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The Conquest of Happiness is Bertrand Russell’s recipe for good living. First published in 1930, it pre-dates the current obsession with self-help by decades. Leading the reader step by step through the causes of unhappiness and the personal choices, compromises and sacrifices that (may) lead to the final, affirmative conclusion of ‘The Happy Man’, this is popular philosop The Conquest of Happiness is Bertrand Russell’s recipe for good living. First published in 1930, it pre-dates the current obsession with self-help by decades. Leading the reader step by step through the causes of unhappiness and the personal choices, compromises and sacrifices that (may) lead to the final, affirmative conclusion of ‘The Happy Man’, this is popular philosophy, or even self-help, as it should be written.


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The Conquest of Happiness is Bertrand Russell’s recipe for good living. First published in 1930, it pre-dates the current obsession with self-help by decades. Leading the reader step by step through the causes of unhappiness and the personal choices, compromises and sacrifices that (may) lead to the final, affirmative conclusion of ‘The Happy Man’, this is popular philosop The Conquest of Happiness is Bertrand Russell’s recipe for good living. First published in 1930, it pre-dates the current obsession with self-help by decades. Leading the reader step by step through the causes of unhappiness and the personal choices, compromises and sacrifices that (may) lead to the final, affirmative conclusion of ‘The Happy Man’, this is popular philosophy, or even self-help, as it should be written.

30 review for The Conquest of Happiness (Routledge Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more. Like many people, I suspect, I find Russell an extremely agreeable person. And though he is, no doubt, several orders of magnitude cleverer than I am, I still identify very strongly with him. Perhaps this is only wishful thinking, but the m In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more. Like many people, I suspect, I find Russell an extremely agreeable person. And though he is, no doubt, several orders of magnitude cleverer than I am, I still identify very strongly with him. Perhaps this is only wishful thinking, but the more I read Russell, the more I find that, in outlook and temperament, I am rather similar to the man—apart from his aristocratic English manners, of course. Thus it was a pleasure to read his views on what makes for a happy life, as almost everything he said resonated very strongly with me. Russell’s aim is to examine not extraordinary grief or mourning or tragedy, but the usual sort of unhappiness that Thoreau meant when he said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And Russell’s message boils down to something simple: happiness comes from taking a genuine interest in the world, and unhappiness consists in spending too much time thinking about oneself and one’s problems. Here is a simple example. If, on my walk back from work, I run into my neighbor, who then proceeds to tell me—for the umpteenth time—about his recent hunting trip, I can choose to see it as an imposition on myself, a needless waste of my time, a sign of this man’s stupidity, and finally as a part of a general decline in good manners and good taste. Or I can, with any luck, choose to see it as an amusing foible, as a window into another person’s life, or at the very least as something absolutely trivial and not worth fussing about. The difference is that the first is self-centered and more than a bit unrealistic, while in the second scenario my attention is directed outwards and I maintain a sense of perspective. Russell fills up a book by exploring this idea from a variety of angles. What are the emotions that focus our attention inward and cause us to lose our perspective and our zest for life? Envy, greed, guilt, ruthless competitiveness, the need for approval, fear of public opinion. To combat these pulls, Russell recommends ways to constantly remind ourselves that we aren’t, in fact, the center of the universe, and the world around us is not some backdrop for our problems or an obstacle in the way, but is rather extremely interesting and a good deal more important than our own lives. One of Russell's key strategies is to take an interest in things that have no practical benefit to us. Simple as this sounds, many don’t seem to understand this lesson. It always strikes me as bizarre and shortsighted when someone says, “Why should I learn about this? It doesn’t affect me in any way. Will this ever be useful?” But isn’t this the point? Learning about wildflowers, for example, is relaxing because you won’t have to rely on this knowledge to pass an exam or to get a paycheck; it’s a relief from your usual cares, and one that, besides, enriches your experience of the world. And not only does learning about wildflowers enrich your experience, but it also reminds you that there’s an entire region of reality—one that people have devoted their lives to—that will be completely unaffected if you go bankrupt tomorrow. Isn’t that a nice thought? In some places, this book shows its age. Russell speaks of women in ways that would probably get him tarred and feathered now; though, to be fair, at the time he was considered extremely progressive. At another point, Russell partly blames the growing unhappiness of women on the decline in good domestic service. Yet these bits are easy to ignore and forgive; and much of the book still feels relevant. Russell is particularly good on envy, competitiveness, and workaholism. These three—very prevalent here in New York City—are deeply intertwined. So many people—and I am not excluded from this—make themselves miserable by thinking about all the nice things happening to everyone else, all the money their cousin is making (who’s not, after all, any smarter than me!), and all the luck that some people seem to have. They look in the mirror and think about the handsomer fellow on television; they receive their paycheck and think about how much their boss must make. This has been exacerbated by social media, but is, I think, something we all must deal with, especially in a capitalistic society where, ostensibly at least, your social position is determined by your own merit. The dark side of living in a supposed meritocracy is that people at the bottom or even comfortably in the middle feel that they are failures for not reaching the top—which is obviously absurd, especially if you realize that the people at the top most likely aren’t any happier than you are. Thinking about yourself purely in relation to others leads directly to a certain amount of competitiveness; many people struggle, not to attain something they need, but simply to win a race against their peers. This is the cause of obsessive working. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with working, and working hard, but some people have completely lost a sense of perspective. In fact, I recently read a piece by someone who had spent his life in advertising—Lind Redding was his name—who detailed this very phenomenon after he was diagnosed with cancer and started looking back on his working life. After working furiously for decades, he concluded that, after all, he was only trying to make advertisements, so why on earth had he spent so many stressful hours at the office rather than at home? This has happened to me, though on a much smaller scale, when I have been convinced that what I was working on was terribly important and that the consequences for not doing it perfectly would be disastrous—when, in reality, what I was doing was of no importance and the consequences of doing it imperfectly would be nonexistent. A proper sense of perspective would have helped me avoid this, for I would realize that other people’s success doesn’t make me a failure, that I have more than I need already, that my task is a very minor event in the universe, and that the earth won’t detonate if every detail isn’t just right. Or at least, I hope it won’t. I’m getting a bit carried away. To return to the book, Russell, with his usually acute mind, tackles this trouble, among others, offering friendly advice on how to avoid it and to maintain a mental balance. And lucky for the reader, Russell’s advice is usually summed up in wonderful epigrams that sparkle with good-natured wit. I constantly found myself highlighting sentences in this book, as I read in continuous astonishment at Russell’s skill with the pen. His style is neither flashy nor even conspicuous; he uses no tricks, no elaborate metaphors, no high-flown words. Yet every time I read Russell, I find myself filled with envy at his writing ability; I think it's criminal that there should be someone so much better than I am. Russell would, of course, remind me that after all there will always be someone who’s a better writer than I am, and that his prose should be appreciated as a gift rather than considered as a reproach to my own. Now, how do you argue with a person like that?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Yasmeen

