The Pursuit of Happiness
While stated as a fundamental objective in The Declaration of Independence, happiness for many people remains an elusive state. This course will examine the interplay between private and public happiness by looking briefly at the history and definitions of our modern concept of happiness, examining recent work in fields ranging from psychology to economics, observing current social trends, and reading several forms of literature. Simultaneous to this reading, students will maintain a journal, documenting various aspects of their own happiness. Through this study, we will explore ways individual citizens can maximize happiness (perhaps through self-knowledge, positive emotions, community, meaningful work, play and public life). Students will extrapolate from our authors to design a specific plan for their own lives. Relatedly, we will ask: what sorts of social policies should come out to support these plans? Thus, what begins as a personal journey will become a public one. Our semester will end with students creating a research paper aimed at redesigning an aspect of contemporary society in order to maximize happiness.