In the 1990s, a psychologist named Martin Seligman led the positive psychology movement, which placed the study of human happiness squarely at the center of psychology research and theory. It continued a trend that began in the 1960s with humanistic and existential psychology, which emphasized the importance of reaching one’s innate potential and creating meaning in one’s life, respectively.
The best of the philosophical internet featuring reasons to forget those New Year’s resolutions; Enlightenment advice on facing Trump’s bullying; insight from the unsettling and properly radical Sigmund Freud; and Jane Austen on cultivating good character via reading.
Have you ever felt awe and exhilaration while contemplating a vista of jagged, snow-capped mountains? Or been fascinated but also a bit unsettled while beholding a thunderous waterfall such as Niagara? Or felt existentially insignificant but strangely exalted while gazing up at the clear, starry night sky? If so, then you’ve had an experience of what philosophers from the mid-18th century to the present call the sublime. It is an aesthetic experience that modern, Western philosophers often theorise about, as well as, more recently, experimental psychologists and neuroscientists in the field of neuroaesthetics.
The best of the philosophical internet featuring enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq on Trump (He’s an “appalling clown for a leader,” but “good news for the rest of the world.”); a late-night philosophy festival spreading around the world; a provocative op-ed on human extinction (nah, it ain’t that bad, get over yourself, you hominid); and the growing popularity of Unabomber philosophy.
What is American “philosophy” nowadays? Does our culture end at commercialism, video games, Netflix and the NFL? In a recent article – “What Happened to Philosophy in America?” – Michael Sutherland seems to think so. He claims philosophical thinking is in short supply in the land of the free (land of the distracted is more like it).
We’d all like to be a little happier.
The problem is that much of what determines happiness is outside of our control. Some of us are genetically predisposed to see the world through rose-colored glasses, while others have a generally negative outlook. Bad things happen, to us and in the world. People can be unkind, and jobs can be tedious.