    I had my doubts: how can a privileged white, male philosopher tell me, a modern-day female minority about the conquest of happiness via a book that was written before my dad was born? How could we possibly have anything in common? Color me surprised. It's striking how relevant his writing is, to our society today. I started reading this book after a stressful year in my life where I got too caught up with feelings of anxiety and lack of achievement despite working hard most days. I will not go th I had my doubts: how can a privileged white, male philosopher tell me, a modern-day female minority about the conquest of happiness via a book that was written before my dad was born? How could we possibly have anything in common? Color me surprised. It's striking how relevant his writing is, to our society today. I started reading this book after a stressful year in my life where I got too caught up with feelings of anxiety and lack of achievement despite working hard most days. I will not go through the gory details because I doubt they will be relatable or useful to anyone, but nothing that I did or read during that year helped till this book arrived. I needed a "why", and this book gave me an answer to that, and to "how". Keep in mind that this book is not going to be helpful to anyone who suffers from real tragedy or grief, it's simply meant to be used as a framework to understanding why you are unhappy despite having a semi-comfortable life. Which I think applies to most people who are capable of reading for leisure. Russell starts out with declaring that most of your unhappiness stems from a preoccupation with yourself and a lack of genuine interest with the external objects. The book is divided into two main parts: Causes of unhappiness, and causes of happiness. I found the first part to be most insightful because I suffered from every, single, cause, that he mentioned, to some degree. CAUSES OF UNHAPPINESS 1. Byronic Unhappiness: I frequently attributed some of my sorrows to how devastatingly bad and evil the world can be. 2. Competition: Competitive success is too dearly purchased if you sacrifice all other ingredients to happiness in order to obtain it. It's also damaging in the sense that success should not be represented as the purpose of life, since after obtaining it, you're bound to fall prey to boredom and listlessness because you do not know what to do with it... so you occupy yourself with making more success. It's a harmful cycle. 3. Boredom and Excitement: It's true that we are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more terrified of being bored. A life full of excitement is not to be desired since it is exhausting and a certain amount of boredom and inactivity is required in order for you to be able to achieve the important things in your life. No great achievement is possible without persistent work. "A certain power of enduring boredom is essential to a happy life". 4. Fatigue: Probably my favorite chapter in the book. I highlighted all of it. 5. Envy. 6. The Sense of Sin: Speaks about what it really means to have your conscience prick you. 7. Persecution Mania: It's very easy to fall prey to this mania in a world where you see people getting ahead not based on merit alone, and when you are too preoccupied with yourself. 8. Fear of Public Opinion: "One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny." I found this chapter incredibly insightful. I cannot believe how underrated this book is. I mean, it is true, that it's speckled with classist remarks and an abundance of gender stereotypes/roles; but it was the 1930's... it's quite remarkable - and depressing - how close it is Saudi Arabia's 2017. But, please, do not dismiss this book because of it. Recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    W

    Some great advice from Bertrand Russell,for the conquest of happiness. But first he looks at the causes of unhappiness. The social system creates war,economic exploitation and unequal opportunities for individuals. Unhappy people have mistaken habits,ethics and views of the world.A lot of self absorption,brooding and loneliness creates what he calls "byronic unhappiness." Many people don't have the zest required for happiness.Competition,fatigue and boredom also create unhappiness.Envy is an even mo Some great advice from Bertrand Russell,for the conquest of happiness. But first he looks at the causes of unhappiness. The social system creates war,economic exploitation and unequal opportunities for individuals. Unhappy people have mistaken habits,ethics and views of the world.A lot of self absorption,brooding and loneliness creates what he calls "byronic unhappiness." Many people don't have the zest required for happiness.Competition,fatigue and boredom also create unhappiness.Envy is an even more powerful cause of unhappiness.Fear of what others think of one's actions is detrimental too. The "sense of sin" can lead to a lot of unease.Some people may find his idea of sin controversial.(I remember that this chapter had been excluded from text books in Pakistan).Russell's views on this subject were unconventional,anyway. For happiness,Russell stresses the need for having zest for life and developing a wide range of interests including impersonal ones which can release stress. A good family life is vital,an individual needs love and affection.One needs effort and constructive engagement in one's work.If work is not excessive,even the dullest work is better than idleness. Another important thing is resignation,not worrying about the things that can't be attained. Russell even has a remedy for the fear of death,having children,through whom one can live on,in his view.However,I doubt if having children is as unmitigated a blessing as he makes it sound. These then are Russell's thoughts,which an individual with average fortune may find helpful. Really bad fortune ? Russell does not talk about that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I was so excited to read this book, because I love Bertrand Russell. I still love Bertrand Russell. It's just too bad that his view of humanity is so narrow-minded in this work. His descriptions of people, of society make you go "whaaaaat?", and while it could be chalked up to the fact that it was written nearly eighty years ago, I think there's more to it. Russell displayed enormous depth and understanding when he wrote "A History of Western Philosophy" a decade later, and I think time really i I was so excited to read this book, because I love Bertrand Russell. I still love Bertrand Russell. It's just too bad that his view of humanity is so narrow-minded in this work. His descriptions of people, of society make you go "whaaaaat?", and while it could be chalked up to the fact that it was written nearly eighty years ago, I think there's more to it. Russell displayed enormous depth and understanding when he wrote "A History of Western Philosophy" a decade later, and I think time really improved his capacity for forgiveness and imagination. The truth is, "The Conquest of Happiness" is a self-righteous book which displays little insight into human behavior. There are phrases which simply made me cringe (colored people are happier by nature? a-buh? women are merely vessels of bottled-up antagonism towards better-dressed members of the gender? thanks, but I'll pass on that analysis). Like I said, I still enjoy a lot of Russell. I think he himself is aware of his faulty reasoning, and you can see that when he says "This issue goes beyond what I can say here" or "I'm loathe to talk like a mystic, but I have to here..." It would have been a better book if he'd paid more attention to those urges. Go ahead and read it because it does tell us a lot about the author's progression as a person, and it does have good insights at points, but I'd recommend Simone Weil or Erich Fromm or Hazrat Khan or Aldous Huxley or Paul Tillich or many others for more fruitful reading (hey Russell! Some women care about more than their clothes. Check out Simone Weil who was fighting the fascists while you were only smoking your pipe and talking about the working-class!) Also, it's really fascinating that he wrote this book when he himself was miserable and needed some money. Should be kept in mind.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Smiley

    I first read its second-hand hardcover (1930) bought at the National Book Fair XXXVI in Bangkok in 2008 and found Russell's views on happiness practical and witty. Russell famously wrote so clearly and contributively to the world that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1950 (another similar case is, I think, Sir Winston Churchill), therefore, his writing style is still worth studying and applying in one's narration. Let me show you some interesting quotes from this book published by I first read its second-hand hardcover (1930) bought at the National Book Fair XXXVI in Bangkok in 2008 and found Russell's views on happiness practical and witty. Russell famously wrote so clearly and contributively to the world that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1950 (another similar case is, I think, Sir Winston Churchill), therefore, his writing style is still worth studying and applying in one's narration. Let me show you some interesting quotes from this book published by Routledge (2006): No one is surprised to find an eminent general or admiral poor; indeed poverty in such circumstances is, in a sense, itself an honor. (p. 30) A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is more of the things that ought to be taught to the young. (p. 39) Whoever wishes to increase human happiness must wish to increase admiration and to diminish envy. (p. 56) The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile. (p. 109) Find one to read and you will understand why this book is still inspiring from one of the eminent philosophers in the 20th century.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tristan

