Tuesday, May 15, 2018

J. Barkley Rosser — The Overhyping of _The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Bettere After 50_

Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution has just published The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, which seems to be getting a major media push from a bunch of completely uncritical reviewers and commenters, some of whom really should know better. It is not that this book is totally wrong or bad, but that it way overstates its case, cherry picking data and the views of people he has interviewed, with only the slightest of caveats.
A typical sophistic argument runs from presuppositions (hidden assumptions) to stated assumptions and then reasoning to conclusions "proving" the presuppositions.

Actually, if Aristotle is correct in Nichomachean Ethics, one should get happier as one ages as along as one also gets wiser. For genuine happiness (Greek: εὐδαιμονία)  is a by-product of human excellence (Greek: ἀρετή), where excellence is defined in terms of unfolding one's potential as a human being and an individual. But apparently that is not what the book is about.

The Overhyping of _The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Bettere After 50_
J. Barkley Rosser | Professor of Economics and Business Administration James Madison University


jrbarch said...

For me, happiness is an energy that dwells inside of the heart; in the same way sunlight and warmth dwell within the Sun. We are the variable, in our approach, proximity, and sensitivity towards it. We think everything has to be approached with the mind, or happiness has a material basis. This is ignorance, unconsciousness, blindness – the cause of all misunderstandings. Children are close to it; adults way too sophisticated and egoistic. As you age you get simpler; which means you get wiser. How to get in touch with happiness can be learnt, taught – and these are the techniques of self-knowledge. This light ‘illumines’ the mind. The human heart is the door to the self. If a rock falls back to the earth, water runs back to the ocean, a candle leaps towards the Sun – should not the human heart long for its source? Understand our nature first; then understand the world.

Andrew Anderson said...

I ask myself why I am much happier at 67 than I was the first 58 years of my life.

If I am honest, a guaranteed, somewhat adequate income (Social Security) trumps almost every thing else and if someone were to threaten it, the 3rd rail is way too good for them, especially if they favor welfare for the rich (e.g. positive yields on the inherently risk-free debt of monetary sovereigns).

Closely following is my favored psychotropic drug in adequate dosage. I warn so-called Bible believers that escape from one's bitterness is a good thing according to the Bible:

Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to him whose life is bitter.
Let him drink and forget his poverty
And remember his trouble no more.

Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
Proverbs 31:6-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

I've found the above two to be necessary but not sufficient to my sense of well-being. The final major ingredient is faith, without which it is impossible to please God. I hasten to add that faith enables me to do good, without which faith is dead and non-productive.

An additional ingredient is the ability to do work, e.g. land to work on and with, tools, etc.