Happiness and its pursuit have been a constant source of fascination and attraction for thousands of years. In ancient Greek tragedy, happiness was considered a gift of the gods. Now we consider it a right. Why did this change and what does it tell us about our society?
The Pursuit of Happiness offers a brilliant summation of the history of happiness, and its evolution from divine gift to natural human entitlement. Central to the development of Christianity, ideas of happiness assumed their modern form during the Enlightenment. Darrin McMahon follows this great search through to the present day, showing how our modern quest for the ‘holy grail’ of happiness continues to generate new forms of pleasure, but also, paradoxically, new forms of pain. Perfect happiness, like the holy grail, may exist only in our minds, and McMahon helps us discover that, as for Cervantes’ knight of sad countenance, Quixote, to travel is better than to arrive.
Darrin McMahon is the author of Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity. McMahon is currently a professor at Florida State University and writes regularly for various publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and Daedalus.
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