    One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny. Bertrand Russel, cheery scientist and one of the greatest minds and personalities of the era, explains his take on human happiness and what keeps most of us from it most of the time. He explains this from a purely rational and non-theistic perspective, taking nothing for granted. This is NOT a self-help book, bu One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny. Bertrand Russel, cheery scientist and one of the greatest minds and personalities of the era, explains his take on human happiness and what keeps most of us from it most of the time. He explains this from a purely rational and non-theistic perspective, taking nothing for granted. This is NOT a self-help book, but rather a survey of the helpful and unhelpful aspects Russel sees in human nature and modern culture, and suggestions on how one might cope with it. It's written by a British gentleman in the 1920's, so the language is a bit stilted, and his mention of things like the Servant Problem might fall on deaf ears to the modern reader, but this book is full of gems.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Florencia

    In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more. This is due partly to having discovered what were the things that I most desired and having gradually acquired many of these things. Partly it is due to having successfully dismissed certain objects of desire—such as the acquisition of indubit In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more. This is due partly to having discovered what were the things that I most desired and having gradually acquired many of these things. Partly it is due to having successfully dismissed certain objects of desire—such as the acquisition of indubitable knowledge about something or other—as essentially unattainable. Jan 10, 21

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Russell was very right to title this quintessential self-help book with the word "conquest", since happiness is hardly a thing that emanates from the heavens down to your precious soul - unfortunately, the opposite view has held sway for a couple thousand years. Consequently, many average people do as they're told, expecting happiness to come to them if they are obedient, i.e., enjoy mainstream media, conform one's behavior to outside groups, etc. Yet, everything of human worth is precisely outs Russell was very right to title this quintessential self-help book with the word "conquest", since happiness is hardly a thing that emanates from the heavens down to your precious soul - unfortunately, the opposite view has held sway for a couple thousand years. Consequently, many average people do as they're told, expecting happiness to come to them if they are obedient, i.e., enjoy mainstream media, conform one's behavior to outside groups, etc. Yet, everything of human worth is precisely outside of mainstream media and conventional behavior; hence, there must be some conquest (certainly Russell and Nietzsche's views on power coincide somewhere in the noumenal realm). One must struggle for culture in a society infected with Christian values; this was exactly the predicament of Europe coming out of the Middle Ages - people struggled to acquire culture (Greek, Golden Age Latin) and this was what lifted humanity out of medieval depression. In the same way, modernity must struggle again, out of pop (ideological-hegemonic) culture, out of industrial malaise. Partly, this is a political, but also a psychological struggle. The Buddha once noted that the thoughts of today are the seedbed for the thoughts of tomorrow; similarly, Russell notes the importance of training one's unconscious thoughts, to carefully reason out one's worries, and not to suppress them. Suppressing them is bound to give one a sense of unease, an unease that quickly leads to boredom, and boredom is, Russell says, easily responsible for most of the atrocities in history (as Dostoyevsky's Underground Man notes, Cleopatra pierced her slave with her brooch simply for the fun of it). While the political and psychological struggles are perhaps one and the same, and while the boredom that produces unhappiness will persist as long as there is meaningless economic activity (service-industries), Russell gives the reader an important sense of responsibility for one's own degree of happiness in a world that provides, if one is truthful, no end for interest in it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Xander

    In this little book, philosopher Bertrand Russell aimed at bringing across a very important message to the general public: happiness is both attainable and socially beneficial. Since it’s a book aimed at the general public, it’s not a tightly-knit philosophical discussion (although even these are a pleasure to read in the case of Russell). So, don’t expect to find any academic distinctions or clear definitions. Yet, since Russell was versed in mathematics, philosophy and science, he draws heavil In this little book, philosopher Bertrand Russell aimed at bringing across a very important message to the general public: happiness is both attainable and socially beneficial. Since it’s a book aimed at the general public, it’s not a tightly-knit philosophical discussion (although even these are a pleasure to read in the case of Russell). So, don’t expect to find any academic distinctions or clear definitions. Yet, since Russell was versed in mathematics, philosophy and science, he draws heavily from scientific insights – for example, on education of the young, etc. The main thesis of the book is basically Spinoza-for-laypeople. Spinoza claimed that happiness lies in the realization of both your own cosmic insignificance and your fundamental unity with the universe. Russell holds a similar view: a happy life is the life of someone who is affectionately occupied with people and things. Or, in more philosophical jargon – happiness is a subject that is occupied with objects. This is an important claim, since it immediately does away with all the self-help guru’s, myth, self-deception and religion. A subject should not be occupied with itself – this is the road to an unhappy life. Actually, self-absorption is the main cause of unhappiness. It comes in many forms and guises, ranging from sense of sin to self-aggrandizement, and from self-destruction to inferiority complex. What all these states of unhappiness have in common is a sickly obsession of the individual with himself. Yet, Russell acknowledges modern living is offering us many more potential environmental triggers to cause unhappiness, compared to earlier times. This is because most people are not born rich, are not especially gifted, and are not equipped with a natural inclination towards happiness. For most of us, happiness is a conquest. That is, we have to put in effort, sometimes years, to be a happy person. This is because, happiness is both the product of environmental and intellectual causes. Although Russell only treats the latter, he does recognizes (and sometimes touches on) social factors such as economic despair, institutions such as marriage and religion, and threats stemming from political causes. The key is to be aware at all times of what is in your sphere of control and what not, and to learn not to intellectualize the things that are out of your reach. Even the things in your control should not be related to self in overabundance – it is important to make the best decisions and this requires some rumination, yet once decided we should only learn from the consequences and not fret on them. Most unhappy people are unhappy as the result of escapism. If they’re not suffering from any psychopathology, some bad things happened to them, and in response to this they retreated inward. In short: unhappy people have closed themselves off from the world. This introversion can manifest itself in pure hate (towards humanity, towards the universe, whatnot), self-destruction (through alcohol and drugs, for example), self-aggrandizement (dominating others, viewing them as means, not ends), feelings of inferiority, etc. Most of these types of introversion lead to vicious cycles of self-destruction: the person suffering feelings of despair and inferiority seeks to escape these thoughts by stopping thought altogether, for example through the use of alcohol. This, then, leads to even worse feelings of self, leading to more hate towards the world and more escapism. "The man in whom one desire runs to excess at the expense of all others is usually a man with some deepseated trouble, who is seeking escape from a specter. In the case of the dipsomaniac this is obvious: men drink in order to forget. If they had no specters in their lives, they would not find drunkenness more agreeable than sobriety. As the legendary Chinaman said: “Me no drinkee for drinkee, me drinkee for drunkee.” This is typical of all excessive and one-sided passions. It is not pleasure in the object itself that is sought, but oblivion." The treatment in all of these situations is twofold. First, one should occupy oneself with some objects and parallel to diagnose oneself, to get to the truth about oneself and face this pain. Next, one should keep aiming at objects outside oneself and parallel to this steadily, consciously, eliminate these pains. This last is done through putting the painful things in perspective, for example by reading books on history or astronomy; or by relating them to other, less painful events, preferable related to other persons. In other words: one should learn to realize that his or her problems are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and this is done through consciously overriding the thought-patterns that have been laid down in the unconscious over the years. The most important point: this takes time and effort, and should not be done on purpose but always parallel to objective aims – a new hobby, a new relation, etc. I have stated Russell’s thesis of ‘conquering happiness’ mostly in negative terms, since this resonates more with my own current situation. His treatment of causes that make for unhappy living hit home harder than his treatment of causes that make for happy living. It’s also the first part of the book, so perhaps it’s a combination of both. And lastly, it is – as Russell himself claims (who was in his youth not the most happiest one himself) – perhaps the most important side of the thesis because modern society offers so many causes of unhappiness and despair and simultaneously so many routes of escape. But it is, of course, much more helpful to state in positive terms what Russell proposes. A happy life is a life in which one is affectionately involved with persons and things. Sincerely loving others, especially partner and family, sincerely pursuing your (irrelevant!) interests and hobby’s, having a job that offers you a platform to hone your skills and improve yourself, and, perhaps most importantly, sincerely not being occupied with yourself. Of course, there are the (usual) necessary requirements: food, drink, shelter, etc. but these are mostly the products of the causes that make for a happy life. Zest in everything you do is key; to be happy, one has to be a “citizen of the universe”. The book is one of the most profound works I’ve read by Russell. The reason is its sheer simplicity – which is a beautiful thing to experience and also (I imagine) one of the hardest things to create as an author. The main thing I take away from this book is the need for brutally honest self-diagnosis – that is, viewing current unhappiness as the result of underlying causes, and investigating these causes and the events that triggered them. Although this sounds like an algorithm for psychoanalysis of the self, it really isn’t. It’s applying reason to your own life. For example, I am prone to feelings of self-pity, self-destruction, and in general feeling a lack of being part of the world. This leads to a lack of zest (i.e. losing all interest in worldly things), never-ending rumination, escapism (e.g. binge-watching tv series), and whatnot. Through reading Russell, I realize how self-obsessed I’ve become over the past couple of years, and how this keeps me unhappy – only strengthening the feedback-loop. The trick, for me, is (1) through learning how I am keeping myself unhappy through these negative affections, gradually overriding these unconscious psychological patterns; and (2) to reflect on who I am as person (in the sense of what I value in life and what interests me), and subsequently start pursuing more reciprocal relations with people and more genuine interests. I didn’t read this work with the aim of improving my own life – I reject self-help books – but the common sense underlying Russell’s claims is so obvious and resonates to such a degree, that this little book inspired me to start making a turn in life. For this, I’m grateful to Bertrand Russell – without knowing him, I imagine him as one of the most likeable and charming people I’ve read. "Happiness is not, except in very rare cases, something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit, by the mere operation of fortunate circumstances. That is why I have called this book “The Conquest of Happiness.” For in a world so full of avoidable and unavoidable misfortunes, of illness and psychological tangles, of struggle and poverty and ill will, the man or woman who is to be happy must find ways of coping with the multitudinous causes of unhappiness by which each individual is assailed."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ṣafā

