Happiness: A History

Front Cover
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006 - History - 544 pages
18 Reviews
Darrin M. McMahon's sweeping new book, chronicling the evolution of happiness over two thousand years of Western culture and thought, argues that our modern belief in happiness -- that happiness is a natural right -- is a relatively recent development. It is a product of a dramatic revolution in human expectations carried out since the eighteenth century. Central to the development of Christianity, ideas of happiness assumed their modern form during the Enlightenment, when men and women were first introduced to the novel prospect that they could -- in fact should -- be happy in this life as opposed to the hereafter. Ultimately, the Enlightenment's recognition of happiness as a motivating ideal led to its consecration in the Declaration of Independence and France's Declaration of the Rights of Man. McMahon follows this great pursuit through to the present day, showing how our modern search for happiness continues to generate new forms of pleasure, but also, paradoxically, new forms of pain. In the tradition of works by Peter Gay and Simon Schama, "Happiness" draws on numerous sources, including art and architecture, poetry and scripture, music and theology, literature and myth to offer a sweeping intellectual history of man's most elusive yet coveted goal.
  

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Very researched, interestingly presented and nuanced. - Goodreads
Poorly researched, poorly written, often misleading. - Goodreads
Good for factoids, but not for philosophizing. - Goodreads

Review: Happiness: A History

User Review  - Renate - Goodreads

Not a how-to or self help book, but a thorough historical overview of the theme happiness. In the style of Huizinga and Schama, the author goes from the Greeks to modern societ, using most philosophical sources, but also referring to literature and art. Very worthwile. Read full review

Review: Happiness: A History

User Review  - Robb Seaton - Goodreads

Poorly researched, poorly written, often misleading. Read full review

Contents

THE TRAGEDY OF HAPPINESS I
1
THE HIGHEST GOOD
19
PERPETUAL FELICITY
66
FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH
140
SELFEVIDENT TRUTHS
197
A MODERN RITE
253
QUESTIONING THE EVIDENCE
271
LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS
312
BUILDING HAPPY WORLDS
363
JOYFUL SCIENCE
406
HAPPY ENDING
454
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
481
INDEX
529
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

New York University

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