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Testing the Happiness Hypothesis

anneliese's picture

October selection of the Slippery Brain Sodality, discussion started Oct. 17th, 2010

...or, befriending your inner pachyderm

Thanks to all for a rich conversation today. In the spirit of Paul's attention to new questions raised (and questions left unanswered), here are some of the observations and questions that grabbed my attention during our discussion today:

  • Tidiness: Haidt's story is compelling, interesting, covers a lot of ground...but is it too coherent? (tendency to overgeneralize and gloss over/omit "messiness" and complexity)
  • Unconflicted elephant: Similarly, Haidt's characterization of the unconscious/elephant suggests that it, too, is internally coherent, and that the tension lies solely between the unconscious/elephant and the storyteller/rider.
  • Extreme adversity: How universal - or universally accessible? - are the lessons and suggestions in this book? What about someone who has never experienced, and may therefore be less willing/able to place faith in, the ability of their rider to successfully guide their elephant? (e.g., the addicted elephant)
    • Interesting contrast with approach advocated by AA (never trust the elephant?)
  • Tension around solitude and sociability: Haidt claims (with somewhat unconvincing evidence) that "people need obligations and constraints to provide structure and meaning" to life, and warns against the dangers of "extreme personal freedom" (p. 133). Without denying the need for strong, reciprocal social relationships, what about the uses of solitude? And what about the hazards of group dynamics/social constraints?

Further musings, reactions, observations?

(While this page is part of an ongoing book club discussion, visitors are warmly invited to share their experiences and join the conversation.)


Bozena's picture


I don't really have anything to add to what's already been said; I just wanted to find out whether I could post a comment, should I have something to say in the future.

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