    A transcendent experience, I could relate so much, it was like looking into the mirror, it called to me. A genuine book, calling it a self-help book wouldn't do it justice. I don't know what happiness is, but Russell sure has taught me how to get there. His methods and views were so understandable, his logic irrefutable. Being a man of Science, his observations remain so accurate, I was blown away. I loved his observations about people in Science, they seemed so close to the truth. A Mathematicia A transcendent experience, I could relate so much, it was like looking into the mirror, it called to me. A genuine book, calling it a self-help book wouldn't do it justice. I don't know what happiness is, but Russell sure has taught me how to get there. His methods and views were so understandable, his logic irrefutable. Being a man of Science, his observations remain so accurate, I was blown away. I loved his observations about people in Science, they seemed so close to the truth. A Mathematician myself, I could not help being exceedingly impressed. “All the conditions of happiness are realized in the life of the man of science.” It is a compact book. He has written this book for the average modern man having the ordinary modern problems in the easiest, relevant and the most concise way. I loved the preface which directs to what kind of people and what kind of problems the book is going to address (also mentioned throughout the book to avoid digression) for the benefit of the reader. Though at sometimes dated the book is very apt, written with scientific accuracy. Myself, seeking genuine lasting happiness and distrustful of people, professionals, and even literature, the book didn't seem shallow, phony or deceiving even once. I agreed with most of what Russell said. He pointed me in the right direction. I understood all he said. He was very open, serene and calculated. The book is divided into two parts, Causes of Unhappiness and Causes of Happiness, I loved both in their own ways but the first part more. The first chapter was sensational, I loved it when Russell gave his own example of being unhappy, “I was not born happy. As a child, my favourite hymn was: "Weary of earth and laden with my sin." At the age of five, I reflected that, if I should live to be seventy, I had only endured, so far, a fourteenth part of my whole life, and I felt the long-spread-out boredom ahead of me to be almost unendurable. In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more. This is due partly to having discovered that were the things that I most desired, and having gradually acquired many of these things. Partly it is due to having successfully dismissed certain objects of desire—such as the acquisition of indubitable knowledge about something or other—as essentially unattainable. But very largely it is due to a diminishing preoccupation with myself.” He suggests an interesting technique of reaching the unconscious through the conscious like the unconscious directs the conscious. Another useful technique is attacking a problem by giving it thought from all different angles and then putting it out of your mind until the occasion arises for you to do something about it. He strives to abolish self-centredness which, according to him, that's the main source of our problems. He says should be occupied by the right kind and the right amount of work to be happy. He talks about the zest of life which we find wanting. I loved his bit about envy, it was so accurate and I think he reached the same solution that I have, i.e., trying to go out your way to praise such people and thus being genuinely happy for them. “Whoever wishes to increase human happiness must wish to increase admiration and to diminish envy.” (p. 85) I cannot agree more with his thoughts about the leg-pulling competitiveness, the need, and fear of public approval, and workaholism, the absence of which can be unhealthy, but of which is too much in the world. “One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.” Russell reminds us that we are not as important and people care and think about us much less than we think, the world doesn't revolve around us and especially that no one is out there to get you. He stressed that boredom is a necessary part of life and we should not deplete our faculties trying to keep our life interesting all the time. He tells us to look outside of ourselves, find enjoyment in our lives through eclectic interests and seek happiness. “The secret of happiness is very simply this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.” The part about domestic and individual happiness appeals to me and gives me hope in this ever more divided world. I loved his thoughts about love and family and children, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” “... consider the difference between love and mere sex attraction. Love is an experience in which our whole being is renewed and refreshed as is that of plants by rain after drought. In sex intercourse without love there is nothing of this. When the momentary pleasure is ended, there is fatigue, disgust, and a sense that life is hollow. Love is part of the life of Earth; sex without love is not.” All these things are necessary to an individual's happiness. Most of all, he declares ourselves being responsible for our happiness or unhappiness. Russell gives a very clear path to the acquirement of happiness. I really should read it one time more to truly absorb all the information. Though not so sure about the conquest but this book was my search for happiness while trying to understand the human condition.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kecia

