is easy to endure.
  • PD 5: Relation of virtue to pleasure
  • PD 18: close to adaptation.
  • PD 25: something akin to mindfulness.
  • PD 27-8: priority of friendship.

Small group exercise on Hedonism

  • Consider Epicurus' theory of desire and pleasure as a solution to a "hedonic optimization" problem. Epicurus thinks pleasure optimizes at the cessation of pain and desire, but we have raised other optimization principles. Consider these and the general prospects for a sophisticated hedonism to contribute to your theory of happiness.

Article on Epicurus' concept of pleasure Epicurus_on_Pleasure_and_the_Complete_Life

OCT 11

Note on Method

Irivne's work gives a good example of mixing two techniques: critiquing and "saving" a theory. When you "save" a theory from a criticism, you try to figure out, among other things, what the theory is really committed to and which parts of the theory are optional or could be revised.

William Irvine, Chapter 4, "Negative Visualization"

  • from p. 82: "To practice negative visualization is to contemplate the impermanence of the world around you."
  • Reasons for contemplating bad things: prevention, diminish effect, reverse adaptation.
  • Adaptation: wants to reverse it. "creating a desire in us for the things we already have" 67-68. Two fathers thought experiment. (also gratitude.)
  • Contemplation of our own death 70: stimulus to robust hedonism or thoughtful appreciation?
  • Sources of evidence for possibility of "?Stoic Joy": children (whose experience is too new to have adapted deeply), people who survive disasters (catastrophe-induced transformation). Negative visualization doesn't have the drawbacks of catastrophe induced transformation.
  • 77: connects neg. vis. to giving thanks: example of saying grace. (Note that Fortune and God play similar roles here.)
  • 79: "the asymmetry" (found in stoic, epicurean, and buddhist thought) -- use the asymmetry in your response to your own vs. others' loss as a way of altering your response to your own loss.
  • Objections: recall that neg. vis. is not a persistent meditation. p. 81: Doesn't this heighten loss? response: the two fathers again (81)

William Irvine, Chapter 5, "The Trichotomy of Control"

  • Some things up us, some things aren't.
  • Internal strategy: changing ourselves. Desire not to be frustrated by future desires. [Problem: Stoicism seems to counsel a withdrawl or low goal setting.]
  • Irvine's critique of dichotomy: ambiguity -- total or partial control. [Note on philosophical method.]
  • Critique of stoic claim that we have complete control of desires, and aversions. Tennis match example (88). Casino example: Epictetus wrong to include desire as something completely internal.
  • Claims: We do have complete control over goals, opinion, and character.
  • 94: response to "Stoicism is a 'withdrawl from life' philosophy" and that a Stoic would avoid attachment (96)
  • Should you want to win the tennis match, as a Stoic? internal/externally expressed goals. 96-97.
  • Problem of Stoic cosmopolitanism: Why would a stoic set goals that would threaten his/her tranquility? Small group question: Does the trichotomy of control and internal goal setting solve the problem?

OCT 13

Some General Points on Yoga

  • samadhi - the goal of the spiritual practice of yoga; ecstasy, union; a mystical experience of enlightenment. mention connection to wisdom.
  • Yoga, defined in various ways, also in relation to Vedanta narrative. dualism and monism in yogic thought.
  • 3 periods pre-classical (or Vedanta), classical (Patanjali 2nd cent. CE), and post-classical (ex. Shankara, 8th cent). Important that Patanjali's period represents a dualist approach. Purusa / Prakrati. Spirit / Nature, roughly.
  • Teacher/disciple model.
  • Yoga is infused in multiple traditions: Hindu, Buddhist, and its own. Meditative figures on coins from 3,000 bc. Rig Veda has image of a yogi who, by achieving physical control through asanas (poses) and physical austerities (fasting, meditation, etc.) achieves access to a "deeper realm" of insights about reality.
  • Yoga in Bhagavad Gita (Miller 10): Arjuna, warrior, locked in battle with his own kin. Important conversation with Krishna. (Pre-classical) Like Homeric, Yoga has a history in warrior culture and warrior ethos (duty). (mention Antigone)

Miller, Yoga: Discipline of Freedom, Introduction

  • This is an introduction to her edition / translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
  • "The aim of yoga is to eliminate the control that material nature exerts over the human spirit, to rediscover through introspective practice what the poet T. S. Eliot called the "still point of the turning world." " This is a state of perfect equilibrium and absolute spiritual calm, an interior refuge in the chaos of worldly existence. In the view of Patanjali, yogic practice can break habitual ways of thinking and acting that bind one to the corruptions of everyday life."
  • basic analysis found in the "paradoxical nature of memory and thought itself" -- Our minds get us into trouble.
  • solitude and turning away from the world are only stages and strategies. not a renunciation philosophy.
  • Yoga is, fundamentally, an individual spiritual program. q. p 4 (ties in with meaning of "yoga" - spiritual yoke; discipline, but also integration of forces, like a yoke.
  • From Samkhya dualism: everything is a mix of prakrati and purusa.
  • The Three Gunas (13): Lucidity (sattva), Passion (rajas), and inertia (tamas). Part of the problem of existence is that the faculties of understanding are material. Interesting difference from Western association of Reason with the Divine and Transcendent.
  • The psychology of Patanjali's yoga: follow Miller's discussion of thought process (17) (citta), "tyranny of uncontrollable thought," reducing thought "traces" or "seeds". goal to make thought "invulnerable" to the chaos of mental and physical stimuli. to do that, we need to attend to how the mind produces desire, anger and delusion.
  • In Patanjali:
  • First, there's a process of "unenlightenment" -- Purusa becomes bound to prakrati. Enlightenment is about undoing the this entanglement. (Note again connection with Buddhism). q. p. 19: Ignorance...
  • 1st Small group discussion activity:
  • Look for and share experiences you have had that might be examples of the kind of untanglement and amplification of thought and emotion that Patanjali was thinking about when he suggested we pursue "seedless" thought. In what circumstances do you find that thought "feeds on itself" or becomes persistent. How does social psychology and phenomena such as gossip or drama create such situations?

