Aristotle “in a nutshell,” from astute non-academic Tom Butler-Bowdon:
Happiness comes from expressing what we have rationally decided is good for us over the longer term. Happiness is not pleasure, but a by-product of a meaningful life.
Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Philosophy Classics is an impressively wide-ranging, alphabetically-ordered compendium of nutshell clarity. Surprisingly impressive, perhaps, to those academics who’ve been miseducated to suspect and discount the work of non-credentialed generalists.
I don’t think I’m one of those, but I was suspicious that the latest volume in a drab-seeming series of 50s (spiritual, self-help, success, prosperity, psychology, no “shades of grey”) might be a bit lite. It’s not. It strikes just the right balance between accurate explication, insightful contextual analysis, and breezy illustrative anecdote.
I hadn’t known, for instance, of A.J. Ayer’s encounter with Mike Tyson at a New York party. Ayer interceded when Tyson “assaulted” his date, and replied cooly to the thug’s “Do you know who I am? I am the heavyweight champion of the world.” -“And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic…” My esteem for Ayer just tripled.
But the Butler-Bowdon quote I found most moving and helpful (and relevant to my present project) yesterday was not in 50 Classics but in his twitter stream:
“I always knew that someday I would once again feel the grass under my feet and walk in the sunshine as a free man. I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.”
That was Nelson Mandela, whose meaningful life will continue to be a source of human happiness.