    I had to keep in mind that this book was written in 1930 by man who lived within the confines of the privileged class of white privilege. If I hadn't kept that in mind the racism and sexism would have made this book intolerable. I had to grit my teeth and move along at times. I'm not sure Russell could write this book today, even without the racism/sexism. It would probaly be better suited in 2013 to a blog than a book. He goes through all the of the reasons he sees for unhappiness and then throu I had to keep in mind that this book was written in 1930 by man who lived within the confines of the privileged class of white privilege. If I hadn't kept that in mind the racism and sexism would have made this book intolerable. I had to grit my teeth and move along at times. I'm not sure Russell could write this book today, even without the racism/sexism. It would probaly be better suited in 2013 to a blog than a book. He goes through all the of the reasons he sees for unhappiness and then through all the causes of happiness. He never backs up any of his ideas with any real data...he just throws out generalizations. The reader is expected to take his word for it. And yet...in each chapter he hits on truth. Take this for example: "Each of us is in the world for no very long time, and within the few years of his life has to acquire whatever he is to know of this strange planet and its place in the universe. To ignore our oppotunities for knowledge, imperfect as they are, is like going to the theater and not listening to the play. The world is full things that are tragic or comic, heroic or bizarre or surprising, and those who fail to become interested in the spectacle that it offers are forgoing one of the privileges that life has to offer." Yes! I saw so many people I know in the pages of this book, both good and bad. His insight into the human psyche is remarkable. I'm not sure if I learned anything new...but it certainly helped give voice to ideas about living a happy life that I already know. It's a interesting read...but I would hesitate before recommending it to anyone.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Si

    Written in Russell’s usual say-it-like-it-is style, The Conquest of Happiness gets straight to the point with an incisive view of how to be happy, that is as apt today as when it was written nearly 50 years ago. The book is split into two halves: the first describing the main causes of unhappiness, and the second, well I think you can guess that it’s the causes of happiness. To summarise: live in the present; enjoy the small things; don’t compete with others; avoid boredom, yet aim for moderation Written in Russell’s usual say-it-like-it-is style, The Conquest of Happiness gets straight to the point with an incisive view of how to be happy, that is as apt today as when it was written nearly 50 years ago. The book is split into two halves: the first describing the main causes of unhappiness, and the second, well I think you can guess that it’s the causes of happiness. To summarise: live in the present; enjoy the small things; don’t compete with others; avoid boredom, yet aim for moderation in things that excite you; avoid fatigue, mental as well as physical; don’t envy others, rather aim for an expansive view, becoming pleased for the success of others; eschew guilt: be able to separate yourself from the, usually subconscious, influence of parental morals, and question your moral framework so that it is wholly rational; aim for a realistic self-perception and don’t be afraid of what others think, as that way they’ll think better of you!; show affection for others and you in turn will be shown the same, though don’t do it with payback in mind; find a balance with the work you do: one with autonomy, mental challenge, something that is constructive rather than destructive; give yourself lots of interests – the person who says he has many dislikes and is disinterested in so many things has less opportunity to enjoy life; accept what can’t be changed and work to change what you can; while introspection is good in small doses, looking outwards maintains a healthy perspective and increases happiness. A lot of the things he says seem obvious to me, but then I’m a happy person already. That said, some things are great and I am pondering them further. I think it can help plenty of people that want to make the effort to be happier. It’s the kind of book that can be read more than once, and will reveal more insights when you’ve had more life experience. More reviews here: http://unfebuckinglievable.wordpress....

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pvw

    It is always refreshing to hear exact scientists give their opinions about life or sociological matters. I find them a lot more refreshing than the usual quick guide to happiness by some psychologist, or the energy-inside-yourself babble by a spiritual charlatan. Already from the introduction you understand that Russell is not writing this to make some easy money: he clearly wants to just pass on ideas that have worked for him, and that may be useful for others as well. The book consists of two se It is always refreshing to hear exact scientists give their opinions about life or sociological matters. I find them a lot more refreshing than the usual quick guide to happiness by some psychologist, or the energy-inside-yourself babble by a spiritual charlatan. Already from the introduction you understand that Russell is not writing this to make some easy money: he clearly wants to just pass on ideas that have worked for him, and that may be useful for others as well. The book consists of two separate parts: - Causes of unhappiness - Causes of happiness Of those two, the first one is by far the most interesting. The mistakes you can make (for instance, being bothered by the fact that someone else earns more money than you) are very recognizable, if not in yourself, then at least in many people around you. Russell tackles them one by one and convincingly states that a person would be a lot better off without those pecky frustrations and concerns. The second part of the book, to me, was less interesting. I guess that the obstacles causing unhappiness are universal; the things that a person does find joy in are more individual. This is a very wise and honest book, I would advise everyone to read it at least once in his life. It is short and to the point, without unnessesary digressions. 4 stars to part 1 2 stars to part 2

  14. 5 out of 5

    Qb

    its a wonderful read . with great insight and indepth studyof human behaviour the author identifies what makes a man happy or unhappy. And the solutions he offer are practicable and easy to adopt if one so one wants. its a must read for all book lovers and for those who are interested in the study of human charcter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Farhan Khalid

