By Ruut Veenhoven (auth.)

This ebook is set the measure to which individuals get pleasure from lifestyles: briefly 'happiness'. It attempts to spot stipulations that prefer a good appreciation of lifestyles. hence it hopes to shed extra gentle on a longstanding and interesting ques­ tion and, in all probability, to steer makes an attempt to enhance the human lot. in the course of the previous a long time more and more investigations have handled this factor. hence there's now a large physique of knowledge. but it truly is particularly tough to make feel of it. there's a litter of theories, techniques and signs, and plenty of of the findings appear to be contradictory. This ebook makes an attempt to carry a few order into the sector. The learn attracts on a list of empirical investigations which concerned legitimate symptoms of happiness; 245 experiences are concerned, which jointly yield a few 4000 observations: for the most half correlational ones. those effects are provided in complete element within the concurrently released 'Databook of Happiness' (Veenhoven 1984). the current quantity distils conclusions from that wealth of information. It attempts to evaluate the truth price of the findings and the measure to which correlations replicate the stipulations of happiness instead of the implications of it. It then makes an attempt to put the scattered findings in context. As such, this paintings isn't a standard examine of literature on happiness.

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Extra info for Conditions of Happiness

Example text

Depression. Happiness is sometimes depicted as the opposite of 'depression'. This is again a term with various meanings. Mostly the word refers to a syndrome involving unpleasant affect, apathy and a sense of meaninglessness. Characteristically that syndrome also involves a negative evaluation of one's life-as-a-whole. In that sense depressed persons are unhappy. However, the reverse is not true. Not all unhappy persons are apathetic or lacking a sense of purpose. The term 'depression' is also used to contrast with 'elation'.

Yet another discussion concerns the question whether happiness can be characterized as the 'sum of pleasures'. Here the distinction between 'overall happiness' and 'hedonic level' is a good help. The latter concept corresponds to what is usually understood as 'the sum of pleasures' and in contrast the former can now be seen to imply a broader view. Overall happiness involves more than merely hedonic level. Lastly there is the discussion as to whether artifically induced states of pleasantness can be considered to represent 'happiness'; the question of whether drugs, such as heroin, anti-depressives or 'soma' (in Huxley's fictual 'Brave New World'), provide full happiness or only an inferior substitute.

Thus happiness is not a simple sum of pleasures, but rather a cognitive construction which the individual puts together from his various experiences. One consequence of this conceptualization is that the word 'happiness' cannot be used for those who did not make up their mind. One cannot say whether a person is happy or not if he is intellectually unable to construct an overall judgement. Thus the concept cannot be used for animals, little chil- 23 dren and mentally retarded people. Similarly it does not apply to people who simply never thought about the matter.

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