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  • 9 years ago
Dr Mark Vernon: Happiness: The Failure of a New Science

Dr Mark Vernon: Happiness: The Failure of a New Science

The new sciences of happiness are generating lots of advice on how to keep smiling. The results are even being explored by policy wonks. So why does so much of it – work less, say thanks, keep fit – sound so trite? If it were that easy, wouldn’t we all be happy by now? The reason is that a central and tricky question is being glossed over: just what is happiness? Moreover, how you try to promote happiness depends entirely on what you take happiness to be – and there’s a wealth of choice in that. The sadness is that this has all been considered before, though there seems to be widespread ignorance of the fact. It was Jeremy Bentham who set up the greatest happiness principle and in the very next generation, his godson and prodigy, John Stuart Mill, who ditched it. What Bentham hadn’t grasped is that if you go for happiness head on, you won’t find it. Happiness is a byproduct of life, not an organising principle. From this follows a devastating critique of the so-called measures of hap