Jim Holt

Reasons to be Cheerful

The Pursuit of Happiness

By

Constable 200pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

Taken collectively, the ‘pronouncements of the wise and near-wise on happiness make for rather a welter. Locke held that all men seek happiness, but Nietzsche insisted that only the English do. The Stoics taught that the happy life was characterised by the exercise of moral virtue, whereas Pater felt it was a matter of bunging in as many ‘pulsations’ as possible. ‘L’inquiétude est essentielle à la félicité des créatures’, declared Leibniz; Captain Grimes, however, was quite unable to see how anyone who got exactly what he wanted when he wanted it could help being happy. For Aristotle, happiness was an activity; Or Johnson, by contrast, seemed to think of it as a state, one that more or less coincided with drunkenness (no wonder he believed that ‘it is the business of the wise man to be happy’).

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • RT : 'Gracefully meditative...a Chatterton-esque literary discovery of old, albeit with references to Bob Geldof and Alk… ,
    • Still time to win tickets to Lady Windermere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. To enter simply email marke… ,
    • In need of last minute christmas gifts for children? Philip Womack reviews the latest children's books from Jessica… ,
    • "An artist had to be a chemist – and he had to have a strong stomach. He would have known, writes Jelley, 'the usef… ,
    • Good spelling, us! ,
    • This Christmas, why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions… ,
    • Philip Henscher on Thom Gunn's 'Selected Poems' ,