Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - Is the Pursuit of Happiness Making Us Miserable?

This is an interesting discussion on the pursuit of happiness. In the book review I posted last night (Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful - No Matter What), Srikumar Rao, PhD argues that happiness comes not from acquiring things or experiences, but from ending the process of labeling thoughts, emotions, or experiences as good or bad, positive of negative.

In that sense, pursuing happiness is not likely to make us happy, since all things are impermanent and if we are attached to being happy, we automatically set up its opposite of sad or suffering - setting our trap for ourselves.

It's not as easy as simply saying it - it takes a lifetime of work.

Anyway, here's the discussion.

Is the Pursuit of Happiness Making Us Miserable?

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The pursuit of happiness is one of the unalienable rights enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. But is our relentless striving to feel good no matter what actually making us miserable? Would we be better to accept that life comes with good times and bad, and make peace with that?

This IQ2 debate, held in Sydney in March 2010, pits those who believe that happiness is a worthwhile goal that can be found in pleasures material and social, against those who hold that people should abandon unrealistic goals and seek quiet comfort within.


Tanveer Ahmed is a psychiatry registrar and writer. He is a former television journalist who is a regular contributor to the major circulars, primarily The Sydney Morning Herald.

While Ahmed has varied interests (he is an appointee to the Advertising Standards Board, has been a national representative for the Australian Medical Association, has been chosen as one of 100 future leaders of Australia, and has even appeared as a co-host on a prime time game show), he is most well-known for his writings on Islamic affairs and multiculturalism.

Clive Hamilton is an Australian author and public intellectual. In June 2008 he was appointed Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a joint centre of the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne.

For 14 years, until February 2008, he was the executive director of The Australia Institute, a progressive think tank he founded. He holds an arts degree from the Australian National University (majoring in history, psychology and pure mathematics) and an economics degree from the University of Sydney (majoring in economics and government, with first class honours in the former). He completed a doctorate at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex with a thesis titled "Capitalist Industrialisation in Korea."

He has published on a wide range of subjects but is best known for his books, a number of which have been best-sellers. They include Growth Fetish (2003), Affluenza (with Richard Denniss, 2005), What's Left: The death of social democracy (2006), Silencing Dissent (edited with Sarah Maddison, 2007) and Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change (2007). His latest book, titled The Freedom Paradox: Towards a post-secular ethics, was published by Allen & Unwin on 1 August 2008.

In June 2009 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to public debate and policy development, and in December 2009 he was the Greens candidate in the by-election for the federal seat of Higgins.

Professor Ian Hickie is a professor of psychiatry and the Executive Director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, based at the University of Sydney. Hickie was the inaugural CEO of Beyondblue: the national depression initiative, which aims to address issues associated with depression.

Russel Howcroft is the Chairman and Managing Director of advertising agency George Patterson Y & R and is the former Chairman of the Advertising Federation of Australia. He is also a panellist on the ABC television program "The Gruen Transfer."

Petrea King is the Founding Director and CEO of the Quest for Life Foundation and practices as a counsellor, inspirational speaker and workshop leader in the field of holistic health. She is the author of several books including Quest for Life and Your Life Matters.

Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of the St. James Ethics Centre. Longstaff spent five years studying and working as a member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Having won scholarships to study at Cambridge, he read for the degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy.

Longstaff was inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics and serves as a director for a number of companies. He is a fellow at the World Economic Forum and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Foreign Policy Association, based in New York. Longstaff has been Executive Director of the St. James Ethics Centre since shortly after it was founded.

Professor Judith Sloan is an economist and the Commissioner of the Productivity Commission and the Australian Fair Pay Commission. She is a director on the board of the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the Westfield Group Board. She has worked as an academic at the University of Melbourne and Flinders University, South Australia.

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