It’s time at last for Happiness (the course). The philosophers I like the most, from Aristotle to Mill to James to Russell, advocated and celebrated happiness. But plenty of philosophers have had another view.  Can you match the thinker to the thought? (Larkin, Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein… answers below*)

“The intention that man should be happy is not included in the plan of Creation.”

“The existentialist says that man is in anguish.”

“Throughout the ages the wisest of men have passed the same judgement of life: it is no good.”

“I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.”

“Today it is bad, and day by day it will get worse…” [In other words: “No!”]

“Get out as early as you can, and don’t have any kids yourself.”


(*Freud, Sartre, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Larkin… from Happiness: the Science Behind Your Smile by Daniel Nettle)

It’s customary among philosophers to regard the overcoming of negativity and emotional dyspepsia as a struggle requiring the greatest effort: Nietzsche’s life-affirming personal philosophy of will (or “power”), for instance, must overcome its own pessimism. Nietzsche was in fact a young Schopenhauerian to whom the dark mood seemed stylish and romantic. My faves, as I say, don’t feel that way about it. James pities “poor Nietzsche’s antipathies,” Mill stumps for the greatest happiness, Russell says we should “conquer” our flourishing, Aristotle says it’s the one intrinsic good in the universe.

But if you want to feel good about feeling good, look at Michael Gates Gill‘s humble account of how he claimed his happiness behind the coffee bar. He’s not a deep thinker, but let’s face it: depth is not always conducive to joy.

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