    Unhappiness, why? Day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because having no external cause, it appears inescapable I believe this unhappiness to be very largely due to mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics, mistaken habits of life Extrospection Gradually I learned to be indifferent to myself and my experience I came to centre my attention increasingly upon external objects Sins Sins are committed by everyone or no one The m Unhappiness, why? Day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because having no external cause, it appears inescapable I believe this unhappiness to be very largely due to mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics, mistaken habits of life Extrospection Gradually I learned to be indifferent to myself and my experience I came to centre my attention increasingly upon external objects Sins Sins are committed by everyone or no one The man who is absorbed in the consciousness of sin is perpetually incurring his own disapproval Liberation from the tyranny of early beliefs and affections is the first step towards happiness Narcissism Habit of admiring oneself and wishing to be admired [in its excesses] when a woman of this kind is sure that a man loves her, she has no further use for him The man whose sole concern with the world is that it shall admire him is not likely to achieve his object But even if he does, he will not be completely happy Megalomaniac The Megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming Napoleon suffered at school from inferiority to his schoolfellows Distraction and oblivion A man may feel so completely thwarted that he seeks no form of satisfaction, but only distraction and oblivion He then becomes a devotee of "pleasure" Absence of effort The mere absence of effort from man's life removes an essential ingredient of happiness Transformation Many people have thrown over the old standards without acquiring the new ones. This leads them into various troubles as their unconscious usually still believe in the old standards Love Love is to be valued because it enhances all the best pleasures Love is able to break down the hard shell of the ego Tragedy To write tragedy, a man must feel tragedy. To feel tragedy, one must be aware of the world in which he lives American enjoyment of existence "The struggle of life" Poverty I have no doubt that those who have suffered greatly though poverty in their childhood are haunted by terrors lest their children should suffer similarly Quieter pleasures All the quieter pleasures have been abandoned What use would such knowledge be? It could not add to anybody's income Generally received philosophy Life is contest, a competition, in which respect is to be accorded to the victor Competition Not only work is poisoned by the philosophy of competition, leisure is poisoned just as much Boredom It is also one of the essentials of boredom that one's faculties must not be fully occupied Running away from enemies who are trying to take one's life is, I imagine, unpleasant, but not boring A man would not feel bored while he was being executed Excitement The opposite of boredom is not pleasure but excitement A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure Persistent work All greatest lives have contained uninteresting stretches Kent is said never to have been more than ten miles from Konigsberg all his life Darwin, after going round the world spent the whole of the rest of his life in his own house Marx, after stirring up a few revolutions, decided to spend the remainder of his days in the British Museum Altogether it will be found that a quiet life is characteristic of great men, and that their pleasures have not been of the sort that would look exciting to the outward eye No great achievement is possible without persistent work Fatigue Fatigue is associated with strenuous work for a living Men take their business worries to bed with them Anxiety A great many worries can be diminished by realizing the unimportance of the matter which is causing the anxiety The less I cared whether I spoke well of badly, the less badly I spoke Unconscious Most of the unconscious consists of what were once highly emotional conscious thoughts, which have now become buried "Well, after all, that would not matter so very much" "Well, after all, that would not matter so very much" "Well, after all, that would not matter so very much" You will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent and is replaced by a kind of exhilaration Worry is a form of fear and all forms of fear produce fatigue Every kind of fear grows worse by not being looked at Courage Given more courage there would be less worry, and therefore less fatigue A very frequent source of fatigue is love of excitement Envy Envy is the basis of democracy Envy is seeing things never in themselves but only in their relations One begins to be eaten up with a sense of injustice If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon. But Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed I do not believe that any peacock envies another peacock's tail, because every peacock is persuaded that his own tail is the finest in the world. The consequence of this is that peacock are peaceable birds Envy, is of course, closely connected with competition In an age when the social hierarchy is fixed, the lowest classes do not envy the upper classes so long as the division between rich and poor is thought to be ordained by God Beggar do not envy millionaires, though of course will envy other beggars who are more successful Hatred The human heart as modern civilization has made it is more prone to hatred than to friendship And it is prone to hatred because it is dissatisfied Sense of sin The sense of sin in its most important forms is something which goes deeper It is something which has roots in the unconscious, and does not appear in the consciousness as fear of other people's approval In consciousness certain kinds of acts are labelled as Sin for no reason visible to introspection When a man commits these acts he feels uncomfortable without quite knowing why Divided man The man divided against himself looks for excitement and distraction, he loves strong passions, not for sound reasons, but because for the moment they take him outside himself and prevent the painful necessity of thought The happiness that is genuinely satisfying is accompanied by the fullest exercise of our faculties, and the fullest realization of the world in which we live Love of power Love of power is insidious. It has many disguises, and is often the source of the pleasure we derive from doing what we believe to be good to other people Fear of public persecution To almost everybody sympathetic surroundings are necessary to happiness If it is to become possible, some way must be found by which the tyranny of public opinion can be either lessened or evaded, and by which members of the intelligent minority can come to know each other and enjoy each other's society Fear of this kind remains strong, it is impossible to acquire that freedom of spirit which in which true happiness consists It is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desires of those who happen to be our neighbors, or even our relations There is new kind of fear, namely the fear of what newspaper may say I have been almost led to conclude that happiness in the modern world has become an impossibility. This view tends to be dissipated by introspection, foreign travel, and the conversation of my gardener Two sorts of happiness Happiness is of two sorts, of course, there are intermediate degrees The two sorts might be distinguished as plain and fancy, or animal and spiritual, or of the heart and of the head Pleasures of achievement demand difficulties such that beforehand success seems doubtful although in the end it is usually achieved Men of science Domestic bliss in the lives of men of science The reason this is that the higher parts of their intelligence are wholly absorbed by their work They have therefore no necessity for complex emotions, since the simpler emotions meet with no obstacles Complex emotions Complexity in emotions is like foam in a river. It is produced by obstacles which break the smoothly flowing current Companionship and co-operation are essential elements in the happiness of the average man Belief in a cause is a source of happiness to large numbers of people I collect rivers For my part, I collect rivers I derive pleasure from having gone down the Volga and up the Yangtse, and regret very much having never seen the Amazon or the Orinoco Hobbies and interests Fads and hobbies, however, are in many cases, perhaps, most, not a source of fundamental happiness, but a means of escape from reality, of forgetting for the moment some pain too difficult to be faces A friendly interest in people is a form of affectionateness, but not the form which is grasping and possessiveness and seeking always an emphatic response The secret of happiness Let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and person interest be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile All the separate tastes and desires have to fit into the general framework of life. If they are to be a source of happiness they must be compatible with health. With the affection of those we love, and the respect of the society in which we live Zest Zest demands energy more that sufficient for the necessary work The feeling of being loved promotes zest more than anything else does Unloved man Man, observing that he is unloved, may seek revenge upon the world, either by stirring up wars and revolutions, or by a pen dipped in gall, like Dean Swift For those who make themselves the slaves of unvarying routine are generally actuated by fear of a cold outer world Those who face life with a feeling of security are much happier than those who face it with a feeling of insecurity Difficult past The child from whom for any reason parental affection is withdrawn is likely to become timid and unadventurous, filled with fears and self-pity, and no longer able to meet the world in a mood of gay exploration Such a child may set to work at a surprisingly early age to meditate on life and death and human destiny He becomes an introvert, melancholy at first, but seeking ultimately the unreal consolations of system of philosophy and theology Affection If he had received more affection, would have feared the real world less, and would not have had to invent an ideal world to take its place in his beliefs Affection in the sense of a genuine reciprocal interest of two persons in each other, not solely as means to each other's good, but rather as a combination having a common good, is one of the most important elements of real happiness Powerful ego A too powerful ego is a prison from which a man must escape if he is to enjoy the world to the full Parenthood If the white race are to survive, that parenthood should again become capable of yielding happiness to parents Parenthood is psychologically capable of providing the greatest and most enduring happiness that life has to offer Work All skilled work can be pleasurable One of the causes of unhappiness among intellectuals in the present day is that so many of them, especially those whose skills is literary, find no opportunity for the independent exercise of their talents The man who is ashamed of his work can hardly achieve self-respect The habit of viewing life as a whole is an essential part both of wisdom and of true morality Consistent purpose embodies itself mainly in work Impersonal interests For a man of a bookish turn of mind reading unconnected with his professional activities is very satisfactory Impersonal interests help a man to retain his sense of proportion How small a part this is of the total of human activity and how many things in the world are entirely unaffected by what we do Defects of higher education It is one of the defects of modern higher education that it has become too much a training in the acquisition of certain kinds of skill, and too little an enlargement of the mind and heart The happy man The happy man is the man who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interest, who secures his happiness through these interest and affections and through the fact that they, in turn, make him an object of interest and affection

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I read it because I'm into happiness books these days, but this one felt curiously dated (it came out in 1930). Its traditional philosophical approach and voice just isn't my thing. However, if you can borrow it from the library or a friend--or if you can read a portion of it in a bookstore--it's worth reading Chapter 11: Zest. His argument is that "the most universal and distinctive mark" of happiness is zest, which he essentially defines as a love of and curiosity about life. I like the way he I read it because I'm into happiness books these days, but this one felt curiously dated (it came out in 1930). Its traditional philosophical approach and voice just isn't my thing. However, if you can borrow it from the library or a friend--or if you can read a portion of it in a bookstore--it's worth reading Chapter 11: Zest. His argument is that "the most universal and distinctive mark" of happiness is zest, which he essentially defines as a love of and curiosity about life. I like the way he slyly says that "disenchantment" should not be "regarded as a higher form of wisdom." (This chapter: 5 stars. The whole book: 1 1/2.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Massry

