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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

8 - Are We Designed to Be Happy?

from Part III - Evolution and Neuroscience


The science of happiness is still in its infancy; there is little consensus on how happiness might be best defined, let alone studied. Still, the pursuit of happiness was inscribed in the American Constitution as a fundamental right, and recently governments around the world have started to measure the happiness and well-being of people as a measure on par with gross national product.

Whatever it is, happiness is clearly desirable, yet worryingly fleeting. In this chapter, we will describe some of the scientific progress that has been made. We will take our lead from Aristotle, who was interested in the good life; a life lived embedded in meaningful values (Aristotle, 350 BC/1976). He divided the main ingredients into hedonia and eudaimonia. The former is perhaps best translated as “pleasure” (derived from hedus, the sweet taste of honey), while eudaimonia is often translated as “well-being,” although it is probably better captured by “flourishing” or “meaningful pleasure.”.

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