#142 – The Happiness Hypothesis



Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D. is a social and cultural psychologist and author of the 2006 book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 and then did post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago and in Orissa, India. He has been on the faculty of the University of Virginia since 1995. His research focuses on morality – its emotional foundations, cultural variations, and developmental course. He began his career studying the negative moral emotions, such as disgust, shame, and vengeance, but then moved on to the understudied positive moral emotions, such as admiration, awe, and moral elevation. He is currently developing a comprehensive theory about the “five foundations” of human morality which describes the “first draft” of the moral mind drafted by natural selection, and also describes the cultural and developmental processes by which that draft gets revised into multiple forms. He is applying this theory to understand political divisions in the United States. He is the 2001 winner of the Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology, and a 2004 winner of the Virginia “Outstanding Faculty Award,” conferred by Governor Mark Warner. He was the Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Visiting Professor at Princeton University in 2006-2007.

(Psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.)


One Comment

  1. Posted April 8, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Doctor Dave, Great show!

    Moral psychology and its interface with moral and political philosophy has been a big focus for me in the last few years, and I was excited to hear this interview with Dr. Jonathan Haidt.

    I’ll admit that I was skeptical of the book “The Happiness Hypothesis”, just from hearing its title, but after the interview I was ready to jump into the car to go find it right away. It seems to me that Dr. Haidt has approached this topic with the careful and wise caution and deeply balanced thinking that is required. And it isn’t his vast research, but his patient and bounded synthesis of ideas without missing the point of any of them that is where the gold is, at least for me.
    As usual, Dr. Dave gives such a masterful interview that one doesn’t really notice him asking the very questions that come into the listener’s mind. He leads the interviewee along, drawing out a depth and spontaneity that is a joy to witness.
    My cynical self would love to call the idea of a “Happiness Hypothesis” cheesy and misguided, because it seems quite over the top: “Gee, let me just fix Buddha, Freud, and everyone in between (Aristotle, Hume, etc..) and lay it out for the people”. But I cannot, because I was really very impressed with the nuanced and patient process Dr. Haidt revealed in his thinking.
    I have a feeling this book will travel well through time, and I look forward to a long weekend with the elephant, the rider, and the book.

    Thanks Dr. Dave and Dr. Haidt!

    -Alex Proctor,
    Baltimore, Maryland

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