Lectures Watched
Since January 1, 2014
Hundreds of free, self-paced university courses available:
my recommendations here
Peruse my collection of 275
influential people of the past.
View My Class Notes via:
Receive My Class Notes via E-Mail:


Contact Me via E-Mail:
edward [at] tanguay.info
Notes on video lecture:
Measuring Human Happiness
Choose from these words to fill the blanks below:
development, happiness, ephemeral, independent, pleasure, young, biochemical, consumerism, meaning, inner, transient, meditate, enjoy, happiness, sensations, business, cathedral, soldier, evolutionary, want, comfortable, delusions, work, Kahneman, children, drugs, monstrous, scientist, meaning, happy
in Huxley's Brave New World, everyone takes            given out for free by the government in order to be happy
most people see this to be a                    future scenario, but it's difficult to say why, since in the scenario, everyone in the world is happy, so what could be wrong with that?
the reason why this scenario makes us uneasy is that the definition of happiness in the novel is simplified to mean no more and no less than to experience pleasant bodily                      more and more of the time
since our biochemical system naturally limits the number and duration of pleasant sensations in the body, the only way to make people experience a high level of well-being and pleasure over long period of time is to manipulate this                        system with the help of drugs and other medical treatments
however, today, most people would define happiness as a sustained sense of well-being and                  and this is how science generally defines it
but not everyone defines happiness this way
Daniel                 's studies on happiness
asked people to describe their days in great detail
900 working class women in Texas
break up her day into segment of 5 minutes, write what she is doing each 5 minutes, and how much she enjoyed it
resulted in many mini stories, e.g. talked on phone to friend, took bus to work, etc.
some of the things they disliked most were taking care of their                 
changing diapers
washing dirty clothes
preparing food for them
dealing with temper tantrums and children fighting
on average they found more joy at          than being with their children at home
also asked them to rate their chief source of happiness
most mentioned their children as a major source of                   
even though the most of the individual acts of taking care of children were rated as least enjoyable
how do we explain this discrepancy?
i.e. the acts of changing diapers and washing clothes were rated as the least pleasant, yet her children were rated as her chief source of happiness
theory #1: people in general don't really know what makes them           
theory #2: happiness is something different than pleasure, it is not the surplus of pleasant moments over unpleasant moments
our values make a difference in how we interpret our lives as happy or not, regardless of the amount of pleasure in them
a meaningful and happy life can be led doing acts which are not pleasurable
and a meaningless and unhappy life can be led doing acts which are pleasurable
happiness isn't comfort or pleasure, happiness is above all finding meaning in what we do
this approach has important implications for the history of happiness
people at all times in history have probably felt the same pleasant and unpleasant sensations in their body
but the                that people give to these experiences are very different in various cultures and throughout history
this implies that life in our modern age is not necessarily better or happier than life in previous eras
much in the Middle Ages was much less                       
religions and philosophies and metaphors of life play a larger role in giving people meaning no matter what era they live in
problem with this approach
according to scientific point of view, human life has no               
humans are the outcome of                          processes which operate without any cosmic purpose of goal or meaning
our actions and lives are not part of a some divine cosmic plan
if the earth would be destroyed by a meteor tomorrow, the rest of the universe would go on operating according to the laws of physics just as it always has
according to science, any meaning we ascribe to our lives is a not based on what is true in the natural world, but a fiction derived for a particular contextual purpose
even the meanings that modern people attribute to their lives: capitalism, communism, feminism,                       , they are made up values in order to give life meaning that is not there in the natural physical world
a                    may say that his life is meaningful because he increases the store of human knowledge
a                may say his life is meaningful because he defends his homeland
a                  person may say his life is meaningful because he is building a coming and giving people work
from the point of view of what is true of the natural world, these meanings are no different than Medieval people going on a Crusade or praying with rosary beads or building a                   
the conclusion of this line of thinking is that the real key to having meaning in your life is either to (1) synchronize your personal                    of the meaning of life with the prevailing collective delusions of your day in order to make them seem more real, or (2) develop an ability to trick yourself into feeling that your own unique and temporary delusions of the meaning of life are somehow bound up into the cosmic order of things and therefore in some sense real
for some people, this is a depressing conclusion because it means that happiness is dependent on finding a way to maintain a delusion and to remain so simple-minded that you are continuously duped by it
for others, however, this act of continually constructing meaning in a meaningless world, is itself a joyful endeavor, and leads to a life of continually new modes of meaning which maintain your happiness, all based on an honesty which acknowledges the lack of meaning we have found our natural world to have, an honesty which, in our modern age, is credible and respectable
if happiness is based on seeing life as more meaningful, then to be happier, we need to delude ourselves more effectively
Buddhist view of happiness
Buddhism assigned                    more importance than any other religion in history
the basic premise of monotheist religions is: given that God exists, what does he          from me?
