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The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  20,884 ratings  ·  1,333 reviews
In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims-like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger-can enrich and even transform our lives.
Paperback, 297 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Basic Books (first published December 26th 2005)
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Francisco He extract ideas and ideals from other times, thoughts that people believe was necessary to live useful and meaningful lives and then uses recent…moreHe extract ideas and ideals from other times, thoughts that people believe was necessary to live useful and meaningful lives and then uses recent studies and investigations to probe in a more scientifically way that this is what we need to follow to obtain happiness. Certain parts of the book make you reflect and let you understand the human behaviour.(less)

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Chris
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: cognition
When pitching Jonathan Haidt's "Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom" to friends, I often find myself explaining away the title -- no, it's not another self-help book and yes, it's about more than just plastering a silly smile on your face. With that said, the title is appropriate; Haidt is chiefly concerned with what's responsible for making humans happy.

The title fails, however, to convey the breadth and depth of Haidt's search, which touches on philosophy,
...more
Richard
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: Cognitive Science Reading & Discussion Group
As I was reading the first few chapters, I put this book on my “to buy” list, but my enthusiasm ebbed as I finished the book, and my natural inclination not to buy books I never expect to re-read has taken over.

But it’s still a book I think I can recommend: it has plenty of interesting and thoughtful points to make, a few that are confusing and disconcerting, as well as some advice towards the front of the book.


The early chapters have a bit of a “self-help” feel tha
...more
Kate Savage
Jan 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
I could probably give this book two stars if I hadn't just got my fill of evo-psy smarm from Steven Pinker. Haidt's got the same penchant to 1) explain away the cultural status quo as a natural consequence of biological human nature; 2) present all of his ideas as scientific consensus, when there are very few non-controversial conclusions in positive psychology (it's fine for him to stick with his theory, but his disinterest in bringing up these disagreements leaves me very distrustful of him); ...more
Trevor
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
First of all there is a tone to this book that I thought from the beginning was really going to be a problem for me. I guess that is the tone of self-help books. All the same, this book was much more interesting and much more challenging (at least, to me) than most other self-help books I’ve read. I actually found parts of this book quite confronting.

The parts of this book that I liked the most were those where he was discussing his elephant and rider metaphor. Essentially, he believ
...more
Nyamka Ganni
If you are in passionate love and want to celebrate your passion, read poetry. If your ardor has calmed and you want to understand your evolving relationship, read psychology. But if you have just ended a relationship and would like to believe you are better off without love, read philosophy. and if you are unsure about what category falls for you, just read this book! :D
Karson
Jan 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
The short conclusion at the end of this book was really good. I wish the rest of the book stuck to the author's concise summary a little bit better. In some of Haidt's best advice within the whole book he says, "Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger." He adds, "You have to get the conditions right, and then wait." There are a lot of other good insights in the book, but I find them to be burried in piles of other not ...more
Michael Johnston
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Finished reading this last night. Two things first - 1) the book is not really about ancient wisdom. It's primarily about current research/thinking in the field of Psychology on emotional happiness. 2) The first third of the book is among the most depressing things I have ever read. The book starts by focusing on the view that humans have virtually no control over our own ability to be happy (or miserable). It's genetic - we are born with an innate predisposition towards personal happiness or mi ...more
Orton Family Foundation
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I’ve often marveled at how seemingly rational people can forgo reason when engaged in public debate over a land use issue. A few years back I was involved in a community meeting about a new village scale project being proposed for the center of a small Vermont town. Even faced with a plethora of facts, figures and testimonials to the contrary, many people held fast to their belief that the project—designed to mimic the design and spacing of the clustered houses already in the village center—woul ...more
Jan Rice
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
If I hadn't read Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, first, I may not have been able to get into The Happiness Hypothesis. Although they mine some of the same territory, The Happiness Hypothesis is an ordinary book. Kahneman's book, on the other hand, is a land mine. I think he wrote it using the knowledge that was his subject matter, giving it its penetrating power. Haidt, on the other hand, comes across as attempting to "convert" the reader, which can set up some resistance. Also, while ...more
Nithya Nagarathinam
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was ok

This book starts off as great. It neatly draws from the ancient philosophy and extrapolates the relevance of ancient wisdom to modern life. For example, the elephant-rider analogy, for which it gets one star. But somewhere in the middle, it loses itself in theological arguments. The scope of the book is so broad that the title becomes misleading.

