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Epicurus: a pre-cursor to positive psychology?

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I’m partway through the book The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton. I’m amazed by a couple of teachings of Epicurus:

  • Wealth does not necessarily mean happiness. (In fact, relishing simple indulgences tends to make one happier than acquiring a sophisticated taste.)
  • In order to be happy, you should surround yourself with friends.

This reads straight out of Seligman’s Authentic Happiness (among other places). So, basically, it took thousands of years for psychology/philosophy to re-deliver an ancient truth.

Written by PoojanWagh

August 3rd, 2009 at 5:53 pm

What Makes Us Happy? – The Atlantic June 2009

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Interesting (albeit long) article on a very large psychological study spanning many years:

As Freud was displaced by biological psychiatry and cognitive psychology—and the massive data sets and double-blind trials that became the industry standard—Vaillant’s work risked obsolescence. But in the late 1990s, a tide called “positive psychology” came in, and lifted his boat. Driven by a savvy, brilliant psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania named Martin Seligman, the movement to create a scientific study of the good life has spread wildly through academia and popular culture dozens of books, a cover story in Time, attention from Oprah, etc..

Vaillant became a kind of godfather to the field, and a champion of its message that psychology can improve ordinary lives, not just treat disease. But in many ways, his role in the movement is as provocateur. Last October, I watched him give a lecture to Seligman’s graduate students on the power of positive emotions—awe, love, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, joy, hope, and trust or faith. “The happiness books say, ‘Try happiness. You’ll like it a lot more than misery’—which is perfectly true,” he told them. But why, he asked, do people tell psychologists they’d cross the street to avoid someone who had given them a compliment the previous day?

via What Makes Us Happy? – The Atlantic June 2009.

Written by PoojanWagh

June 8th, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Behavior

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