Donna Farhi, "Cleaning up Our Act: The Four Brahmavihara

  • Five Kleshas in Patanjali:
  • 1. Avidha: Ignorance of our eternal nature
  • 2. Asmita: Seeing oneself as separate and divided from the rest of ??the world
  • 3. Raga: Attraction and attachment to impermanent things
  • 4. Dvesha: Aversion to the unpleasant
  • 5. Abhinivesha: Clinging to life because we fail to perceive the seamless continuity of consciousness, which cannot be broken by death (Yoga-Sutra 13)
  • Note that the first two have to do with identity and the last three with desire. Maybe there's a connection between how I'm thinking about myself (as a self) and my ability to manage desire?
  • Ashtanga Yoga -- eight fold program (from wikipedia):
Sanskrit English
Yama moral codes
Niyama self-purification and study
Asana posture
Pranayama breath control
Pratyahara sense control
Dharana intention
Dhyana meditation
Samadhi contemplation

  • The Brahmavihara are four attitudes Patanjali recommends developing:
  • 1. Friendliness toward the joyful
  • 2. Compassion for those who are suffering
  • 3. Celebrating the good in others
  • 4. Remaining impartial to the faults and imperfections of others(Yoga-Sutra 1.33)
  • Notes on Brahmivihara:
  • Note Fahri's more "social" focus. The first three Brahmavihara take us outside of ourselves.
  • Compassion might involve the obvious, but also note leaving people "invisible" - reaching out. also "loving-kindness" meditation.
  • 3: cultivating a habit of spontaneous appreciate, noticing (and working on) any jealousy effects.
  • 4: note the "costs" of having an enemy. overcoming the need to fix situations.

Additional Quote on Goal of Yoga

from T. S. Rumani, " Samkhya-Yoga," Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

  • 2nd small group discussion question
  • Does making yourself calm and lucid in the way that yogics advocate entail being less active in your life? What sorts of activity

Introduction to Yoga Practicum

We'll save 10 minutes at the end of class for those interested in hearing about the yoga practicum.

OCT 18

Introduction to Buddhism (from wikipedia)

  • The Four Noble Truths
1 There is suffering.
2 There is the origination of suffering: suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes.
3 There is the cessation of suffering: all future suffering can be prevented by becoming aware of our ignorance and undoing the effects of it.
4 There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
8 fold path. (see above and in Feuerstein.)

Division Eightfold Path factors
Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā) 1. Right view
2. Right intention
Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: sīla) 3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
Concentration (Sanskrit and Pāli: samādhi) 6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

- from wikipedia.

Introduction to Buddhism (Siderits, Chapter 2, "Early Buddhism: Basic Teachings")

  • Background on Buddha
  • note heterodoxy, intro/dev karmic theory (and theory of liberation from rebirth), moral teaching ind. of focus on ritual and deities.
  • consensus on "moksa" as goal of enlightenment. Buddha's teaching one of many.
  • Siderits presents sramanas as critical and questioning of heterodoxy.
Two background concepts (not directly in this text)
  • Distinction between conventional and ultimate reality -- as relates to the doctrine of "no-self"
  • Nature of "moral causation" -- fundamental to thinking about karma
  • The Four Noble Truths
1 There is suffering.
1. Normal pain. Decay, disease, death. (Flip to Pali Canon, p. 51)
2. Suffering from ignorance of impermanence. Including ignorance of no-self. Suffering from getting what you want or don't want.
3. Suffering from conditions and attachments. "Existential Suffering" Rebirth itself is a form of suffering. (So belief in rebirth doesn't solve the problem of suffering in one life. 21: Rebirth entails re-death. The thought of rebirth is a reminder of the impermanence we wish to escape.) Includes questioning since of purpose in face of indifferent universe (or lack of evidence thereof).
2 There is the origination of suffering: suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes.
Theory of Dependent Origination: Note the chain of causal connection ("Engine of Reincarnation") advanced on p. 22 of Siderits: ignorance ultimately causes suffering, but the intermediate steps are important. Let's give a psychological reading of this metaphysical chain of causation. (compare to Pali Canon, p. 52)
  • Rough sequence: ignorance of the reality of self, volitions, consciousness, sentience, sense organs, sensory stimulation, feeling, desire, appropriation, becoming, birth (rebirth), aging and death.
3 There is the cessation of suffering: all future suffering can be prevented by becoming aware of our ignorance and undoing the effects of it. "It is the utter cessation and extinction of that craving, its renunciation, its forsaking, release from it, and non-attachment to it." (from Pali Canon reading)
4 There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
8 fold path. importance of meditation (p. 24) -- negative states of mind have causal consequences. philosophy needed to work with the ideas and moments of self-reflectiveness that meditation generates. (25)

  • Cessation of suffering: meditation, (non)self-discovery.
  • Need to assess this recommended "training program" more in light of Discourse on Mindfulness and the Eight Fold path (See wiki page Noble Eight Fold Path)
  • Note discussion of meditation, p. 25. Basic theory for mindfulness meditation exercise.
  • Liberation - enlightenment is marked by the cessation of new karma.
  • rejection of presentism (claim that key to insight to get used to impermanence) and annihilationism as models for liberation.
  • paradox of liberation: how can you desire liberation if liberation requires relinquishment of desire. Possible solution: to desire the end of suffering.
  • Psychologically, liberation might understood today as positive identity change -- The desire to be liberated might less a desire to get something for your current self as to become another self, one that acts effectively in the world without ego attachment.
  • Problem following the consequences of "non-self": Buddhist maxim: "Act always as if the future of the Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference."

Pali Canon, Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness

  • "Mindfulness is also the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. By developing mindfulness, a person first observes the various aspects of one's being,then learns to control the mind and its reactions to external and internal stimuli." Mindfulness presumes a moral orientation on the world.
  • Basic goals of meditation: cultivation of awareness and "control" of sense and feeling. (Control: quieting, not being at the mercy of psychological processes and processes of desire.) How does meditation do that? notes 44-
  • Four foundations of mindfulness, five aggregates of attachment, six bases of sense, seven factors of enlightenment, four noble truths (51),
  • Some Points:
  • Mindfulness not disconnection from environment, but intense connection, especially if one can control the mental processes that interrupt one's full experience.
  • Note use of lists and repetition. inventories.
  • Note "joy and happiness born of detachment" 57

Introduction to self-guided mindfulness meditation

  • Goal is to experience a psychological "meditation effect," often in 3rd week. Characteristics.
  • Initial challenges
  • Time, Place, Seating and Environment
  • Maintaining comfortable alertness
  • Working with mental content: problem of thought suppression. "Try not to think of a white bear."
  • Techniques for dissipating mental content: visualizations, returning to breath, optical effects. Generally focus on techniques that avoid thought suppression, but disengage gently from the thought or memory.
  • Weekly goals.
  • Early weeks: Overcoming obstacles to meditation --> Experiencing some "meditation effect"
  • Later weeks: Noticing changes in mental state (if any) pre post meditation. Noticing differences between different meditation experiences. Noticing changes in interaction with others, mood, or affect within hours of meditation.
  • Students have sometimes timed meditations to particular events (stressful or fun) to try to notice effects.

