Honors | The Pursuit of Happiness (HON)
H204 | 29058 | Fritz Lieber
The Declaration of Independence considers it an unalienable right,
yet on earth there is no certainty of it. It is the aim and end of
our being, yet no one could bear a lifetime of it. It comes from
within and from without, to one whose house shelters a friend, and
to one who lives far from people yet loves them. Its promise is
beauty. Born of imagination and reason, it has enticed the poet and
philosopher alike and challenged them equally.
This course will study happiness in history, literature and life.
Following the lead of many great thinkers, if we fail to achieve or
understand happiness, it will not be from a lack of pursuing it.
Indeed, what is this pursuit of happiness? What accounts for the
current cottage industry of happiness studies? What consensus,
contrasts, or conundrums do they convey, and how can we evaluate
We will approach happiness as a concept in an intellectual
tradition, an experience in a context, and a comment on a culture.
We will consider its meanings in the West and other parts of the
world. In the midst of a comprehensive and group examination of
happiness from several disciplines and methodologies, each student
will undertake a focused research paper aimed at making an original
and compelling argument. The paper will be written and evaluated in
four parts, and presented in class.
Class readings will include or be excerpted from: Darrin M.
McMahon’s (2006) Happiness: A History, Derek Bok’s (2010) The
Politics of Happiness, Martin Seligman’s (2002) Authentic Happiness,
Eric A. Posner and Cass R. Sunstein’s (2010) Law and Happiness, Nel
Noddings’ (2003) Happiness and Education, Jonathan Haidt’s (2006)
The Happiness Hypothesis, and Eric G. Wilson’s (2008) Against
Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy.