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Perspectives on Happiness

Concepts, Conditions and Consequences

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Edited by Søren Harnow Klausen, Bryon Martin, Mustafa Cihan Camci and Sarah Bushey

Happiness is a challenging, multifaceted topic, which obviously calls for an interdisciplinary approach. This work is a collection of papers which explores the phenomenon of happiness from a variety of angles, and from both theoretical and practical perspectives. They deal with the general nature and conditions of happiness, methods and measures for studying happiness, the consequences of happiness policies and discourses and the significance of specific factors, like landscapes or educational environments, for happiness. Some of the papers investigate the thoughts of ancient, 19th-century or 20th-century philosophers. Others employ theories and techniques from contemporary psychology to get a firmer grip on the elusive phenomenon of happiness. Contributors include Ranjeeta Basu, Valeriu Budeanu, Sarah A. Bushey, Mustafa Cihan Camci, Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh, Carolina Escobar-Tello, Julia Hotz, Søren Harnow Klausen, Kathy Pui Ying Lo, Andrea-Mariana Marian, Bryon Martin, Andrew Molas, Sean Moran, Liza Ortiz, Shelomi Panditharatne, Sheila M. Rucki, Jane Russel-O’Connor and Marie Thomas.

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Edited by Peter Bray

This book is a scholarly collection of interdisciplinary perspectives and practices that examine the positive potential of attending to the voices and stories of those who live and work with illness in real world settings. Its international contributors offer case studies and research projects illustrating how illness can disrupt, highlight and transform themes in personal narratives, forcing the creation of new biographies. As exercises in narrative development and autonomy, the evolving content and expression of illness stories are crucial to our understanding of the lived experience of those confronting life changes. The international contributors to this volume demonstrate the importance of hearing, understanding and effectively liberating voices impacted by illness and change. Contributors include Tineke Abma, Peter Bray, Verusca Calabria, Agnes Elling, Deborah Freedman, Alexandra Fidyk, Justyna Jajszczok, Naomi Krüger, Annie McGregor, Pam Morrison, Miranda Quinney, Yomna Saber, Elena Sharratt, Victorria Simpson-Gervin, Hans T. Sternudd, Mirjam Stuij, Anja Tramper, Alison Ward and Jane Youell.

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A. Erdem Çifçi

Abstract

It is often observed that in the modern period there is an almost perfect consensus on the purpose of human life: being happy regardless of anything that happens. ‘Feeling good,’ getting pleasure out of whatever it is that one is concerned with, defines the main content of this concept. The modern individual believes that happiness depends on a very particular state of the soul, but the soul is independent of any definite kind of existence or moral law. And he or she assumes that his or her being happy, this distinctive state of the soul, may change from time to time. Aristotle might agree with the first part of this stated purpose—being happy. However, he did not believe that a human being could be happy on his/her own regardless of what happens. Most importantly, Aristotle did not share our concept of happiness. His concept of eudaimonia, translated as happiness, also translates as ‘human flourishing’ or ‘well-being’. This concept reminds us of a different kind of happiness which has the sense of fulfilling our nature, and our manner of being happy today does not have to prevail all the time. In this paper, I will try to explain Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia and demonstrate the possibilities it offers us in contrast to the modern definition of happiness as ‘feeling good’.

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Bryon Martin

Abstract

Research concerning happiness is well documented in the scholarly literature. Happiness is a human goal and achieving it is high on the list of human needs. However, few studies have been devoted to happiness and the involvement and participation in classic car recreation. Activities such as restoration, cruise-ins and shows, and family activities are all contexts in which the classic car enthusiasts are active. A dearth in the literature exists in regard to the systematic evaluation of how happiness is a sought and/or achieved by these participants. The current research has been undertaken to develop a social-behavioral profile of classic car enthusiasts and to ascertain the motivations and benefits of participation in the unique activity of classic car recreation in the scope of happiness. Specifically, the research aim, through a qualitative interpretive and phenomenological lens, was to identify the predominant themes that arise from structured personal interviews with and survey data collected from classic car owners. Results indicated participant involvement in classic car leisure activities contributes to happiness in numerous ways. Themes gleaned from this current research include service to community, family bonding, connection with history, identity formation, socialization, and happiness. Further examination of these themes is the aim of this research and the analysis may shed light on how and why happiness may be achieved through participation in the recreation activity of classic car collecting, restoring, and showing.