OCT 20

Matthieu Ricard, Chs. 6&7: Alchemy of Suffering and Veils of the Ego

Chapter Six: Alchemy of Suffering (Modern version of 4 noble truths)

  • Shortest history of the kingdom: "They Suffer"
  • Pervasive suffering -- from growth and development
  • Suffering of Change -- from illusion of permanence.
  • Multiplicity of Suffering -- suffering from awareness of the many ways things can go wrong.
  • Hidden Suffering -- anxiousness about hidden dangers
  • Note connection to Gilbert: because we can "next" (imagine futures and alternate presents, design) we are open to these kinds of suffering. Quite a bargain.
  • Invisible Suffering -- as in the food industry, suffering of workers to bring you cheap socks. A consequence of invisible suffering is that we repeat the behaviors that lead to it because we don't see it (also food examples).
  • Suffering is ubiquitous, but we can learn the causes. Suffering can be avoided "locally" (as entropy can be reversed locally). Note that Buddhism involves a consistent commitment to causation even as, over centuries, our understanding of it has changed.
  • Sources of Suffering -- self-centeredness, our unhappiness is caused, 4 Noble Truths.
  • A Buddhist tetra pharmakos: Recognize suffering, Eliminate its source, End it, By Practicing the Path.
  • 66: "One can suffer physically or mentally -- by feeling sad, for instance -- without losing the sense of fulfillment that is founded on inner peace and selflessness"
  • Buddhist story of woman distraught over loss, sent by Buddha to gather dirt from all houses without loss.
  • Note 67: parallel story as in stoicism.
  • brings in a dash of attachment theory 69-71.
  • Methods for responding to suffering -- Control of sense and emotion. Meditation. Use of mental imagery. Mindful self-observation and reflection.
  • Some themes of a modern (scientifically oriented) Buddhist explication of the 4 Noble Truths:
  • Causal attitude toward suffering at the psychological more than metaphysical level. 65, 67; use of neurology to understand pain and related phen. 73
  • Positive aspects of suffering 71 -- suffering can be productive for spiritual dev.
  • Mental imagery in ancient and modern Buddhist practice; use of meditation in management of tendencies of ego. (Note to meditators. Use visualization to re-center and avoid the dynamics of conscious thought suppression.)
  • Use in stimulating positive and prosocial emotions: compassion, empathy. (stories of suffering endured with growth)
  • Note the emphasis on conscious use of methods that get at pre-conscious expression of emotion. The emotions are the "scene" for progress, not just a matter of rational control of emotions. more of a training model. While the meditations and use of mental imagery might seem a little far out to some of you, recall that this is being proposed within a naturalistic (evolutionary and neurological) model. He's making empirical predictions about how you can alter your responses to the conditions of your suffering.

Chapter Seven: Veils of the Ego (modern version of "no self" doctrine)

  • Ego as a fear reaction to the world. reread 80. (Is it? Is this too strong? or wrong? note subclaim 83, note dispositions) consider evidence from everyday life: Children, social situations with peers. Needs to maintain the self in equilibrium with social reality, not just physical reality. Ego formation is not being contested here. It's a natural social psychological process. But by observing some of our characteristics biases in contructing the self, we can avoid some behaviors that lead to unhealthy suffering.
  • Consequence of typical ego formation is a sense of separateness.
  • Observing the ego at work: example of physical and moral pain, 84. example of the vase, the asymmetry of our response is a clue. This is the "fundamental attribution error" [6]

  • What to do with the Ego? -- here Ricard wants to separate healthy, self-confident development of a self (what Buddhists might teach their children) from egoism.
  • Problem: How can I live without an ego? R's response: true self-confidence is ego-less.
  • Cites Paul Ekman's studies of emotionally exceptional people. ego-less and joyful. The sense you can have that someone simply wouldn't hurt you and wants the best for you. Isn't satisfying any "neediness" on you.
  • Psychopaths, on the other hand, have huge egos.
  • The Deceptive Ego: Gives brief account of the illusion of self.
  • What is the best way think about our experience of "self" from a scientific and Buddhist point of view? Between a past and future that don't exist? 90: self a name we give to a continuum. A concept that refers to a dynamic process. The up side of this view of the self is that you can exert control on the influence that shape it. It's an illusion, but it's your illusion.
  • Attitude toward ultimate reality of things. 93 Some of Buddha's preferred metaphors for the self.

Small Group Discussion

  • To what extent do you share Ricard's analysis of the effects of egocentricity on happiness? What does it mean to be "egoless"? Would this be bad advice to someone starting a career, for example?
  • Review Ricard's critique of the self. To what extent do we reify the self? Does this place a role in unhappiness and suffering?

OCT 25

Random Food Discovery and Food News

  • This is from 2015 and while very much related to happiness, rather tangential in connection with today's readings.
  • Along the way, Spence has found that a strawberry-flavored mousse tastes ten per cent sweeter when served from a white container rather than a black one; that coffee tastes nearly twice as intense but only two-thirds as sweet when it is drunk from a white mug rather than a clear glass one; that adding two and a half ounces to the weight of a plastic yogurt container makes the yogurt seem about twenty-five per cent more filling, and that bittersweet toffee tastes ten per cent more bitter if it is eaten while you’re listening to low-pitched music. This year alone, Spence has submitted papers showing that a cookie seems harder and crunchier when served from a surface that has been sandpapered to a rough finish, and that Colombian and British shoppers are twice as willing to choose a juice whose label features a concave, smile-like line rather than a convex, frown-like one. (From an article in this week's Food Issue of NYer.)