    I think this book has very wise insights of life and the way we should be living. I read it in parts to be able to absorb the information inside which is a lot. I agree with most of his points of view.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jo-Ann Zhou

    One of the greatest chicken soup for the soul books I read so far, though frankly I haven't read a lot. The book was first published in 1930, which still applies to present life. It's an art to be happy, life long class. Below is what I quote from the book: What I disagreed: "A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live." What I agreed: "Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile." 1) "Remember that your mot One of the greatest chicken soup for the soul books I read so far, though frankly I haven't read a lot. The book was first published in 1930, which still applies to present life. It's an art to be happy, life long class. Below is what I quote from the book: What I disagreed: "A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live." What I agreed: "Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile." 1) "Remember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself." 2) "Don't overestimate your own merits." 3) "Don't expect others to take as much interest in you as you do yourself." 4) "Don't imagine that most people give enough thought to you to have any desire to persecute you." Of course, there are plenty more. I think other readers have give them full description, and unnecessarily for me to reiterate here.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liv Loran

    I give this book five stars not because I agree with everything Russel says, but because I disagree with most of it. Reading this book only makes me more sure of what I believe in regards to happiness.

  20. 5 out of 5

    P.J. Sullivan

    Bertrand Russell was the quintessential rational man. In this book he applies rationality to psychology in a systematic examination of human thinking and motivations. Without denying the importance of external social forces, he concerns himself here with only those factors which lie within the power of the individual mind to change. Discussing the psychological causes of unhappiness, he concludes that preoccupation with self is the chief culprit. The personality should be directed outward. The in Bertrand Russell was the quintessential rational man. In this book he applies rationality to psychology in a systematic examination of human thinking and motivations. Without denying the importance of external social forces, he concerns himself here with only those factors which lie within the power of the individual mind to change. Discussing the psychological causes of unhappiness, he concludes that preoccupation with self is the chief culprit. The personality should be directed outward. The introvert, "with the manifold spectacle of the world spread out before him, turns away and gazes only upon the emptiness within. Fundamental happiness depends more than anything else upon what may be called a friendly interest in persons and things." Not unlike Dale Carnegie's advice! Preoccupations with sin and the "sympathy of the herd" are other causes of misery. He advises a quiet life satisfying to instinct. To Russell, personal happiness was the best hope for ending warfare and other social ills. This book is clear, concise, readable, and very quotable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zhiyar Qadri

    insightful and lovely reflections of a genius on happiness #Mustread finding our Anchors that genuinely give us gratefulness and zest for life is what matters. Top 2 lessons to remember: 1- graceful accepting of an objective life however counterintuitive it maybe. 2- I will only put my favorite colors on my canvas ..

  22. 5 out of 5

    Radhika Roy

    I picked up a copy of this book more than 5 years back at a book fair. I had flipped through it, but never got the chance to sit down with it. I can safely conclude that I could not have chosen a more opportune moment to read this. Bertrand Russell is a renowned philosopher and mathematician. One might remember him for his 1945 book "A History of Western Philosophy", which earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. "The Conquest of Happiness" is one of his lesser-known works, which I hav I picked up a copy of this book more than 5 years back at a book fair. I had flipped through it, but never got the chance to sit down with it. I can safely conclude that I could not have chosen a more opportune moment to read this. Bertrand Russell is a renowned philosopher and mathematician. One might remember him for his 1945 book "A History of Western Philosophy", which earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. "The Conquest of Happiness" is one of his lesser-known works, which I have thoroughly come to believe must be read by all. Having been published in 1930, I had next to zero expectations regarding the relevance of this book in this day and age, however, it is safe to say that it stands true now more than it ever did before. TCOH is Russell's account of the causes of Unhappiness and Happiness in a human being. In the First Part of the book, he examines the reasons one could be unhappy. Now, it is pertinent to note here that he does not examine an individual who is predisposed to unhappiness by way of mental health issues. His data set includes ordinary men and women from civilised countries who have no external causes of unhappiness, due to which it almost seems inescapable. Russell seems to be aware of the benefits of therapy and psychiatry, as he on two accounts suggests to his readers to avail such services if they are unable to change their outlook in life. However, he thoroughly believes that most people, who do not have reasons to be unhappy as such, create their own reasons. Therefore, in this book, he endeavours to aid people to recognise what they are doing wrong, so that they can finally conquer happiness. I would not call this a self-help book, as much as it seems to want to be one, because it is more of Russell's analysis of human nature; an amalgamation of psychology and philosophy. His curiosity pertaining to how men and women function when faced with adversity, or even in the absence thereof, is what has been recorded in this book. There is also an interesting strain which involves Russell extrapolating from his day-to-day life and making generalisations on human nature. This was a complaint with his book on Western Philosophy as well. However, as I resonated with what he said, I am less inclined to find faults in this. When it comes to Causes of Unhappiness, Russell elaborates on how one's preoccupation with self, need to compete with others, inability to find interests that are not related to your profession, inculcation of an idea of morality during childhood which differs from what you encounter in your adulthood, persecution mania, and fear of public opinion, tends to exacerbate unhappiness in an individual. For Causes of Happiness, Russell adopts a quite cheerful optimism to inform his readers that Happiness is indeed a feat that can be achieved. This is quite unlike other philosophers who tend to focus on the doomed nature of existence, right from Ecclesiastes. He focuses on how Zest, Affection, Family, Work, Impersonal Interests, Effort and Resignation, can all lead to the makings of a Happy Man. The writing is witty, funny, easy to comprehend, and just makes so much sense at times. The rationalism propounded in the pages charts out a path that is easy to traverse for an individual existing in modern society, without any external causes of unhappiness. I genuinely believe this should be read by all - just in order to mitigate unhappiness to the extent that it lies in our control. I think the only part which did not sit too well with me was "The Family" as a Cause of Happiness. It was not the insinuation that family can make one happy, but more of Russell's content. His reliance on women for ensuring the mental wellbeing of their children, and his instant assumption that women leave their professions after getting married and bearing children, seemed quite outdated. I had to keep reminding myself that the book was written almost a century back. It was a problematic chapter in one more way as it flippantly compared the relationship between a parent and their child to that of a slave and their master. For that reason, I have given it 4 stars. Anyway, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wanting to truly be happy, or to at least learn the intricacies of how to conquer happiness. I, for one, will definitely be coming back to this one in the future. PS: A shout-out to Liveright for making the font so easy to read and the material so touchable. It was a delight to hold this in my hands, and one of the driving factors behind me purchasing it without having heard about it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt Riddle

