Ithaca, New York
The Ultimate Goal: Reflections on the Philosophy and Science of the Pursuit of Happiness
This essay synthesizes some contemporary cognitive studies on the topic, liberally referencing what classical philosophers have said about it. I also sprinkle the scholarship with personal reflections. Schematically, the essay discusses social factors of happiness, such as money, marriage, and children, and then psychological factors, such as personal values and religious beliefs. Then it explores more philosophical issues, such as how best to define and measure happiness; should we conflate it with virtue (as classical philosophers do); what is its relationship to melancholy and to the perception of beauty; and is it something we should even attempt to pursue–that is, is there any value in thinking of it as a goal, especially given that our cognitive habits make it so elusive.