The Conquest of Happiness - Daniel C. Dennett, Bertrand Russell

This book was not what I was expecting. I guess I was thinking that I was in for a grand overview on just what happiness is and the nature of the human existence in chasing it. And while parts were like that, many others were just Russell's opinions on how to "solve" the happiness problem.


There were parts of this book that showed its age, both socially and scientifically, even far enough to the point that I'd disagree with the conclusion. The biggest example of this is that one can force themselves to believe a thought by "planting it in the subconscious" by repeated use. Throughout the rest of the book he continues this line of reasoning: that most hindrances to happiness can be solved by thought and intelligence and will. Personally I don't think this holds up as the same effective method that Russell presents it.


But there were parts that I intensely enjoyed and stirred me up if they touched on the idea of "what is the happiness that we should attain?", like the idea that one who enjoys sports is better off than someone who does not, and someone who reads (woot woot) is better off still because reading is always available. In any case, there were also times that I just enjoyed him skillfully expressing a very basic thought that I knew, but was always implied.



It's really more of an opinion piece than anything, which is ok, except that most of it was not remarkable. People who enjoy their jobs are generally happier. People in love are happier. Etc. And while it was discussed in an engaging way, it's not a "cure" that is new or groundbreaking. There were, however, some parts that out of nowhere hit home really hard and made me step back and think about it for a week, and I'm still thinking about them so I guess I can say the book was good.


After all, good philosophy isn't supposed to give you the answers, it's supposed to give you the questions.