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 and you don't know it...)
  • other correlates.
  • 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."
  • "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.
  • Correlates of gratitude: greater LS, hope, less depression, anxiety, envy, prosociality, empathy, forgivingness, less focused on material goods, more spiritual and religious.
  • Core Emmons and McCullough gratitude research. Three studies: Gratitude Journals with pre/post testing. gratitutde, hassles, and events conditions, 1. 1xwk 10 weeks, 2. daily 3wks, 3. in adults with neumuscular disease. results: higher LS, optimism, lower health complaints, more excercise. results held up 6 months later. anecdote.
  • Some evidence in kids.
  • Benefits:
  • 1. strengthen social relationships
  • 2. counters NA and depression (increases positive memory bias -- a form of positive illusion!)
  • 3. promotes resiliency (study of responses to disaster)
  • Gratitude and the Brain
  • Cognitive-affective neuroscience construct (What's happening to your brain when you experience gratitude?)
  • 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. (Read at 483)
  • 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.)

  • 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.

Bryant, Chapter 8: Enhancing Savoring

  • Theoretical Issues:
  • How much can savoring do given set point theory? (Lykken 2000 - "trying to be happier...") "range"
  • Similar efforts: Fordyce's happiness intervention study: savoring a common feature
  • 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)
  • 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) ---
  • 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 orietnation
  • 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.
  • Exercises
  • Vacation in Daily Life -- (in food studies, "slow culture" (from the slow food movement).
  • Life Review -- "chaining"
  • Camera Exercise

Additional Issues:

  • The connection between savoring and gratitude (handout from Chapter 5 on ereserves)
  • Savoring and Connoisseur-ship: Does Savoring require (or is it enhanced by) connoisseur-ship? How does that square with Epicurean simplicity?

OCT 27

Bishop, Michael. Chapter 3, "PCNS and the Network Theory of Well-Being,"

  • Network theory of well-being: well-being is a function of the strength of PCN and PCN fragments.
  • Cites important 2005 article by Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener on study of positive feedback look between happiness nd success. Terms for this: upward spiral, postive feedback loop, virtuous circle (vs. vicious),
  • Bishop broadens this insight to include: "thought-action repertoires" and positive affect generally.
  • broaden and build hypothesis: p. 37
  • interesting counter thought to the idea that positive emotions are evolutionarily dangerous. Bishop suggests they might be adaptive.
  • It seems that Bishop is posing a pretty novel kind of theory of well-being. Instead of describing and "end state" of what happiness is or must be, as most of our philosophers and theorists have done, he wants us to think about the "repertoires and resources" that build robust personal networks sustaining both happiness and success.
  • Example: The way states of order in your life deteriorate under the pressure of midterms....
  • Quick group discussion: Does the concept of PCNs make intuitive sense as a way of accounting for happiness? Can you give further examples?
  • More technical account:
  • PCNs include feelings, emotions, attitudes, behaviors, traits, and accomplishments.
  • "homeostatic clusters" p. 40
  • positive states are those with hedonic tone ("surplus pleasure") and a kind of "value fit" (personal or cutural). Could include flow.
  • Networks have "causal drivers" - sensitivity to certain variables. (Similar to what other theorists call your personal strengths. ex. p. 43). These are somewhat subjective.
  • Strengthening your PCN
  • change intensity of states
  • change in size/complexity of your network
  • roustness curves tells you about maximums for specific resources. kind of like golden mean.
  • The Nun Study


Philosophical Method: Multiples frames for studying happiness

  • This is a good moment to notice how many distinct frames of reference we have going now for thinking about happiness: ::*philosophical traditions, comparative philosophy
  • religion, comparative religion
  • historical development of cultural ideas of happiness, with drivers such as wealth and the growth of knowledge
  • cross cultural comparison of meaning and levels of happiness, and of course
  • individual psychological constructs (Hs / Hl; PA/NA)
  • Important to see how these frames of reference each have critical theoretical questions, but also practical questions associated with them. (give examples)

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

  • Contemptus Mundi: 13th-15th century: characteristics.
  • Contrast with Renaissance Humanism:
  • studia humanitis -- 141
  • 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.)
  • Renaissance Neo-platonism 151: vertical path to happiness.
  • Bronzino's Allegory of Happiness -- connection to earthly happiness evident.
  • 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.
  • Emerging Images and Ideas: 15th-16th centuries
  • Felicitas
  • Smiles -- also, Mona Lisa, early 1500's
  • Melancholy as disease: expressed in theory of humours;
  • 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.
  • Reformation
  • Martin Luther and happiness: 1534 letter, ok to be happy, salvation by faith,
  • Calvin
  • English Civil War -- opens up wide range of alternative views p. 175-176.
  • Locke, late 17th century. tabula rasa, nb. 180. Mind is impressed upon by experience and nature. Has its own imperatives. Note what is left out: original sin. Reassertion of happiness as driver of desire. Note enlightenment model of reasonableness of christianity here. Roughly: Reason discovers our happiness and God, as its author, wants this for us. Letter on Toleration very important for construction of modern model of self. Note context of religious wars. [European Wars of Religion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_wars_of_religion]
  • Locke also important to history of happiness for political thought, which supports democratic republicanism over monarchy -- note trending models of happiness toward control of one's life at personal and political levels. Note connection at p. 182. "pursuit of happiness"
  • Hobbes: we are governed by desire continuously, so happiness must be the continual satisfaction of aims and desires. disparages tranquility or katastematic pleasures.
  • nice summary at par bot 185 - 186

Discussion of the period

  • How should we read this history critically? What in it do we "own" or endorse?
  • Is the renaissance, reformation, and enlightenment to be read as the full flowering of a Christian conception of happiness or the secularization of culture?

Csiksentmihalyi, Finding Flow, Chapters 1-2

Structures of Everyday Life

  • Note how C establishes his humanistic psych presuppositions and commitments in the first few pages. human capacities, potential, development. What's possible? story of Joe.
  • Focus on how we spend our time and the state of mind/affect we experience from diff. activities in daily life: production, maintenance, leisure. q. p. 8
  • Note cultural and historical differences in the way we spend time and think about the value of productive time. C's ideas here are once again in fashion with "slow culture" writing. add in note about "attentional economy" seems suspicious of TV.
  • Experience Sampling Method -- p. 14ff

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: Happiness is positive emotion that might be driven by behavior. And, it may be especially evident in a life of commitments and goals which reduce "psychic entropy."
  • 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. Interesting point about self-esteem being independent of accomplishment -- possibly a problem of goal setting. Notice throughout, p. 22 for example, robust endorsement of human potential. Assumption: We could be alot happier (if we follow the implications of this theory).
  • Note distinction between Eastern philosophical suspicion of origin of goals and "superficial reading" that suggests it counsels renunciation of goals. (recall discussion of enlightenment and fourth brahmavirhara.)
  • three contents of consciousness: emotions, intentions, and thoughts. their integration allows for flow.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • Small Group prompt: Report experiences of flow. What are the limits to what can count as a flow experience? What are the obstacles? What is its relationship to happiness in your view? Does a happy life have to have flow?


