Conceptions of happiness: philosophical and evolutionary considerations
Svetlana E. Chirkina – Alexandra V. Beloborodova – Elena V. Grigorovich – Rosalina V. Shagieva – Denis G. Shelevoi
This paper offers a critical analysis of the conclusions of the most recent research in the field of social psychology and positive psychology, with a special focus on Jonathan Haidt’s conclusions published in his acclaimed book The Happiness Hypothesis (2006). Various factors contributing to subjective feelings of happiness are considered and assessed on the background of what modern research has come to call a ‘divided self,’ reflecting the dynamic and often conflicting relationship between the human rational ego and his/her emotions and internal (often subconscious) drives. While our individual genetic predispositions have a substantial impact on the way we feel and act, intentional mind-focusing techniques, proper types of psychotherapy or spiritual counselling, and adequate medicine (e.g., Prozac) have a measurable influence on human character development, subjective wellbeing, and feelings of happiness. This paper claims that it might be difficult to answer the question of what constitutes happiness and how one achieves it without answering first the question of meaning in a twofold manner: first, giving adequate consideration to life’s meaning from within, i.e., from the perspective of the personal/moral subject; and second, considering the wider context of the person’s subjective consideration in asking the question ‘what is the meaning of life’ in general. To attempt to answer this second question, one needs to delve into deeper philosophical/spiritual waters.
Key words: happiness, Jonathan Haidt, subjective wellbeing, the meaning of life