Living well and living right: Aesthetic and ethical dimensions of happiness

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Abstract

The widespread happiness discourse in modern society presents a challenge to critical scholars: On the one hand, it seems that happiness has become a problematic ideological construct, but on the other hand it seems that human beings cannot do without a notion of happiness. In this chapter, I argue that we cannot escape from normative prescriptions about happiness, not even when we criticize the dominant notions of happiness. Often, the implicit critique of the happiness discourse is that it makes people, yes, unhappy. So how can a viable notion of happiness emerge from the ashes of the critique of the ideological constructions of the fantasy of happiness? The main argument of the chapter is that after the (justified) critique of happiness, it is time to explore and defend a moral notion of happiness, i.e., one according to which human happiness is more than living well and experiencing “subjective well-being”. This demands transcending the experience-focused theories of happiness that prevail today and invoking ethical theories of “living right” instead. How to do this without falling into moralism remains a major challenge that is discussed in the chapter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Happiness Studies
EditorsNicholas Hill, Svend Brinkmann, Anders Petersen
Number of pages14
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Publication date2020
Pages130-143
Chapter8
ISBN (Print)9781138304437
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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