Centre for Confidence and Well-being

Skip to content
Carol's Blog
Postcards from Scotland

Why societies should pursue happiness

Is pursuing happiness a good thing? according to Professor Barry Schwartz it depends on how you define it.

 Recently Darrin McMahon cautioned against pursuing happiness.  Schwarz believes that this caution arises from a misunderstanding of what is meant by happiness.  Schwarz believes that McMahon is equating happiness with pleasure, and agrees with McMahon that a national pursuit of pleasure is not a good thing, but disagrees with McMahon?s assertion that happiness = pleasure.   McMahon is not alone, for many of us the pursuit of happiness has become equivalent to the pursuit of pleasure.   Barry Schwarz asserts that the belief that 'happiness is the pursuit of pleasure' has arisen because the Western world has developed ?an unbridled individualism coupled with extraordinary materialism?. This means that life is about ?what you have, not what you do, and it?s about what you have, and not what we have? Schwartz points us to the evidence surrounding the notion of happiness.  Happiness, according to the experts, is not just about pleasure but also about meaning. Positive paychologist Martin Seligman distinguishes happiness from pleasure with the concept of authentic happiness.  Authentic happiness can be achieved by pursuing character strengths and virtues and applying these in our everyday lives.  Schwarz believes that society can help cultivate virtuous character and human excellence rather than GDP, and that we can, and should, pursue policies which increase ?Gross National Happiness?.  To read the full argument click here.

Centre Events Previous Centre Events External Events Carol's Talks