Notes on show: Original Airdate 08/31/2004
About the Guest
A specialist in the philosophy of emotions, business ethics, and post-Kantian continental philosophy, Professor Solomon has also published extensively on ethics and the history of philosophy. His more than forty books include The Passions (Doubleday, 1976), In the Spirit of Hegel (Oxford, 1983), From Hegel to Existentialism (Oxford, 1987), Continental Philosophy Since 1750 (Oxford, 1988), Ethics and Excellence (Oxford, 1992), The Joy of Philosophy (Oxford, 1999), and Living with Nietzsche (Oxford, 2003). He has a three-volume series On the Passionate Life; the first two volumes appeared in 2003 and 2004. He co-authored (with Kathleen Higgins) What Nietzsche Really Said (Random House/Schocken, 2000) along with two widely used collections on Nietzsche. His more than 100 articles have appeared in many of the leading philosophy journals and in numerous books. Before coming to Texas, he taught at Princeton, UCLA, and the University of Pittsburgh. He is a yearly visitor at the University of Auckland. He is also President of the International Society for Research on Emotions.
Is happiness just an emotion? Emotions usually have two aspects: the feeling and the thought. There seems to be two kinds of happiness. One is transitory, the other is a long-term state. Ken introduces the guest, Robert Solomon, professor at University of Texas, Austin. Solomon thinks that all of the possibilities for happiness discussed are wrong. He says that Aristotle focused on long-term happiness. John distinguishes between subjective and objective happiness. Aristotle focused on the latter. Solomon talks about self-deception and happiness; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we're happy when we're not and we can be happy without realizing it.
Is happiness the same as the good life? Solomon does think that says much. Happiness may just be one component of the good life. Does an objective component to happiness mean that it does not vary across cultures? Different cultures have varying standards by which to judge whether someone is happy. If one can be wrong about whether one is happy, then it seems like there is an objective part of happiness. What is the relation between contentment and happiness? Does one entail the other or are they mutually exclusive?
Do we have the power to choose to be happy or unhappy? Solomon thinks we can choose to do anything, but can we choose to be one way or another? Are all kinds of happiness created equal? Some people are happy taking prozac while others are happy helping orphans. Solomon thinks this is misguided since happiness is not a single all encompassing concept. Solomon wants to emphasize how complex the notion of happiness is while most people think of it in a very simplistic way. There are two other notions that are important to happiness are self-actualization and joy. Self-actualization seems to support Aristotle's notion that happiness is the good life, reaching one's potentials. John points out that joy goes in and out of vogue as important for happiness.
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