Happiness: A History

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Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006 - History - 544 pages
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An intellectual history of man's most elusive yet coveted goal. Today, we think of happiness as a natural right, but people haven't always felt this way. Historian McMahon argues that our modern belief in happiness is a recent development, the product of a revolution in human expectations carried out since the eighteenth century. He investigates that fundamental transformation by synthesizing two thousand years of politics, culture, and thought. In ancient Greek tragedy, happiness was considered a gift of the gods. During the Enlightenment 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. This recognition of happiness as a motivating ideal led to its consecration in the Declaration of Independence. McMahon then shows how our modern search continues to generate new forms of pleasure, but also, paradoxically, new forms of pain.--From publisher description

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User Review  - vlorand - LibraryThing

was slow going at first, but began to become quite interesting for me as it reached the last two centuries. Read full review

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