Fall 2012 Happiness Class Study Questions

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Return to Happiness


August 30, 2012

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

2. What is Plato's view of happiness?

3. What is Aristotle's view of happiness?

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

September 4, 2012

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

2. Why doesn't one adapt to the happiness effect of cosmetic surgery?

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

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

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

September 6, 2012

  1. What are some of the major correlations and causes of happiness, according to Argyle?
  2. What are some of the difficulties in studying happiness across nations, according to Diener and Suh?
  3. What are some of the broad differences in SWB and how are they explained causally, according to Diener and Suh?

September 11, 2012

1. Identify and discuss some of the features of our evolved brain that complicate the problem of happiness.

September 13, 2012

1. Identify some of the features and reference points of the classical conception of happiness in the Roman Empire. How do they connect or fail to connect with classical Greek and Hellenistic conceptions? (add later)

2. What's different about the Early Christian conception of happiness? How is this reflected in the narrative of Perpetua and Felicitas?

3. What is the basic model of happiness in Yogic thought, as explicated by Barbara Miller?

4. Identify the significance of samadhi, the kleshas, the gunas, Arjuna's conversation with Krisna, the brahmavihara.

September 18, 2012

1. Explain the four noble truths.

2. What are the consequence of success in following the Eight fold path? Evaluate, from your own perspective, the kind of life this would result in.

3. Is the Buddhist prescription for ending suffering also an attractive model for happiness, in your opinion?

September 20, 2012

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Epicurus' view of pleasure, virtue, and happiness.

2. Reconstruct and evaluate Epictetus advice for living. What is the relationship of this advice to happiness?

September 25, 2012

1. What are the rationales for negative visualization? Assess it's likely effectiveness.

2. What problem leads Irvine to the trichotomy of control? Does his solution work?

September 27, 2012

October 2, 2012

1. How does Chritian culture of the renaissance and reformation rethink and revise the tradition understanding of the relation of happiness and earthly existence captured in the idea of "contemptus mundi"?

2. How does Locke's view of the mind alter assumptions about the search for happiness?

3. What approaches to and critiques of happiness do we find in Enlightenment British and French culture? How does the question about the nature of happiness change in European culture during this time?

4. What evidence do we have, according to Gilbert, of the importance of control in people's wellbeing?

5. What's important about the prefrontal lobe for the pursuit of happiness, according to Gilbert?

October 4, 2012

1. Identify some of Gilbert's evidence for doubting the reliability of subjective reports of happiness.

2. How does the plausibility of "language squishing" and "experience stretching" hypotheses affect our sense of the reliability of subjective reports of happiness?

3. What evidence does Gilbert identify for claiming that we might not always know what we're feeling?

4. Where does the evidence and theorizing about objectivity in Chapters 2 and 3 leave us? How does the law of large numbers help? What, if any, problems remain?

October 9, 2012

1. What is the cultural dimension of love?

2. What is attachment theory and how does it provide a naturalist account of love?

3. What effect, if any, does thinking about love through a naturalist theory (such as attachment) make to our experience of love, given that that experience is deeply cultural?

4. What critical resources or principles can we develop around the question of a "healthy" or "unhealthy" culture of love?

October 11, 2012

1. Why does de Botton find the rise of material culture since WWII important? What is his view of status comparison?

2. How does de Botton use historical evidence about attitudes toward human difference to rethink our contemporary culture of meritocracy?

3. How does Gilbert support his view that the mind fills in memories and forecasts of the future with information that is not relevant or distorts judgement?

4. How might describing the future change our attitutde toward it? (consider esp. the UVA sports fans study)

October 16, 2012

October 18, 2012

1. What is the main evidence, according to Gilbert, for suggesting that we are often biased and unreliable in imagining the future and predicting our future happiness?

2. What practical implications might follow from recognizing these biases and this lack of reliability?

3. Explain how the Romantic culture of happiness continued and altered enlightenment assumptions about the possibility of happiness in this life? Identify examples of both the culture of despair, longing, and melancholy, as well as the celebration of joy.

October 23, 2012

1. What is distinctive about the focus and method of Csiksentmihalyi's research?

2. What is flow and how is it related to happiness?

3. What would be the effect of increasing flow experiences on happiness?

October 25, 2012

1. What is savoring, how does Bryant distinguish it from related phenomena?

2. What is gratitude and what does gratitude research and theory suggest about how it works and affects SWB?

3. Based on the evidence, is it plausible to think that we underutilize opportunitites for savoring and gratitude experiences and that increasing savoring and/or gratitude can have a significant and sustainable effect on happiness?

October 30, 2012

1. How are coping and savoring connected for Bryant?

2. What evidence do we have that gratitude may be a cause of happiness?

3. How does gratitude achieve its effects, according to Watkins?

November 1, 2012

1. How does relationship contribute to SWB?

2. Is solitude undervalued by Csiksentmihalyi? Consider the best case that it might be and respond.

3. According to Csiksentmihalyi, what are the two conditions for relationship?

November 6, 2012

1. Why does Haidt think there is a "vertical" dimension to our social experience?

2. What mechanisms does Haidt hypothesize for "elevation"?

3. Why does he consider the self as an obstacle to experience of the divine?

November 8, 2012

1. Summarize evidence Gilbert presents that we "cook the facts" of our experience, both in terms of our perceptions of reality (ch. 8) and our predictions about how we will feel in the future (ch. 9). What conclusions does Gilbert draw from this evidence? Evaluate its importance to a theory of happiness.

2. What is Gilbert's speculative theory about a "psychological immune system"? What related evidence is there that our perceptions change with so-called "sunk costs"?

November 13, 2012

1. Assess the evidence from American cultural history regarding the effectiveness of classical liberalism in promoting happiness for both an individual and society.

2. What did de Toqueville observe about 19th century American culture? Is he observation valid today?

November 15, 2012

1. What are some of the major "models" for understanding death in human culture?

2. Evaluate the hypothesis that deep reflection on mortality is a key to happiness.

3. What is Montaigne's view of the approach we should take to death.

4. What is a "momento mori" and how does it work?

November 27, 2012

1. What are some of the main considerations that support or refute the idea of using happiness research in guiding political decision-making?

2. Given what we know about happiness, is contemporary U.S. society too focused on promoting economic growth? Is the current use of government resources on economic growth the most effective strategy for raising general well being?

November 29, 2012

1. What distinctive results did Carol Graham find in the case of optimism in Africa? What reasons are there for confidence or skepticism about these results? What is Graham's speculative explanation for them?

2. What is social capital? What does Graham's research tell us about how people in different places values social capital differently?

3. What is a "virtuous circle"?

December 4, 2012

December 6, 2012