By Arnold Kling
I continue to have philosophical disagreements with “happiness research.” My latest essay takes on a recent paper by Alan Krueger and Daniel Kahneman. I write,
With research into subjective well-being, economists are making statements about what constitutes the good life. In doing so, we are encroaching on territory once claimed by philosophers and theologians — and, more recently, by self-help gurus. In the 70’s, it was I’m OK, You’re OK. Now, we are saying “I have positive net affect, you have positive net affect.”
…Still, I have a feeling that if happiness research proceeds far enough, it will serve merely to rediscover some eternal truths. For example, this New York Times story cites work by Claudia Senik, who found that “that when people aspire to a better quality of life within the next 12 months, the attempt to reach that goal alone — the anticipation independent of the outcome — seems to bestow happiness in the present.” Have the sages not been telling us this for centuries?