shopping cart
nothing in cart
browse by subject
new releases
best sellers
sale books
browse by author
browse by publisher
about us
upcoming events
Sep 25th - Caversham Book Club - Being Mortal by Atul Gawande [Caversham Booksellers]
Sep 27th - How Reality Works and the Case for Non-Duality: Echoes from Plato’s Cave©? [Senior College, University of Toronto]
Sep 28th - Certificate in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) level 1: the foundations [SickKids CCMH Learning Institute]
Sep 29th - Introduction to Infant-Parent Psychotherapy: A series of 15 online seminars [CAPCT]
Sep 29th - Nutrition for Better Mental Health [Leading Edge Seminars]
schools agencies and other institutional orders (click here)
Open 9-6 Mon-Sat, 12-5 Sun. Free shipping across Canada for orders over $150. Join our mailing list! Click here to sign up.
Against Happiness
Owen Flanagan, Joseph E. Ledoux, Bobby Bingle, Daniel M. Haybron, Batja Mesquita, Michele Moody-Adams, Songyao Ren...
Columbia University Press / Softcover / Apr 2023
9780231209496 (ISBN-10: 0231209495)
Philosophy / Social & Political Issues
price: $40.95
336 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

The “happiness agenda” is a worldwide movement that claims that happiness is the highest good, happiness can be measured, and public policy should promote happiness. Against Happiness is a thorough and powerful critique of this program, revealing the flaws of its concept of happiness and advocating a renewed focus on equality and justice.

Written by an interdisciplinary team of authors, this book provides both theoretical and empirical analysis of the limitations of the happiness agenda. The authors emphasize that this movement draws on a parochial, Western-centric philosophical basis and demographic sample. They show that happiness defined as subjective satisfaction or a surplus of positive emotions bears little resemblance to the richer and more nuanced concepts of the good life found in many world traditions. Cross-cultural philosophy, comparative theology, and social and cultural psychology all teach that cultures and subcultures vary in how much value they place on life satisfaction or feeling happy. Furthermore, the ideas promoted by the happiness agenda can compete with rights, justice, sustainability, and equality—and even conceal racial and gender injustice.

Against Happiness argues that a better way forward requires integration of cross-cultural philosophical, ethical, and political thought with critical social science. Ultimately, the authors contend, happiness should be a secondary goal—worth pursuing only if it is contingent on the demands of justice.


Happiness studies started as an idealistic project but took shortcuts and so did not fulfill its ambitions. This important and trustworthy book takes us back to the drawing board to rebuild the foundations of this field. The new vision won’t make the science and policy of happiness easier, but it will make them more humane, more inclusive, and truer to life.
— Anna Alexandrova, author of A Philosophy of Science for Well-Being

Reading this book made me happy, but more importantly, I learned a great deal from it. This book is a tour de force: written in a lively, accessible manner; well argued; and empirically well-informed. It is the best available critique of the ideology of the ‘happiness agenda,’ which confuses subjective positive mental states and reported life satisfaction with what really matters.
— Allen Buchanan, author of Our Moral Fate: Evolution and the Escape from Tribalism

Humankind has been preoccupied with happiness since we invented philosophy. We try to cultivate happiness with pithy little sayings, like 'Happiness is a journey, not a destination' and 'Happiness is a state of mind.' We regulate happiness with religion. We judge the quality of a life by the amount of happiness achieved, and the success of a country by the average happiness of its citizens. And yet, no one can agree on exactly what happiness is or what it's worth. Against Happiness masterfully reveals that happiness is not a single experience, physical condition, or unified state of meaning. It's a population of instances that vary across situations and cultures (as are all other categories of emotion). And each instance blooms from unexamined assumptions and preconceptions that likewise vary by situation and culture. This book is a must-read for anyone who has felt happy, hungered for more happiness, or pondered the emotional lives of humans and how happiness matters to the quality of a life.
— Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain

If you are happy read this book. If you are not happy read this book. Either way you will learn about the complexity of the very idea and how it is widely sprinkled throughout our mental space while still remaining an elusive reality.
— Michael Gazzaniga, author of Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of Mind

This book is an attempt at doing cross-cultural and thus real philosophy in that it is the love of the wisdom of all peoples, rather than that of the WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) people. It is also an attempt at interdisciplinary works and thus grounded philosophy. While showing the relativity of happiness, it also insists on the universality of certain human goods, such as human rights and sustainable development goals.
— Bai Tongdong, author China: The Middle Way of the Middle Kingdom

Against Happiness moves beyond the one-dimensional and reductionist approaches that have hitherto limited our understanding of happiness to narrow aspects or have obliterated non-western, non-white, and marginalized experiences of well-being. The authors persuasively outline shortcomings of definitions of happiness across different disciplines and different cultural philosophical traditions, a crucial step for investigating more accurate, inclusive, and expansive definitions of happiness in the future.
— Liya Yu, author of Vulnerable Minds: The Neuropolitics of Divided Societies

About the Authors:

Owen Flanagan is James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Duke University and codirector of the Center for Comparative Philosophy. Joseph E. LeDoux is director of the Emotional Brain Institute and professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, as well as professor of psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone. Bobby Bingle is an independent scholar of comparative philosophy. Daniel M. Haybron is the Theodore R. Vitali, C.P., Professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University. Batja Mesquita is the director of the Center for Social and Cultural Psychology at the University of Leuven. Michele Moody-Adams is Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at Columbia University. Songyao Ren is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Dallas. Anna Sun is associate professor of sociology and religious studies at Duke University. Yolonda Y. Wilson is associate professor of health care ethics at St. Louis University.

Jennifer A. Frey is associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Hazel Rose Markus is the Davis-Brack Professor in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Jeffrey D. Sachs is a University Professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. Jeanne L. Tsai is professor of psychology at Stanford University.

Caversham Booksellers
98 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S 1G6 Canada
(click for map and directions)
All prices in $cdn
Copyright 2022

Phone toll-free (800) 361-6120
Tel (416) 944-0962 | Fax (416) 944-0963
E-mail [email protected]
Hours: 9-6 Mon-Sat / Sunday 12-5 (EST)

Click here to read previous issues.
Flanagan, Owen
Ledoux, Joseph
other lists
April 2023 New Arrivals
Columbia University Press
Interesting Reading List for april 17/23
Social & Political Issues