Csiksentmihalyi, Chapter 3, "How We Feel When Doing Different Things"

  • Table 2: Quality of Experience in Everyday Activities. review. Where are opportunities for +affect at work, in maint. activities, and leisure.
  • Note comments on solitude, 41-42. hypothesis: interaction makes us happy because it structures psychic energy by external demands. some theorists talk about the "ethics of the face".
  • some research on American's social networks (people you could call for a favor) are smaller than other western cultures.
  • American's experience driving as a very positive experience. Men and women experience different moods in different parts of the house.
  • Schizophrenic patient and ESM
  • Implicit hypothesis: People have different strategies and degrees of awareness of how to manage their affect (a form of self-care). Happiness might be improved by developing these capacities for self-care and by critical assessment of one's assumptions about how different activities are supposed to make one feel. One way start on that would be to become mindful of both the assumptions we have about different activities and the moods, emotions, and rationalizations that we experience during and in anticipation of them.

McMahon, Chapter 6: Liberalism and Its Discontents

  • Enlightenment model of liberalism
  • 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.
  • Dec. of Independence: tracing "pursuit of happiness" in enlightenment texts. connected in part to "life, liberty and property", but also in Locke, pursuit of pleasure, seen in "sensualist" terms as unending, relentless. Hence, the value in Am. culture of Christian and Enlightenment Christian (Jeffersonian) praise of christian values of restraint and group commitment. Moral sense theorists of the Scottish Englightenment (326) provide another route to these values.
  • Clearly a diversity of view about that. Enlightenement values consistent with Christianity (example of Locke's view that reason takes us to God), but many in Enlightenment are not religious. Jefferson, McMahon takes us back to the some of the characters of the Scottish Enlightenment to reinforce this idea of diversity.
  • 324: Tension in American Model seen in distinct strains of Libertarian (rooted in freedom of conscience and religion) vs. Classical Republican (rooted in a duty to civic participation and contribution to the public good). Note also in recent books on Franklin (2016).
  • 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.
  • 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." praised ënlightened self-interest of americans.
  • Mill's contribution: Autonomy and Liberal Hope
  • 343: image of John Stuart Mill reviewing Toq's essays and longing for democracy in Europe.
  • If. "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 in Mill (and Butler), the problem of indirect happiness. Mill's passage 348 breaking with simple Benthamism.
  • Mill, On Liberty passage 350 - can't violate someone's liberty to make them happier...
  • McM: Is there a romanticism in Mill's position on Liberty?
  • Weber's contribution: Socio-religious insight into the dynamic between capitalism and Protestant Christianity.
  • Weber Section: review. 3n. 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. ( g. 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.
  • 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."
  • Discussion topic: What are some of the "trade offs" in the American cultural model of happiness. Where do you see influences from our history that you find problematic given your understanding of the nature of happiness?


Csiksentmihalyi, Chapter Six, Relationships and the Quality of Life

  • Concept of individual as product of social world, social world scripts transitions to adult relationship.
  • samskara - Hindu codes of conduct by age. (Does social life actually produce the individual in an important sense?)
  • "A relationship that leads to order in consciousness instead of psychic entropy has to meet at least two conditions.
  • 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.
  • 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). [Note that in this case the "moving target" is not a problem.]
  • Big research result: ESM study confirms profile of happiness for time spent with friends. Fig. 3 p. 83.
  • Notes some changes from traditional social life: Americans tend to be friends with their parents more -- a novel and recent change. Changes in the coupling of sociability and relationship: marriages not formerly assumed to be about friendship or social intimacy.
  • Summary of good family life, read p. 88. Note the focus on the "work" families do in our lives.
  • [Discussion Point: Evaluate C's criteria of friendship. How flexible are we with regard to relationship and how big a threat does a (non-traditional) highly competitive achievement oriented culture pose to relationships?]
  • Balance of solitude and social experience. German study by Noelle-Newman on overestimation of desirability of solitude -- (related to recurring historical motif of the "blessed isle" - Rousseau and in classical Roman period Hesiod)
  • Discusses cities as places of historical challenge to our ability to manage difference and close interaction. Connects to globalism and contrasts to efforts to "restore" communities' traditional social bonds.
  • Possible discussion: Should we cultivate capacities for happiness in solitude or "follow the data"? More on this later.
  • Closes with claims about the social character of creativity and knowledge-seeking.
  • Summarize C's overall view of the role of culture in structuring our "psychic energy"
  • Small group: Test his view at a general and specific level. What are the challenges for individualistic culture for meeting his criteria for relationship? What are the dominant strategies for

Diener and Diener, Happiness, Chapter 4

  • "Happiness and Social Relationships: You Can't Do Without Them"
  • opening thought experiment, point: People are our reference points in some fundamental way. 49. Cf. to Csiksentmihalyi.
  • Major claim: Necessity of relationship to happiness. evidence of causality in both directions.
  • Introvert / Extrovert study: (note also the small gap between extroverts socially and alone). Looks like a scale shift.
  • Inducing moods in test subjects alters perception/desirability/expectation of social situations.
  • Duchenne smile study p. 53.
  • great statement of value of relationship, p. 54. Note, again, the "work" relationships do for us.
  • Strong correlation of social/happy, but what direction is the causation? High LS prior to marriage predicts satisfaction/longevity of marriage. Marriage might be enable higher sustained happiness under the right conditions (57)
  • Return to the Marriage/Happiness debate: Lucas study, note point about averages. Big example of question of "locating yourself" in relation to the average. Also, in setting expectations.
  • Love: in light of life span: hot, then companionate
  • Children: confirmation of earlier studies.
  • Small group discussion: Assess the Lucas study on happiness and marriage. What is the meaning of being single today? How do you assess the general belief that being married and having children makes one happier, in light of the research here?

Haidt Chapter 9: Divinity with or without God

Elevation as a vertical axis in relationship.

