"The restless search for wealth, power, fame and office produces unhappiness in all but a tiny minority"by AC Grayling / January 7, 2015 / Leave a comment
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The translation of Aristotle’s eudaimonia as “happiness” is regarded by most philosophers as inadequate to capture the sense of wellbeing and well-doing—of active flourishing—that he intended by his use of the term. The subject of wellbeing is as old as the classical tradition. It is a theme common to the ethical schools of the period: from Stoics and Epicureans to Cynics the aim was to achieve at very least ataraxia, “peace of mind” or more accurately “unanxiousness”, which by any account would be a minimum requirement for wellbeing, if not constitutive of it.
Philosophical reflection on the nature of eudaimonia and ataraxia has of late given way to the calipers and thermometers of quantitative social science. Wellbeing—measuring it, promoting it, teaching the skills that lead to it, comparing it across age groups and nations, distinguishing between the wellbeing of children, men, women, individuals and groups, and much besides—has become the subject of an industry. It is related to “Happiness Studies,” now officially part of university curricula and well-funded research projects. If people once chuckled at the King of Bhutan’s introduction in 1972 of Gross National Happiness in place of GDP as a measure of Bhutan’s success, they chuckle no longer.
As a result we can now read National Audit Office (NAO) reports stating such things as that “In 2011, 71.8 per cent of adults aged 16 and over in the UK rated their life satisfaction as 7 or more out of 10, higher than the EU–28 average of 69.3 per cent.” Statistics such as these, which are based on subjective self-assessment and are sensitive to complex cultural factors influencing individual and group assumptions, expectations and experience, are of doubtful value. They are unlike the statistics with which they are typically mixed, such as those in the NAO’s report that “In 2013, 79 per cent of adults aged 15 and over in the UK scored very high, high or medium on an index of cultural practice (measuring frequency of cultural participation), higher than the EU–27 average of 66 per cent.”…