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Seán Moran

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In this chapter, I endorse the virtues as a route to happiness. I compare the virtues advocated by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle with those favoured by the mediaeval theologian Thomas Aquinas, and then use a modified argument of the enlightenment mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal to arrive at a rational position. To be happy is to flourish, Aristotle claims. This is an objective condition, and not the same as a fleeting feeling of subjective wellbeing. As he famously puts it: ‘One swallow does not make a summer’ (1098a18-20).1 For Aristotle, the flourishing life is one lived in accordance with the virtues. These are stable dispositions – such as justice, courage and practical wisdom – that enable a person to live a good life. However, to Aquinas, the virtuous life is not an end in itself, but merely a preparation for the after-life. The type of happiness that awaits us then is much superior to mundane flourishing. Aquinas believes that there is felicitas (the ordinary, earthly happiness that Aristotle analyses) and there is heavenly happiness or beatitudo perfecta. If Aristotle is correct, it’s reasonable for anyone to desire being animated by the virtues and hence to attain an enduring happiness: ‘the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world’ (1099a).2 But Aquinas’s extended view would only seem plausible to theists, and merely to a proportion of these, at best. Pascal offers the (highly contestable) argument that it is rational to believe in God, since the potential rewards outweigh any minor encumbrances of such conviction. I consider an adapted version of ‘Pascal’s Wager’ to explore whether Aquinas’s virtues have a more general application. I finally conjecture that a judiciously selected range of virtues can still conduce to earthly happiness, with the potential bonus of heavenly happiness (if such a possibility exists).

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Søren Harnow Klausen

Abstract

Extant accounts of happiness and wellbeing have been insufficiently attentive to the fact that human lives have important structural and dynamic features. All the dominant theories, be it hedonism, preference or life satisfaction accounts or even Aristotelian theories of flourishing and the good life, are essentially list theories. They enumerate various features that might contribute to happiness, like pleasant experiences, satisfied preferences, positive judgments, personal character traits or social relations. Yet human lives are arguably more than neutral containers or bearers of things that are good and bad. The ways lives are lived and play out, the different forms they take, and the interrelations between different experiences and goods, might matter even more for happiness than the quality of the experiences, traits or events taken in isolation. I consider the view that the ‘narrative’ relations between events in a person’s life, as well as its form, are important elements in happiness or wellbeing, and argue, more generally, for a holistic approach to both the conceptualization and the assessment of human happiness.

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Kelly K. L. Chan

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Since the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China took place in 1997, Hong Kong has been going through an identity crisis, questioning Beijing’s sincerity in maintaining its wellbeing. In recent years, there has also been a continuous decline in the level of happiness in Hong Kong. Among the 158 countries and territories assessed, Hong Kong ranked 75th in 2016,1 down from 72nd in 2015,2 64th in 2013,3 and 46th in 20124 in the World Happiness Report. However, statistical comparison of happiness is not enough, empirical cross-cultural research on happiness or wellbeing fails to identify and explain the nature of happiness and the different ways of ‘being well’.5 From the anthropology perspective, humans do not have one single ‘pursuit of happiness’.6 Nonetheless, socio-cultural anthropology has been institutionally averse to the study of happiness;7 and there is very little understanding of what constitutes happiness in the context of education, one exception being the work of Noddings.8 The inattention to ‘happiness’ in education studies, policies and evaluations fails to consider either the happiness of students or the contribution of education to lifelong happiness. This anthropological study is interested in how university students define ‘happiness’, and how happiness is constituted and experienced in the context of higher education. The study started in January 2016 and is currently being carried out in Hong Kong. Rather than numbers, this study asks: 1. What ‘happiness’ means in a higher education context in Hong Kong; 2. How ‘happiness’ is expressed and experienced in the higher education institutes; and 3. How ‘happiness’ relates to learning.

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Mustafa Cihan Camci

Abstract

In this chapter, I will consider the philosophical notion of happiness as the routine of everydayness. Firstly, we will watch the Polish award winning director Zbigniew Rybczynski’s animation: Tango. Then, we will discuss the philosophical notion of happiness with reference to the figures’ repetitive activities in the film. I will suggest that the figures seem stuck in the same activity and undergo an alienation which let them face the temporal structure of life and become acquainted with the happiness in the ontological sense. I will offer to discuss the repetitive character of routine and the characters’ suspension of daily life in this ontological sense. I will refer to some other speakers at the conference. That will match the interdisciplinary attitude of the symposium as well. I will refer to Hermanson’s notion of the Sublime and make clear that it is the ontological sense of happiness that I am speaking about.1 I will also consider Gibbs’ ‘open region’ and the ‘topology of being’ in relation to the temporal sense of everydayness.2 I will refer to Julia Hotz’s ‘Tiny House movement’ and ‘the Busy Trap’ and suggest that the sense of temporality can be felt as if one is trapped in the hectic routine of everydayness.3 I do not provide many quotations and try instead to provoke the attendants (and readers) to imagine the ontological sense of happiness by the use of Tango. Avoiding any conclusions, I will merely suggest that the figures remain close to the feeling of the happiness as such yet seem suspended in this closeness, never being able to feel the ontological sense of happiness beyond the everyday life.

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Sheila M. Rucki and Lisa Ortiz

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The products of the culture industry, presented as entertainment, are one front in the battle for control and domination. In this paper, we interrogate the notion of happiness presented in the 18th century version of Beauty and the Beast to illustrate how this apparently innocuous children’s story carries within it traces of the struggle between an emergent bourgeois class and the nobility to assert cultural, economic and political control. We use the critical insights of Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci to inform this investigation and make recommendations for future research in later incarnations of this persistent fairy tale.

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Søren Harnow Klausen, Bryon Martin, Mustafa Cihan Camcı and Sarah A. Bushey