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Exploring HappinessExploring Happiness

From Aristotle to Brain Science

Sissela Bok

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011 in the Philosophy category.

Narrated by Kellie Fitzgerald

Available from Audible

Book published by Yale University Press

In this smart and timely book, the distinguished moral philosopher Sissela Bok ponders the nature of happiness and its place in philosophical thinking and writing throughout the ages. With nuance and elegance, Bok explores notions of happiness—from Greek philosophers to Desmond Tutu, Charles Darwin, Iris Murdoch, and the Dalai Lama—as well as the latest theories advanced by psychologists, economists, geneticists, and neuroscientists. Eschewing abstract theorizing, Bok weaves in a wealth of firsthand observations about happiness from ordinary people as well as renowned figures. This may well be the most complete picture of happiness yet.

This book is also a clarion call to think clearly and sensitively about happiness. Bringing together very different disciplines provides Bok with a unique opportunity to consider the role of happiness in wider questions of how we should lead our lives and treat one another—concerns that don’t often figure in today’s happiness equation. How should we pursue, weigh, value, or limit our own happiness, or that of others, now and in the future? Compelling and perceptive, Exploring Happiness shines a welcome new light on the heart of the human condition.

Sissela Bok is Senior Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, and a moral philosopher of international renown. A former member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, Bok is a Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and sits on the editorial boards of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Common Knowledge, and Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. Her many books include the seminal Lying, Secrets, A Strategy for Peace, Mayhem, and Common Values.


“It is hard to imagine how anyone else, in fewer than 200 pages of text, could better encompass so much Western thinking about a question so important to the way we live.”

Wall Street Journal

“Very smart, sensitive, and thought-provoking.... This thoughtful, beautifully written book makes one feel one is present, conversing with the very best minds of the last 2500 years on one of the few philosophical problems that is of universal importance.”

—Owen Flanagan, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“The book is highly recommended… [It] is a very welcome addition to the thriving literature on happiness. ”

Journal of Consciousness Studies

“Weaving gracefully through a canon of thinkers from Aristotle and Seneca to Freud and Bertrand Russell, Bok also affirms the newer school, which regards itself as a science and whose reach extends to techniques such as brain imaging. … Amid the plethora of books about happiness, from self-improvement manuals to commentaries about improving society, it plays a distinctive and valuable role as a model of how to engage with different kinds of knowledge on the subject, and to get them to engage with each other. It demonstrates the principle that when it comes to happiness, the humanities and the sciences should be intertwined.”

Financial Times

“What causes true happiness? From ancient philosophers to contemporary neuroscientists — as well as any of us searching for how to lead a good life — people have grappled with that most profound of all simple questions. Sissela Bok weaves together the different conceptions of happiness to create a shimmering and subtle tapestry. This book will take you a step closer to happiness by helping you understand the idea better.”

—Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, the Aspen Institute

Exploring Happiness is an intellectual feast.... It is an invitation to turn to personal writing and reflection and to past thinkers from Goethe to Swedish feminist Ellen Key, who thought that happiness was the process of developing our capabilities. Exploring Happiness explores not only happiness but the question of how we should live our lives.”

The American Scholar

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University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks