Religion & Philosophy Department

Lebanon Valley College

The First Brainstorms Meeting!

Encourage your friends and interested classmates to attend the first meeting of Brainstorms (Wednesday, September 5, at 12noon on the 3rd floor Humanities). The topic of our meeting will be “Happiness,” which is the theme of this year’s Colloquium speaker and film series. There are a good many ways to come at this theme: from the classical notions of happiness or eudaimonia theorized by Plato and Aristotle, to contemporary philosophical and psychological analyses of happiness as a human phenomenon that says much about or diversity of cultures, perspectives and ideals.

 

If I may propose a starting point, let us begin with a distinction outlined by philosopher Pascal Bruckner. In a conversation with philosophers David Edmunds and Nigel Warburton for the Ethics Bites series (here’s the link to the 15 minute interview), Bruckner argues that our contemporary society has swapped the “right to happiness” (which emerges in the Enlightenment) for a “duty to happiness.” To support this idea, he highlights the various industries that support our pursuit of happiness, all of which set up a convenient means-end relation between our unfulfilled desires and satisfaction that can be obtained through one’s buying power. Rather than an individual feeling, happiness now gets judged in the public sphere as peer pressure compels us to do something about the “problem” of unhappiness.

 

Let’s take this idea as a starting point for our discussion to see if philosophy can help us to make some sense of happiness. Who knows, philosophy might even bring us happiness…

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