According to an ancient and still popular view -- sometimes known as 'eudaimonism' -- a person's well-being, or quality of life, is ultimately determined by his or her level of happiness. According to this view, the happier a person is, the better off he is. The doctrine is controversial in part because the nature of happiness is controversial. In What Is This Thing Called Happiness? Fred Feldman presents a study of the nature and value of happiness. Part One contains critical discussions of the main philosophical and psychological theories of happiness. Feldman presents arguments designed to show that each of these theories is problematic. Part Two contains his presentation and defense of his own theory of happiness, which is a form of attitudinal hedonism. On this view, a person's level of happiness may be identified with the extent to which he or she takes pleasure in things. Feldman shows that if we understand happiness as he proposes, it becomes reasonable to suppose that a person's well-being is determined by his or her level of happiness. This view has important implications not only for moral philosophy, but also for the emerging field of hedonic psychology. Part Three contains discussions of some interactions between the proposed theory of happiness and empirical research into happiness.
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Fred Feldman has been a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst since 1969.
'...a must read for anyone interested in the topic of happiness ... Feldman has accomplished something of signal importance. He has clarified the construct of happiness and made fruitful suggestions about how to measure it.' David Manier, PsychCRITIQUES: American Psychological Association Review of Books
'a terrific piece of work, a real tour de force. The writing is exceptionally clear, the discussion exceptionally straightforward and sensible, the criticism of other philosophers' accounts of the nature and value of happiness exceptionally careful and insightful, ....'
Michael J. Zimmerman, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
'Feldman is a charming writer, with a knack for compelling and often amusing thought experiments.' Steven Poole, The Guardian
'psychologists, economists, sociologists and others doing empirical happiness research could benefit hugely from reading [What Is This Thing...]' Erik Angner, Utilitas
'the book is superb. It is a first-rate philosophical examination of a centrally important concept written with Feldman's characteristic clarity ... Anyone working on the nature of happiness will find Feldman's critical discussion extremely valuable.' Noah Lemos, Ethics
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