  • Flatland
  • Major speculative hypothesis: 183: In addition to relationship and status, we perceive/experience "divinity" as a kind of "moral purity".
  • But this is puzzling, given that we are also animals
  • Research on disgust. Why do we experience disgust? 186. Purity opposite impulse from disgust. Disgust brings us "down".
  • Psychological anthropologist Richard Shweder, U Chicago: Haidt worked with him on research in morality in India: "Shweder's research on morality in Bhubaneswar and elsewhere shows that when people think about morality, their moral concepts cluster into three groups, which he calls the ethic of autonomy, the ethic of community, and the ethic of divinity." 188 -- evidence on diff. distribution of these ethics by class. Note observations on research in India. Link bt. purity/divine.
  • Cites approvingly: Eliade, The Sacred and Profane -- perceiving sacredness universal among humans. 189: Interesting examples: handedness, space in houses.

Elevation and Agape

  • Looking for a name for the emotions that we experience when we observe morally outstanding deeds. "Elevation"
  • Jefferson: Experience of aesthetic value triggers physical changes in the body and recognizable feeling of elevated sentiments.
  • 196: wants to see if elevation is a kind of happiness. research with student Sara Algoe, (three conditions: doing something good for someone, saw someone tell a joke, saw extraordinary non-moral performance) results seem to separate out different responses: moral elevation vs. response to non-moral excellence like basketball player.
  • initial research documents elevation as response. Unclear how moral/non-moral triggers work.
  • Vagus Nerve theory -- operation of vagus nerve, relationship to oxytocin. Since oxcytocin causes bonding rather than action, this theory might explain the lack of evidence in an earlier study that elevation leads to action.
  • Puzzle about moral elevation and lack of action -- in two studies no sig increase in "signing up" to volunteer after elevation.
  • Lactating moms study 198 -- (answers puzzle: oxcytocin is about bonding, not acting. we've managed to make moral conduct a trigger for oxcytocin.)
  • Letter from religious person distinguishing two kinds of tears in church. compassion/celebration
  • Latter like agape : objectless love

Awe and Transcendence

  • cites Darwin / Emerson, idea of elevation from exp of nature.
  • Drugs - -entheogens. reports old experiment with mushrooms and religion.
  • Emerson's "transparent eyeball" experience. Awe and transcendence of the ego. (also in flow)
  • Awe: "As we traced the word "awe" back in history, we discovered that it has always had a link to fear and submission in the presence of something much greater than the self." 202
  • Emotion of awe: "Keltner and I concluded that the emotion of awe happens when two conditions are met: a person perceives something vast (usually physically vast, but sometimes conceptually vast, such as a grand theory, or socially vast, such as great fame or power); and the vast thing cannot be accommodated by the person's existing mental structures." 203
  • Story of Arjuna Pandava from Gita. Gets a cosmic eye. Extreme case, but Haidt implies this is a model for how we describe spiritual transformation.
  • Maslow's work on peak experiences. Side note on clash about the nature of science in psychology. Maslow is considered a founder of humanistic psych.
  • Mark Leary, Curse of the Self: Self as obstacle to -- mental chatter -- self as obstacle to vertical development . Read p. 207.

NOV 10

Love and Happiness

de Botton, "Lovelessness"

  • reminds us of need for "social love"
  • Also, and a more ambitious interpretive claim: That we can view many of the things people pursue in psychological terms as seeking love in various forms (read p. 6)
  • Does de Botton overstate things? Are we really seeking "love from the world" through so many of the things we pursue?

Haidt, Chapter 6: Love and Attachments

  • Attachment Theory - bad science of germ theory in thinking about orphanage moratality, isolation of orphans. Bad advice of early behaviorism for child rearing. Lack of weight on affection and bonding.
  • Harlow's monkeys -- "cloth mother studies" Images for Harlow's Monkeys [7]. How did Harlow disconfirm early behaviorist and freudian thought on atttachment? "contact comfort"
  • Bowlby's children and orphans. hears about Harlow's work. duck bonding is news. Aberrant psychoanalyst.
  • Keys to attachment: The central construct of attachment theory is that we have a self-regulating psychological system that uses bonding and attachment as a basis for exploration and growth. Attachment system responds along several axes: example: safety and exploration. postulates a "design system" to negotiate this tension and others which define the maturational challenges of a child and the relationship of its primary caregiver.
  • Attachment Theory as Explanation for love
  • Details: Ainsworth "Strange Situation" experiments. Secure (moves easily between security and exploration) and insecure (avoidant/resistant) attachment styles. Genes may not play a large role in attachment style. (maybe epigenetic). Roughly 2/3 "secure" attachment. read p. 116. 1/6 "insecure avoidant" 1/6 "insecure resistant"
  • Haidt's update/critique: attachment styles vary apart from genes, but personality doesn't so much. questions Ainsworth's emphasis on causal role of mother, styles more flexible than early research hypothesized. Somewhat open question in research.
  • At 117, article turns to apply attachment theory to theory of romantic love. Thesis: adult romantic love grows out of the same psychological system that attaches children to their mothers? Developmental psych. evidence from Harzan p. 119. Romantic love might be a repurposed "care giving" system based on maternal/paternal care. But why is human love so different: hidden ovulation, long gestation/maturation of young...? Hypothesis: evolutionary advantage, in humans, for strong pair bonding.

Love and Culture

  • Romantic Love: Love is for a species with big heads. We re-purpose our early parental attachment for romantic love. Oxytocin.
  • Addresses the question of romantic love as "just" attachment theory plus mating. 118 and 120-121. Love isn't an end in itself. It's part of nature's business with us.
  • Image of Aristophanes speech from Symposium: image of attachment.
  • Proposes distinction between: passionate and companionate love. distinct processes.
  • Aside: Philosophers on love. Buddha (the problem is that love is attachment) and Plato (rejection of the body)
  • Image from Symposium: best love is of the Forms. Beautiful bodies just point us in that direction.
  • Caritas(benevolence/good will) and Agape (selfless spiritual love) as extensions. Claims (and this could be viewed as a criticism, but not necessarily) that Christian loves strips love of its particularity (p. 131). (Most of the positive value of agape is found, for Haidt in "elevation". So his critical point here more more that Christian love is vertical, not part of the repurposed maternal system.
  • Haidt on love and "culture of love" : Why does human love make philosophers (and religionists) uncomfortable? 131. irrational, hypocritical suppression of pleasure, fear of death.
  • Goldenburg research, p. 132:
  • Major claims about happiness-making effects of relationships. p. 133. Follow twists: not just that we need from others, but we benefit from being needed and offering benevolent aid.

