Happy Lives, Good Lives
A Philosophical Examination
  • Publication Date: May 25, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781554811007 / 1554811007
  • 344 pages; 6½" x 9"

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Happy Lives, Good Lives

A Philosophical Examination

  • Publication Date: May 25, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781554811007 / 1554811007
  • 344 pages; 6½" x 9"

Happy Lives, Good Lives offers a thorough introduction to a variety of perspectives on happiness. Among the questions at issue: Is happiness only a state of mind, or is it something more? Is it the same for everyone? Is it under our control, and if so, to what extent? Can we be mistaken about whether we are happy? What role, if any, does happiness play in living a good life? Is it sometimes morally wrong to pursue happiness? Should governments promote happiness through public policy? Asking and answering these questions is worthwhile not only as an intellectual exercise, but also as a means of gaining practical insight into how best to pursue a happy life.


Happy Lives, Good Lives: A Philosophical Examination is an outstanding book, brimming with exciting philosophical ideas, always expressed clearly and supported with engaging examples. Mulnix and Mulnix have wisely decided to organize this book by topic, not chronology, which allows them to bring in contemporary scientific findings as they are relevant. As a result, readers get a more complete view of the nature of happiness more quickly. It is an unparalleled strength of Happy Lives, Good Lives that its readers will be ready and able to apply what they have learnt about happiness to their own lives, the lives of others, and possible public policies.” — Dan Weijers, California State University, Sacramento

“Students and teachers alike will benefit from this comprehensive guide to theories of happiness. Mulnix and Mulnix offer engaging, charitable presentations of theories from ancient philosophy to contemporary psychology, illustrated with examples from real life, literature, and film (the Dalai Lama, Stephen Hawking, Robin Hood, and Truman Burbank from the film The Truman Show all make an appearance). They pose questions that challenge our assumptions about happiness, and they weave these diverse views into a compelling narrative that culminates in a thoughtful discussion of the prospects for government policies to promote happiness.” — Valerie Tiberius, University of Minnesota

Online Materials


Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Who Is the Happy Person?
    Three Theories of Happiness
    The Value of Happiness
    Overview of the Book

Chapter 2: Intuitions about Happiness

  • Is Happiness Only a State of Mind?
    Is Happiness More Than a Mental State?
    Can We Be Wrong about Our Own Happiness?
    Is Happiness under Our Control?

Chapter 3: Happy Lives, Good Lives, and Moral Lives

  • Is What’s Good for You Good for Me?
    Happiness: Description or Evaluation?
    How Might the Happy Life Be Connected to the Good Life?
    The Happy Life and the Moral Life


Chapter 4: The Feel-Good Feature of Happiness

  • Varieties of Hedonism
    Can Happiness Be Measured? The Felicific Calculus
    Remembering versus Experiencing Happy Events
    The Worry of Adaptation
    We Love Happy Endings
    Is There Just One Type of Pleasure Feeling?
    Desiring Things Other Than for How They Feel

Chapter 5: Taking Pleasure in Things and Feeling Joy

  • Pleasure Is an Attitude, Not a Feeling
    Where’s the Fun in Happiness?
    Do We Actually Want Those Things That Bring Us Pleasure?
    Happiness Is Deep, Man
    The Problem with Feelings


Chapter 6: Satisfied with What?

  • Local Desire Satisfactionism
    Whole Life Satisfactionism
    That Which Is, Was, and Will Be
    Not Happy? Just Lower Your Standards
    Mistakes Come Easy: The Contextual, Arbitrary, and Fickle Nature of Life Satisfaction
    Do We — or Can We — Even Make Life Satisfaction Judgments?

Chapter 7: It’s All about Perspective

  • Putting Things in Perspective
    Value-Based Life Satisfaction
    Figuring Out What We Want
    Is Being Satisfied Enough?
    Revisiting the Cult Experience


Chapter 8: Is Ignorance Bliss?

  • Do We Value Things outside Our Subjective Experience?
    Are We Talking about Well-Being or Happiness?
    Can We Be Happily Deceived?
    Are Happiness and Well-Being the Same?
    What of Moral Virtue?

Chapter 9: Happiness, Moral Virtue, and the Purpose of Life

  • The Transformative Power of Virtue
    The King, the Tyrant, and the Democrat: The Role of Pleasure in the Life of Virtue
    The Complete Life
    The Psychological Rewards of the Eudaimon Life
    A Theory of Capabilities
    How Much Is Enough?

Chapter 10: Finding Equanimity in the Face of Suffering

  • Equanimity as the Goal
    The Determined Universe: A Lesson in What Lies within and beyond Our Control
    The Science of Mindfulness
    Overcoming Irrationality and Dealing with Loss
    Finding Meaning in Suffering


Chapter 11: Justice and National Happiness

  • Can National Happiness Be Measured?
    Measuring Happiness in Terms of Wealth
    Indexing Subjective Well-Being
    Building a List for Happiness: A Capabilities Index
    The Greatest Happiness for the Greatest Number?

Chapter 12: Concluding Reflections

  • References

Jennifer Wilson Mulnix is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

M.J. Mulnix is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Salem State University.

The companion site includes chapter reading questions, weblinks, and videos. Access to the website is not restricted with a passcode.

Theories of Happiness: An Anthology and Happy Lives, Good Lives: A Philosophical Examination may be packaged at a discounted price. Please click here for more details or contact Customer Service.