PHIL 220: Philosophy of Happiness (Tier 2 HUMS)

Happiness matters to us; and now it is in the news. There are large numbers of self-help books telling us how to be happy. Some nations are planning to measure the happiness of their citizens to find out how it can be increased. There is a huge new field of `happiness studies¿, and new focus on happiness in positive psychology as well as fields like politics and law. Much of this material is confusing, since often it is not clear what the authors think that happiness is. Is it feeling good? Is it having a positive attitude to the way you are now? Is it having a positive attitude to your life as a whole? Is it having a happy life? Can some people advise others on how to be happy?

Philosophers have been engaged with the search for happiness for two thousand years. They have asked what happiness is, and have explored different answers to the question, including some of the answers now being rediscovered in other fields.

In this course we will ask what happiness is, and examine critically the major answers to this question. We¿ll look at the rich philosophical tradition of thinking about happiness, at contemporary answers, and also at some recent work in the social sciences. We¿ll examine the contributions being made to the ongoing search to find out what happiness is, and how we can live happy lives.

Overall course objectives/expected learning outcomes:
This course has two primary objectives: (1) To introduce students to the theoretical nature of the question of the nature of happiness by presenting a representative sample of the primary historical and contemporary literature. (2) To enable students to think and write critically, logically and objectively about the philosophical issues pertaining to happiness.
These objectives will be approached through lectures, discussions and writing assignments informed by the assigned readings. Course outcomes will be assessed through substantial writing assignments, some of which will feature opportunities for students to revise their work in light of advice from the professor.

Course Credits