The book gets another star for the valuable insights into human psychology, morality and life in general that lie interspersed in between elaborate dig
...more
The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)
“Do people have a tendency to dump on you?
Does your group have more cavities than theirs?
Do all the hippies seem to get the jump on you?
Do you sleep alone when others sleep in pairs?
Well there’s no need to complain
We’ll eliminate your pain
We can neutralize your brain
You’ll feel just fine
Now
Buy a big bright green pleasure machine!

Do figures of authority just shoot you down?
Is life within the business world a drag?
Did y
...more
Tom LA
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved Haidt's most recent book, "The righteous mind". This one (written years earlier) contains a lot of fascinating insights, but it seemed to me a little weaker. While "Righteous mind" examines the origins of morality, "Happiness" goes through some studies of happiness that I have already found or heard elsewhere, and it draws pertinent links with some ancient wisdom.

According to Haidt, the ones among us who have lost at the "cortex lottery" and are therefore less naturally prone to be happ
...more
Julie
I've been slogging away at this book for nearly a month, which is unusual for me. Usually, if I stall on a book (as I did with three other books I started reading over the month of February), I simply put it down with a note that it's been partially read. But The Happiness Hypothesis was so compelling that I kept coming back after putting it down and letting my mind digest the material. It's a book that's designed to be read slowly.

I discovered this book through Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath, who bor
...more
Mehrsa
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
You've heard of every single study in this book--marshmallows, monkeys and moms, etc. But Haidt's book is one of the best in this genre--he mixes modern psychological research (which I think by itself does not lend to a coherent worldview though many have tried to weave one) with some ancient ideas as well as some evolutionary truths. The point of this book, as he says, is not to tell you the meaning of life (why are we here, where do we go, etc), but how to have a meaningful (or happy) life. He ...more
Utility
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis bears the subtitle Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. Executives at Basic Books no doubt felt that this was a little too lofty and academic sounding for the average Indigo-browsing reader of pop-psychology, because the book also bears the second, much sexier subtitle Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think. Each of these three titles seems to point in a somewhat different direction. But whether wittingly or unwittingly, this veritable schizophrenia of titles actu ...more
Amy
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, afp, mind-blown
Using psychology, philosophy, theology*, and some biology, Jonathan Haidt digs into what brings true happiness and how we define it.
I like how intellectually engaging this book was. Most of the studies, philosophies, and ideas he presents should be familiar to anyone who keeps up with the topics. However, I've never seen them combined like this. It really is about "modern truth" born from "ancient wisdom."
Now, while I found this book engaging, I did not agree with all of it. This is pretty und
...more
Michael
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Don’t be put off by the title! It sounds wishy-washy, but it’s not. Haidt’s claims are specific and empirical, and are backed-up with citations to published studies.

The Happiness Hypothesis serves two functions: (1) it’s a psychology professor’s introduction to his chosen subfield (“positive psychology”), which aims to help people “find happiness and meaning” (Kindle Loc. 132); and (2) it explores the continued applicability of (mostly ancient and/or religious) philosophical and moral ideas, in light of
...more
Payam
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I truly do! It is a combination of the three subjects I think about most: psychology, philosophy, and religion.

In the Happiness Hypothesis the (humble) author brings together theories of the past, the theories of religion, and updates them with understandings from psychology. In many ways, he either adjusts traditional thinking with science or he validates traditional thinking with science. It is an excellent approach that must have taken the author a long time to put together
...more
Kirk
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was recommended this book by a friend. Going in, I was skeptical - the premise sounded like some sort of self-help hand wavy junk. When I realized the ambition of the book, I got much more interested. To me, the concept seemed great: "here's an ancient theory on life from an important philosopher, here's some modern science that provides empirical evidence for this theory so it seems they were correct and we should follow his / her advice." However, I think this book may have reached too far a ...more
Zedsdead
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Zedsdead by: Rip & Chrys
Shelves: nonfiction
Non-fiction is not my usual milieu, but this was a gift from a family member so here I am.

The author explores the nature of happiness, its properties and sources, with the end-goal of teaching the reader HOW to be happy. He searches for commonalities across ancient writings (Buddha, Confucius, the Bible, Torah, Aristotle, etc) to support his ideas, though in truth these felt superfluous to me. Haidt mostly relies on psychology and philosophy to back his assertions.