in contrast, Buddhism asks: given that suffering exists, how do I liberate myself from suffering and            happiness?
today, brain scientists are examining the brain waves of Buddhist monks to see what happens physically when these monks                 
Buddhism shares the basic insight to the biological approach to happiness, namely, that happiness results from processes occurring within ones body and not from events happening in the outside world
people crave to experience more pleasant feeling and avoid suffering
the problem according to Buddhism is that our feelings are mere                    vibrations, you have to constantly chase good feelings and chase away feelings of suffering
Buddhism asks why we struggle to achieve something that disappears as soon as it arises
the root of suffering is not the feeling of pain or meaninglessness, but suffering is the never-ending pursuit of                    feeling
because of this pursuit of pleasant feelings, we suffer, since even when we feel pleasure, we are fearful that this feeling may soon disappear
people are are not liberated from suffering when they experience this or that pleasure which soon will disappear, but when they realize the impermanent nature of their feelings and therefore stop craving and chasing them
this is the aim of Buddhism mediation practices
feel the rising and falling of emotions
but you learn to stop craving to have particular feelings and you just watch the feelings come and go
this idea is so alien to Western culture, that when New Age movements encountered Buddhist thought, meditation, and insights, they taught that they should connect with their            feelings, or happiness begins within
Buddhism actually teaches that happiness is                        of our inner feelings
the scientific study of happiness is           
we are still searching for the proper research methods
now it is important to get to know as many different approaches to happiness
most history books don't talk about the                        of happiness throughout time
this is the biggest lack that we have in the study of history
The Context of History and Our Extended Human Family
How Walking Upright Led to Better Social and Cooperative Skills
The Importance of Fire and Cooking
Why Did Other Human Species Become Extinct?
The Cognitive Revolution and the Beginning of Human History
The Language of Homo Sapiens
How Fictive Language Enabled Larger Social Groups
The Power of Imagined Realities
How the Ability to Tell Stories Enabled Humans to Cooperate in Massive Groups
The Cognitive Revolution and the Variety of Human Communities
Spiritual Beliefs of Early Humans
Politics and Warfare of Pre-Agricultural Societies
45,000 Years Ago: Human's Decimation of Australia's Large Mammals
14,000 BC: Human Migration to the Americas
Agriculture: The Good and the Bad
10,000 BC: Agricultural Revolution
The Origins of Agriculture
The Code of Hammurabi and Other Imagined Realities
Inter-Subjective Reality and Romantic Consumerism
The Human Brain's Outsourcing of Mathematics
Unjust and Imagined Hierarchies
Imagined Hierarchies in History
Culturally Defined Gender
Three Theories of Gender Domination
The Direction of Humankind: Global Unity
The Essence of Money
The History of Money
The Historical Definition of Empire
The Relationship between Science, European Imperialism and Capitalism
Science, Capitalism and European Imperialism
Columbus: Last Man of the Middle Ages, Vespucci: First Man of the Modern Age
European Empires, Science, and Capitalism
How Capitalism is Based on Trust in the Future
On the Interdependence of Science and Capitalism
How Capitalism Enabled Small European Countries to Explore and Conquer the World
The Relationship Between Capitalism, the Slave Trade, and Free Market Forces
Industrialization, Energy and Raw Materials
The Second Agricultural Revolution and its Effect on Animal Treatment
The Ethics of Capitalism and Consumerism
On Limitless Energy Resources and the Hegemony of Modern Time Schedules
State/Market vs. Family/Community
Humankind's Rigid and Violent Past, and Flexible and Peaceful Present
Reasons for Our Current Unprecedented Era of International Peace
Three Theories on the History of Happiness
Psychological and Biological Happiness
Measuring Human Happiness
The Future of Cyborgs and Robots
What Do We Want to Want?