Brooks, "Social Animal," New Yorker

  • Brooks should help us explore the problem of the relationship between "love and the 'culture of love'"
  • goal is to heighten awareness of the relationship between the cultural dimension of courtship and the biological. Think about love in light of the split between automatic and controlled processes, attachment theory,
  • Look at some of the details together: dress codes, body regimens (mens and womens),
  • Harold and Erika. two levels (good example of social cognition). looks, early assessments of trust and reliability, nonverbal cues about how things are going, smell, map-meld, "Things that Would Have to Change", .
  • Related link: Listen to the Michael Levitan segment on This Amercican Life's episode #552: Need to Know.

Small Group Discussion

  • In a discussion of the relationship between the "culture of love" and love, try to determine some of the attitudes and beliefs about love that you would endorse (either from the readings or apart from them) as ways of making it more likely that love is a happiness maker in your life.

NOV 15

Johnson, Fenton, "Going It Alone"

  • Trend toward solitary living -- 25% solo in US, over 60% in Scand. countries
  • Thesis: There are unique values and opportuntities from solitary living that make it a kind of calling (and path to subjective well-being) for some. This is in contrast to the overwhelming message of society, that failure to pair bond is abnormal. Stronger thesis at 32: "Living amid the culture's obsession...."
  • Theme: culture send us messages about the abnormality of solitariness, normality of not wanting to be alone.
  • Resources for his thesis:
  • Spirituality of Thomas Merton and monks in general; family interaction with
  • Creative lives of solitary authors and painters.
  • Conceptual issues:
  • Solitary and celibate (34); solitary and in/not in relationship;
  • Vows, disciplined living. (37)
  • Secondary thesis: A kind of "secular monasticism" might make the capacity for solitude a basis other social relationships.

Gilbert, Chapter 5: The Hound of Silence

  • This chapter continues to build the case that our rationality is isn't a simple and accessible universal tool for thinking about things in an unbiased way. That might be an achievement of rationality, but "our inattention to absences influences the way to think about the future."
  • We don't train on what's not there: pigeons, detecting pattern change in trigrams. "Blindspot" in our inference machinery. explains tendency to see coincidences -- we don't keep track of non-coincidences.??
  • UVA sports fan study (102): Why do non-describer sports fans overestimate impact of losing a big game? 102 They don't think about the whole picture -- what's going to happen after the game, etc. Details the describers fill in. (Interesting practical lesson here.) Likewise, with California happiness studies and our estimates of the happiness of the chronically ill or disabled.
  • Analogy of loss of detail of visual objects at a distance and loss of detail in objects of thought at a temporal "distance". "Near future is pretty detailed, but the distant future is blurry and smooth." 105
  • Future value. We're horrible at calculating it. View Dan Gilbert's Ted talk on this subject [8]
  • Time frame matters: example of agreeing to baby sit in a month vs. tomorrow night.
  • One big lesson to take from this chapter is to

NOV 17

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.
  • Examples of how we fail to predict how future selves will feel. 115: Volunteers choosing candy bars or knowing answers.
  • 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 Prefeeling: "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. 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."

Gilbert, Chapter 7, Time Bombs

  • We spatialize time because it's an abstract thing and thinking of its spatially helps make it concrete. But that makes some things easier to imagine in the future than other things.
  • Hedonic adaptation -- factors affecting the habituation rate -- time/variety (connect with satisficer/maximizer)
  • False prediction of future pleasure -- p. 130 study on snack predictions.
  • Gilbert's point -- variety has a cost… As you slow down the consumption rate, variety becomes less of a happiness maker because your rank preference becomes more prominent. [But it doesn't follow that it's not in your happiness-interest to pay it sometimes. Sampler plates still make sense because you're going to be consuming them quickly.]
  • Starting Now: mental images are atemporal.....we imagine a future event as if it took place now and then discount (recall Gilbert's TED talk)
  • Spaghetti satisfaction predictions under condition of multi-tasking, p. 136.
Lots of other biases (this is really what you get in the TED talk referenced above):
  • Anchoring Bias (135)-- how many african countries?, Sensitivity to changes, (accounts for preferences for steady income increases, even it net payout is lower).
  • Preference for the marked down vacation, even if more costly than a marked up one.
  • Famous Khaneman and Tversky "mental accounting" study -- (140)
  • We compare the present to the past instead of to the possible. (coffee example)
  • But we also make mistakes when we compare the present to the possible. (tv purchase example, wine example, dictionary comparison, chips/chocolate vs. chips/sardines) digress on Economist pricing example.
  • Loss aversion (145)

NOV 22

  • Thanksgiving Week: Optional Meeting Time

NOV 29

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. Could the discrepancy be selective? an accident of our psychology?]
  • Suggests that the process of creating and attending to meanings is crucial (154-155). We respond, in part, to our own representations of reality.
  • Importance of context, frequency, and recency in identifying information and salience. Necker cube. Definers and self-rating study (159). importance of relative complexity of experience (over visual illusions). Complexity creates ambiguity which we exploit with narrative Kale and ice cream study, 159.
  • major thesis on 160. Once our experience becomes actual, our uncs goes to work renarrating the story with positive bias. a kind of "psychological immune system" (psychological investment system). (recall the poster study.) (notice this also goes with loss aversion.) Interesting practical advice follows: You might be able to choose a more or less positive way of looking at situations that have ambiguous interpretations.
  • We Cook the Facts (164): The mind needs some 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)
  • Some evidence (174) to suggest that deliberate methods to induce good feeling fail.
  • 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. (Separate, but important, issue: we become strangers to ourselves because we need to conceal the fact that we're cooking the facts.)
  • Looking forward/backward (recall examples from 153): 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.) Gilbert's thesis: It's harder for the immune system to renarrate an event that didn't happen.
  • Psychological Immune System: triggers: very bad things more than slightly bad things. 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. (184). (notice prospection/retrospection asymmetry)
  • Speculative Theory about how we use explanations: beneficial effect of writing about trauma, simulated student study involving identified vs. unidentified admirers. Happiness buzz lasts longer on unidentified. 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.


Major Philosophical Options on the "Metaphysics of Death"

  • One Life + eternity (note variation on eternities)
  • Repeat + release
  • One Life
  • Note commonalities and differences in the problem of death depending upon the model you are working from. St. Jerome.
  • How do we treat death differently because of our metaphysics of death?

