Throughout history, happiness has been equated regularly with the highest historian Darrin M. McMahon argues that our modern belief in happiness is the. An intellectual history of man’s most elusive yet coveted goal. Historian McMahon argues that our modern belief in happiness is a recent development, the. “Excellent history” —The Economist. “From Herodotus and Aristotle through Locke and Rousseau down to Darwin, Marx and Freud. The musings on happiness.

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Account Options Sign in. Many produce solid plans about how to gain enlightenment, material wealth, or success- defining each as true happiness.

McMahon’s big book made me far more happy than I expected it would. An intellectual history of man’s most elusive yet coveted goal. In fact, after pages of people trying to define and achieve happiness, I’m rather glad that Shakespeare didn’t write for an audience that expected a happy ending, and I’d even side with the character John in Huxley’s Brave Mmahon World and claim my “right to be histofy.

And of course the Christians thought happiness was to be deferred until everlasting life. Before he quotes hisgory, he feels the need to set the scene: It goes through the Western history of the concept of happiness, focusing mostly between the medieval and renaissance time-frames giving a more limited focus on 18th century and classical Greek lines of thought.

A really freaking interesting reminder that just about everything is contextual Today we think of happiness as a right and a skill that can be developed. But then, when you take a broomstick to a war of ideas, you’ll always be left in the dust.

But they haven’t always felt this way. We from our selves alone, and not from Fate, Derive our happy, or unhappy State Happiness has increasingly been thought to be more about getting little infusions of pleasure, about feeling good rather than being good, less about living the well-lived life than about experiencing the well-felt moment.


Yet it’s only within the past two hundred years that human beings have begun to think of happiness as not just an earthly possibility but also as an earthly entitlement, even an obligation. Whereas classical sages had aimed to cultivate a rarified ethical elite – attempting to bring happiness to a select circle of disciples, or at most to the active citizens of the polis – Enlightenment visionaries dreamed of bringing happiness to entire societies and even to humanity as a whole.

Is there something wrong with me?

Darrin M. McMahon

But they haven’t always felt this way. For a good many ancient peoples—and for many others long after that—happiness was not something you could control. Thus, although eighteenth-century minds did not – and could not – succeed in mastering the random occurrences of the universe, they could – and did – conceive of exerting much greater control mcmqhon nature and human affairs.

The questions and the quests are likely as old as human life. True to his subtitle, McMahon is more interested in cataloging the manifold interpretations of happniess slippery subject than in delivering a decisive conclusion of what it should be. In his conclusion McMahon enumerates as one of the causes of that ‘culture of unhappiness’ the disappearance of the great narratives: Their power to shock was magnified accordingly, but only because the predictability and security of daily existence were increasing, along with the ability to control the consequences of unforeseen disaster.

These thinkers set the stage for the rest of happiness thinking – in that now it was an internal challenge, the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” school. This new orientation towards happiness was, as I say, liberating in many respects. Savages dxrrin happy too! Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. A poor man can be content, while a rich man can be plagued with dissatisfaction, correct? This is not a history of happiness and welfare of people through the ages. For us, living in the Western world in the 21st century, it is important to keep in mind that neither “happiness”, nor the pursuit of it, was always considered to be a human right.


The book goes through a basic scope of the Western ideals happiness. Return to Book Page. It was shortly thereafter that Voltaire produced his dark masterpiece, Candide, which mocks the pretension that this is the best of all possible worlds. The shift if from happiness as a product of fate and gods, to happiness for the elite, and finally a democratized from of happiness in Stoic thought.

The pursuit of happiness. It is so full of ideas and information, that reading it all at once might A wonderful book, mcmshon takes you on a journey from the start of humanity to today, always searching for happiness.

He investigates that fundamental transformation by synthesizing two thousand years of politics, culture, and thought.

Happiness: A History by Darrin M. McMahon

Enter the 17th and 18th centuries, when a revolution in human expectations overthrew these old ideas of happiness. Perhaps, instead, it is better to focus on what is good enough, on the small achievable things, the ordinary existence with a minimum of welfare and a minimum of standards and goals that are attainable.

Happiness follows in suit but delivers a surprisingly rounded view of its subject. I had expected more on the latter, but it mainly came in an epilogue to an engaging, well-written dive into what the ages have thought about happiness. I think this is simply because it’s such a challenging topic to tackle. The Secrets of Happiness: Implanted by advertising, dictated by fashion, and determined by style, individual desire was always socially determined, shaped by the particular contexts in which we live.