The Hap
...more
Jenny
Jul 22, 2010 added it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Xavier Shay
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. From the author of "The Righteous Mind", which I read a few years back. There is so much good stuff in this book, combining thoughts from the ancients with modern psychology, much of it new to me and the rest a good reminder. A tiny sampling of material:

"But recent research in psychology suggests that Buddha and Epictetus may have taken things too far."

"In fact, happiness is one of the most highly heritable aspects of personality. Twin studies generally show th
...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: happiness
And thus we move, logically, to The Happiness Hypothesis. Ben Tanaka, main character of Shortcomings, could use The Happiness Hypothesis. Ginger Pye and the rest of the Pye family apparently intuitively knew The Happiness Hypothesis.
Haidt looks at ancient wisdom and compares it to the result of the new science of positive psychology. Some of the things I learned from this book:

*Reciprocity is the best guide to life. This is the classic “Do unto others” thought.

*There are three effe
...more
Ed
Oct 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: evelyn, anna
Claire thinks this is the best book I have put her way in recent years and now has about six of her friends reading it. I seem to get good feedback from others I have suggested it to. Basically Jon Haidt (who I have had email correspondance with about the link between his work and mine) looks at what thinkers over the last 3000 years have said about what makes us happy and then applied modern neuro-science and the emerging study of positive psychology to see what light it throws on ancient wisdo ...more
Yuriy Stasyuk
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I intend to read this book again in a year or two. This is the first book in my life I've said that about. It is a masterpiece that integrates the best research from psychology, neuroscience with evolutionary biology and ties that into ancient philosophy and modern social theory.

The most powerful metaphor of the book is the separation of the brain into two parts, the elephant and rider. The elephant represents the subconscious or impulsive patterns of thought, which "have a mind of t
...more
Arielle
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting book from one of my professors at UVA.

Quotes I'd like to remember from the book:

"Our minds are loose confederations of parts, but we identify with and pay too much attention to one part: conscious verbal thinking. We are like the proverbial drunken man looking for his car keys under the street light. (“Did you drop them here?” asks the cop. “No” says the man, “I
dropped them back there in the alley, but the light is better over here.”) Because we can s
...more
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
Mix of philosophy and social psychology. I liked the parts dealing with the issues of ethics and morality best, the ones regarding religion not so much. 3.5 stars

Fav. Quotes:

Threatened self-esteem accounts for a large portion of violence at the individual level, but to really get a mass atrocity going you need idealism— the belief that your violence is a means to a moral end. The major atrocities of the twentieth century were carried out largely either by men who thought they/>
...more
Nikola
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When you read a book for a second time, you realize how some other things you learned meanwhile has affected how you consume it and even your perception of the messages usually change, at least slightly.

This is the first book ever that made me think that it has some even greater stuff inside while reading it (usually we all have that feeling that we have the right understanding of what we are reading and that we got it all right). This is the reason why I am going to reread it, probably next ye
...more
Khuyen
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
THE MOST PERSONALLY INFLUENTIAL BOOK I'VE EVER READ. LIKE ENLIGHTENMENT.

Random notes before I have time to write a proper review.

Feeling of elevation aptly captured by Thomas Jefferson in defending fiction (and explaining so enthusiastically why he recommends books): they provide an experience in which we can depart from our profane self to something greater, and we yearn to be like that! And if that's a common theme in lots of adolescents then perhaps it's a stage in our bio develo
...more
Daniel
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There were a million lightbulbs that went off when I read this. I couldn't stop annoying people and saying, "Oh, in my happiness book, I learned that..." blah blah blah. But, man, so much awesome stuff, like why jealousy evolved (to keep the men around to help feed the mama and that baby with the big head). And one's default disposition is largely inherited from one's folks (the cortical lottery, yo!), and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. And this one... if there are two dudes with r ...more
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Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. He lives in New York City.
“If you are in passionate love and want to celebrate your passion, read poetry. If your ardor has calmed and you want to understand your evolving relationship, read psychology. But if you have just ended a relationship and would like to believe you are better off without love, read philosophy.” 56 likes
“Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of those conditions are within you, such as coherence among the parts and levels of your personality. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you: Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. It is worth striving to get the right relationships between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, and between yourself and something larger than yourself. If you get these relationships right, a sense of purpose and meaning will emerge.” 47 likes
More quotes…