HFIA03540U  FILO, Happiness: Philosophy, Psychology and Economics

Årgang 2013/2014
Engelsk titel

Happiness: Philosophy, Psychology and Economics

Kandidatuddannelse i Filosofi

If there should be one important thing in life, it has probably to be happiness. Nothing seems so intuitively essential. This importance is not restricted to the private sphere. It seems to be a collective affair too. According to the American Declaration of Independence, happiness is an inalienable, individual, right. The 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen mentions in its preamble collective happiness as one of the goals of individual rights.

The last thirty years have seen studies on happiness, life-satisfaction and subjective well-being (even if the seminar will show that they are different concepts) blossoming. Some show that, despite a dramatic increase in material comfort, populations in developed countries have not become happier. Illustrating the old adage “money can’t buy happiness”, they reveal a lack of correlation between affluence and happiness. This phenomenon is named the ‘Easterlin paradox’ or ‘happiness paradox’ after Richard Easterlin who was the first to highlight this disconnection between income and life-satisfaction in industrialized countries.

These studies open a new and challenging field of research incarnated most notably by the “Economics of Happiness” (e.g., Bruno Frey, Richard Layard, Yew-Kwang Ng). Psychologists have also played an important part in the renewal of this research (Edward Deci, Edward Diener, Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Gilbert, Richard Ryan, Martin Seligman).

The rising concern for happiness in both economics and psychology constitutes the seminar’s backbone. Due to the importance of the claims conveyed by the literature (e.g., economic growth as a collectively self-delusive enterprise), it is important to investigate their political implications. The objective of the seminar is twofold: (1) to add depth to the current debates in economics and psychology by replacing them in the division between the two main conceptions of happiness in philosophy: hedonia (Jeremy Bentham, part of the utilitarian movement) and eudaimonia (from Aristotle to John Stuart Mill or Martha Nussbaum); (2) to engage the implications for our institutions (e.g., in terms of welfare measurement, welfare indicators, architecture of choice). In that regard, the seminar will show that happiness raises political questions as well as issues in terms of strategic interaction, pluralism and state paternalism.

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