Major happiness hypotheses

  • Reflecting deeply on mortality will improve the quality of your life (general).
  • Culture (movies, fiction, etc) can help with this reflection, or not, by the way they portray death.
  • Contemplative practices can help.
  • Death teaches us how to live. "to not discover that when I die I had failed to live." (Thoreau) (also Roman soldier story in Montaigne)
  • Hedonists in particular, should contemplate death (Montaigne)
  • Virtue allows a contempt of death (Montaigne)

Gwande, Atul. "Things Fall Apart" from Being Mortal

  • Changes in the shape of the death / well-being curve in light of modern medicine.
  • Cultural changes: death denial. invisibility of death in light of lower mortality/medicine.
  • The Body:
  • Jaw, mandible, teeth. >85 40% without teeth.
  • Crunchy inside: leaching of minerals into soft tissue.
  • Loss of 1/4 to 1/2 muscle mass.
  • Hands
  • Brains. 1 inch of spare room by our seventies.
  • Aging theories: not likely programmed to die. wide variation in mortality among genetic similars. More just like an complex engineered system.
  • We just run out of some things! pigment for hair (stem cells), less effective at waste removal.
  • Demographics of aging: rectangularization. 1950: 11% 5yo 1% 85yo Now: equal percentages of 5 and 50yo.
  • Response of medical field inadequate. Geriatrics isn't fun for doctors.
  • Case 1: Jean - long list of problems, but doing ok a year later. Falling hazards. (40)
  • Case 2: Alice (42) - lower competences, taken advantage of.
  • Story of Flexi Sillverstone - a geriatric geriatrician. His own health issues. Leading to discussion retirement communities. Expensive. Geriatric depression. (Hospice patient anecdote)
  • Don't let people over 85 drive.

Montaigne, That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die

  • Montaigne's precepts on death:
  • 1. Death is not a problem for the hedonist, rather, the contemplation of death improves the pleasure of life.
  • 2. Conversely, the fear of death ruins life. (The premeditation on death is the premeditation of liberty.)
  • 3. We need to bring death into our awareness more, defeating social norms about talking about it.
  • 4. Don't expect to live longer than normal.
  • 5. You need to think about death to make sure you aren't already. (Roman soldier example)
  • 6. We should be ready.
  • Montaigne gives us a hedonist/stoic view of death. One would think that death is a problem for a hedonist, since it appears to be the end of sensation, but Montaigne argues for a strategy of using the contemplation of death to enhance the pleasure of life.
  • "Cicero says—[Tusc, i. 31.]—"that to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die." The reason of which is, because study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw from us our soul, and employ it separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a resemblance of death; or, else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die."
  • M. affirms his commitment to hedonism: "Let the philosophers say what they will, the thing at which we all aim, even in virtue is pleasure."
  • And that virtue (broadly the perfection of reason and emotion in action - something close to a Stoic conception) allows us to conquer death:
  • "Now, of all the benefits that virtue confers upon us, the contempt of death is one of the greatest, as the means that accommodates human life with a soft and easy tranquility, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct."
  • Tells his own story: He's 39 (and died at 59) At first thinking about death as a young man seemed silly to him, but then he realized that death comes to young and old.
  • Makes fun of people (folk) who are bothered by the mention of death.
  • We all think we have more time. Cognitive bias. (mentions, p. 4, weird, untimely deaths -- follow) In light of this, how can we avoid thinking about death? M: You could try not thinking about it, but it will surface if you don't deal with it.
  • ["Let him hide beneath iron or brass in his fear, death will pull his head out of his armour. "—Propertious Hi. 18]. Let us disarm him of his strangeness and novelty.
  • "Where death waits for us is uncertain; let us look for him everywhere. The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has learned to die has unlearned to serve. There is nothing evil in life for him who rightly comprehends that the privation of life is no evil: to know, how to die delivers us from all subjection and constraint."
  • "I am at all hours as well prepared as I am ever like to be, and death, whenever he shall come, can bring nothing along with him I did not expect long before. We should always, as near as we can, be booted and spurred, and ready to go, and, above all things, take care, at that time, to have no business with any one but one's self"
  • "Why for so short a life tease ourselves with so many projects?" (Horace) -- Makes fun of people who complain that they are dying before they can do x, y, or z....
  • We have a bias to ignoring our own deterioration. "Let us but observe in the ordinary changes and declinations we daily suffer, how nature deprives us of the light and. sense of our bodily decay. What remains to an old man of the vigor of his youth and better days? ["Alas, to old men what portion of life remains!"—Maximian, vel Pseudo-Gallus, i. 16f -- Note Hecht's point about how we insulate ourselves from death, less common experience, also, the beauty culture.
  • Religion is founded on the contempt of death. 10.
  • "Why not depart from life as a sated guest from a feast? "Lucretius, Hi. 95

Tibetan Book of the Dead

Primary understanding of death: great opportunity for learning.

Six Bardos:

  1. the chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death"
  2. the chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality"
  3. the sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth".
  4. the bardo of ordinary waking consciousness
  5. dhyana, meditation
  6. dream state

Discuss practice associated with the Great Liberation by Hearing

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Segments on Guillermo Arriaga, Lorne Ladner, et al

  • "Mexican writer Guillermo Arriaga is best known in the States for his screenplays. He wrote "Amores Perros" and the critically acclaimed "21 Grams." From his home in Mexico City, Arriaga tells Steve Paulson where the story idea for "21 Grams" came from, and why it was so interesting to have a religious man direct a film written by an atheist that deals with topics like the meaning of life and the afterlife. " Biographical story captures poignancy of death in a traffic accident.
  • back story about driving home, on his birthday, and coming across a fatal accident. (35:00) cuts to scene in movie. Arriaga uses characters that have suffered (drug addiction, jail, bad health) and recovered, then suffer again through experience of loss. "And life goes on." Sister's story about pool accident, son asks, "If I die, will you ever smile again?"
  • "Also, Lorne Ladner (44:00) is a psychologist, a practicing Buddhist and the author of The Lost Art of Compassion . He tells Jim Fleming that accepting the inevitability of one's own death leads a person to truly appreciate living while you can."
  • Meditation on one's own death, charnel grounds. Example about the guy who took down the trophies and put up pictures of his kids. sky burial, 1st Dalai Lama's momento mori -- stone from burial grounds.
  • Closes with famous Thoreau quote. "and not when I came to die to discover that I had not lived"

Momento Mori

  • Images St. Jerome --- purpose of momento mori
  • Momento Mori Wiki page [9]
  • The Philosophy Bird