What is a Happy Life? And What Makes It Valuable?
Michael Bishop (Florida State University)

October 20, 2016, 3:15pm - 5:15pm
Department of Philosophy, Utrecht University

Room 1.02
Drift 25


Maarten van Houte
Utrecht University

Topic areas



What is it for a person to have a good, happy, flourishing life? Philosophers defend various answers. Common views take the following to be essential to a happy life:

  • Pleasant feelings.
  • Positive attitudes (esp. being pleased or satisfied with the facts of your life).
  • Virtues (good traits, habits, behaviors).
  • Success (understood in terms of getting what you want).

My view is that each of these views tells part of the story. A happy life is made up of processes that involve each of these kinds of state.

A happy life consists of these "positive grooves": success-breeds-success cycles driven by pleasant feelings, positive attitudes, and good traits.

The elements of happy lives - positive grooves - are common and familiar. If you haven't noticed them, it's only because nobody's ever pointed them out to you. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to introduce you to positive grooves in a way that you'll start to see them dotting the happy parts of your life and the lives of those you care about.

Philosophers will raise the normativity challenge: Positive grooves can be understood in a purely descriptive, scientific manner. So how can these positive grooves be intrinsically valuable? I will briefly try to address this challenge.

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