Spring 2011 Happiness Class Study Questions
Return to Happiness
No study questions from this class.
1. Reconstruct Aristotle's basic view of happiness. Be sure to represent the rationales he thinks he has for the necessity of his view.
2. How does Greek popular culture (or the classical period) and Platonic philosophical culture differ, in general? What are some of the main issue separating them?
3. What direction do the post-Socratic schools (such as Epicureanism and Stoicism) take the pursuit of happiness (and a philosophy of happiness)?
4. What are some of the main "happiness makers" according to Haidt? What is his concern about Buddhism and Stoicism?
5. What are "top down" and "bottom up" theories and how does Schimmack attempt to distinguish evidence for one vs. the other?
6. What is the relationship between PA and NA according to Schimmack?
1. What the major correlates and causes of happiness according to Argyle and Diener & Suh?
2. Why is the impact of income on SWB so difficult to assess? Cite research and give reasoning for how you think we should understand some of these difficulties.
3. What, if anything, do trans-national studies on SWB tell us about the effects of national group and ethnicity on SWB. What problems do they raise? What are the major approaches for thinking about this research?
1. What is the distinctive character of Christian conceptions of happiness from early through medieval Christianity? How did Hellenization affect the Christian appropriation of Judaic "happiness"?
2. What is the structure of Yogic thought on happiness, according to Patanjali?
3. How do Buddhist analyze the causes and remedies of suffering?
4. What is the basic psychology of the Brahmahivara and Kleshas?
5. To what extent might increasing mindfulness or stilling the mind lead to insights that would promote happiness, as Yogics and Buddhists claim?
1. Be prepared to reconstruct and critically evaluate Stoicism and Epicureanism, both as philosophies and philosophies of happiness.
2. What are the specific therapeutic recommendations of Stoicism and Epicureanism?
3. Evaluate Stoic and Epicurean advice about happiness in light of other research and your experience.
1. Describe Renaissance and Enlightenment thought on happiness, focusing on key themes and issues such as the role of religion and the possibility of earthly happiness.
2. How does the problem of "prospection" affect our ability to theorize about happiness, according to Gilbert? Does the Law of Large numbers help?
3. What evidence does Gilbert cite for doubting the veracity of our self-reports about our well-being?
4. Evaluate Gilbert's claims about "language squishing" and "experience stretching".
1. Reflecting on de Botton, how important in social status? How easy is it to insulate one's pursuit of happiness from it?
2. How do we connect the "culture of love" with the "chemistry of love"? What lessons for happiness follow from thinking about these two levels together? What should we expect from love?
3. How does the concept of happiness change in the Romantic period? What explains these changes?
1. According to de Botton, how has the transition from a traditional hierarchical society to a less class-based and more meritocratic democratic society involved trade offs in expectations?
2. What does it mean to say that the mind has a blind spot? How did the dominant model of mind prior to Kant make it harder to see this blind spot?
3. How do later experiences change our memory and understanding of prior experiences? Why do we have so much trouble imagining the future?
4. What are some of the possibilities for (and limits to) correcting our mis-imaginings about the future?
1. How does Gilbert make the case that our ability to predict future events (and our satisfaction from them) is biased by the present? What other forms of bias affect forecasting?
2. What happiness advice, if any, follows from Gilbert's analysis?
3. What is the Experience Sampling Method and how does Csiksentmihalyi use it to explore happiness in everyday activities?
4. What is "flow" and how is it related to happiness?
5. What practical advice, if any follows from Csiksentmihalyi's research on the structures of everyday experience?
1. Reconstruct the basic model of savoring in Bryant and Veroff's work.
2. Describe the forms of gratitude under study by researchers today. How does gratitude "work"?
3. How might we think of gratitude (and the ability to experience it) as an evolutionary adaptation?
4. What evidence is there that savoring and/or gratitude experiences can significantly affect SWB?
1. How does Diener treat the evidence on the effect of marriage and children on happiness? In general, how does Diener use the metaphor of "psychological wealth" to talk about relationship?
2. How does Csiksentmihalyi use the concept of "psychic energy" to talk about relationship? What work does relationship do in our lives, according to him?
3. Why does Haidt think of divinity as a relationship? Reconstruct his speculative account and assess it on the basis of his argument and your own experience.
1. What is the "psychological immune system," according to Gilbert and what phenomena does it explain? What are some of it's major triggers?
2. What is the significance, for Gilbert, of the way that our prospective and retrospective judgements of the same experience vary?
3. Can the immune system also be a "psychological investment system"?
1. What are some of the major cultural models for thinking about death?
2. What features of life are foregrounded when death becomes on object of active thought?
3. Can reflection on death (and practices connected with this reflection) increase or qualitatively change our experience of happiness? If so, by what means?