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The Pursuit of Happiness

8:00 Seminar

While stated as a fundamental objective in "The Declaration of Independence", happiness for many remains an elusive goal.  Students in this course will explore both private and public happiness by looking briefly at history, examining recent research work in fields ranging from psychology to economics, observing current social trends, and reading several forms of literature.  Through this study, we will explore ways individuals can maximize happiness by means of self-knowledge, love, optimism, gratitude, virtue, better uses of time, meaningful work, play, and public life.  What sorts of social policies should come out of these?  In turn, how does social policy itself contribute to unhappiness and/or happiness?  Beginning with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we will discuss the framework for a personally happy and meaningful life.  Ending with Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, we will affirm the connection between self-knowledge and the common good as enacted in public ritual.  In addition to the reading, students will keep a personal “happiness” journal, will write a “self-analysis” paper based on their journals, and will ultimately create a research paper aimed at redesigning an aspect of contemporary society in order to maximize happiness. The thematic connection to Pacific Seminar I is primarily to private life and civil society, but there are also connections to education and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.