    This book is a bit dated in parts but still packed with goodness. Some people consider self-love or self-esteem the counter to or cure for self-loathing. Russell makes a very compelling argument that self-esteem and self-loathing are merely flip sides of the same coin of self-absorption. Russell argues that the best and most healthy practice is to think about yourself as little as possible and instead become absorbed by causes and activities outside of yourself. "Through such interests a man come This book is a bit dated in parts but still packed with goodness. Some people consider self-love or self-esteem the counter to or cure for self-loathing. Russell makes a very compelling argument that self-esteem and self-loathing are merely flip sides of the same coin of self-absorption. Russell argues that the best and most healthy practice is to think about yourself as little as possible and instead become absorbed by causes and activities outside of yourself. "Through such interests a man comes to feel himself part of the stream of life, not a hard separate entity like a billiard ball, which can have no relation with other such entities except that of collision." ... "Such a man feels himself a citizen of the universe, enjoying freely the spectacle that it offers and the joys that it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because he feels himself not really separate from those who will come after him. It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found." ... "The acts to be recommended from the point of view of the hedonist are on the whole the same as those to be recommended by the sane moralist." Russell makes a very compelling argument that hedonism and rational moralism ultimately direct one to the selfsame lifestyle. It's certainly true that there are many pleasures which do not promote happiness. But those are ultimately much less pleasurable than the pleasures which do. According to Russell, the greatest pleasures in life are afforded by -- in order -- parenthood, family life, work which is pro-social and which one finds interesting, a general appreciation of beauty and goodness in the world around us, and hobbies which are non-destructive and practiced in moderation. In other words, the very pleasures promoted by the moralist.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Movilă

    Let's just say it's... enlightning ^^ One of the best lectures so far. :) Let's just say it's... enlightning ^^ One of the best lectures so far. :)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ami Iida

    excellent philosophy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Snehal Bhagat

    A mathematician-turned-philosopher reflects on what constitutes true happiness, and how to attain it. Russell is highly regarded in mathematical circles, but I have little idea of what his contribution to philosophy is, or in what light modern psychology views his recipes for achieving a happy life. And recipes they are, arising out of his personal observations. Which probably explains the unappetizing elements of the book- a friend of mine says that if you only ever get to see circles when you a A mathematician-turned-philosopher reflects on what constitutes true happiness, and how to attain it. Russell is highly regarded in mathematical circles, but I have little idea of what his contribution to philosophy is, or in what light modern psychology views his recipes for achieving a happy life. And recipes they are, arising out of his personal observations. Which probably explains the unappetizing elements of the book- a friend of mine says that if you only ever get to see circles when you are growing up, when you first see a square, you comprehend it as an imperfect circle. Russell had it kind of rough, growing up. Depending on your stage of life and state of mind, this can be an extremely persuasive book, or a rather trite one. I found it to be a bit of both, but then I don't read a lot of philosophy. Modulo the elements that haven't dated well however, there was sufficient that has resonance for our times. Thus, for Russell, the conquest of happiness is impaired by the "disease of self-absorption.” Indolence won’t bring true happiness, because a certain amount of struggle is essential in life. And just as the Buddha did, he urges us to never be envious of the gifts that others receive, for then one would never have a moment of peace. Conformity sucks, says Russell, and is also an impediment to happiness. And he’d know something about non-conformity, having discovered that his parents lived in a ménage-a-trois when he was very young. A society composed of men and women who do not bow too much to the conventions is a far more interesting society than one in which all behave alike. Take some risks, advises the wise old man, for of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. Touché.  

  27. 5 out of 5

    M Jahangir kz

    Excellent book. There is a great rave in the writing of Bertrand Russel, he really writes with great wit and clarity. This book as the title suggests digs deep down upon the humanity most sort after and most wanted thing "the happiness". Divided into two parts, in first part author eloquently discusses the things that makes us unhappy, such as Competition, envy, sin, and others.. the author goes deep and pen down the causes of unhappiness, and explain why, how and in what capacity these things cont Excellent book. There is a great rave in the writing of Bertrand Russel, he really writes with great wit and clarity. This book as the title suggests digs deep down upon the humanity most sort after and most wanted thing "the happiness". Divided into two parts, in first part author eloquently discusses the things that makes us unhappy, such as Competition, envy, sin, and others.. the author goes deep and pen down the causes of unhappiness, and explain why, how and in what capacity these things contributes to our unhappiness. The second part unsurprisingly talks about the things that makes us happy, these include, such as work, family, impersonal interest, efforts and resignation and others.. the causes of happiness are also written lucidly, in between the lines the wisdom of the author is well felt and observes, it is very easy to be awe inspired and thought provoke when you are reading Bertrand Russel.. A great read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bogdan Raț

    Thank you, Sir Russell, for your wisdom.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marta

    3.5 ☆ Invented self-help written by old ethnocentric white men

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Much more the passionate carpe diem approach of Horace than the placid sit down quietly and wait for happiness to alight on you approach of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Even the title is proactive, suggestive of territory being taken in a war with an opposing force. Russell begins with the notion that happiness begins in something exterior to a person. I would have to agree with him on purely etymological grounds. Happiness is related to the English words 'happenstance' and 'hapless' (both words that ind Much more the passionate carpe diem approach of Horace than the placid sit down quietly and wait for happiness to alight on you approach of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Even the title is proactive, suggestive of territory being taken in a war with an opposing force. Russell begins with the notion that happiness begins in something exterior to a person. I would have to agree with him on purely etymological grounds. Happiness is related to the English words 'happenstance' and 'hapless' (both words that indicate things over which you have no control), all of which are derived from the norwegian word 'hap' which means luck or chance. So happiness in its proper sense is very much circumstantial, being grounded in the external environment. You might say happiness is transitory rather than transcendent (rooted in your environment rather than in something beyond it). His aim in writing was to consider ways in which we can maximize our happiness in the place in which we find ourselves by altering our thinking and thus our actions and reactions to the world about us. It is worth noting that he is not considering either ideal or extenuating circumstances but the everyday existence of the average citizen: 'In discussing this problem, I shall confine my attention to those who are not subject to any extreme cause of outward misery. I shall assume a sufficient income to secure food and shelter, sufficient health to make ordinary bodily activities possible. I shall not consider the great catastrophes, such as the loss of all one's children, or public disgrace. There are things to be said about such matters, and they are important things, but they belong to a different order from the things I wish to say. My purpose is to suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, it appears largely inescapable.' The book is divided into two halves consisting of a catalogue of things that cause unhappiness and things that cause happiness. Things that cause unhappiness: self-absorption, pessimism, the competitive nature of modern life, boredom, mental, emotional, and physical tiredness, comparing yourself and your lot in life to others, inner conflict, perpetual victim-hood, and peer pressure. Things that cause happiness: curiousity, awe, enthusiasm and appreciation for life, reciprocal affection, parenthood, work, hobbies, and balance. I would mention in passing that at least some of these things are interchangeable. While it is true that things like parenthood and work can be sources of happiness, there are also times when they can be a source of profound unhappiness. There are a few niggling comments I could make. I found his description of Christians to be overly cartoonish. It may be true that some spend all their time obsessively and exhaustively doing a moral inventory of their inner being but it would seem to me a healthy spirituality would consist in a balance of looking outward and looking inward. He also seemed to have it in for introverts in places. The difference between being an introvert or an extrovert is essentially the same as being tall or short, neither condition being superior or inferior to the other but each certainly different from the other. Overall I found this to be a good book. I was actually quite surprised how much of what was written struck a sympathetic nerve. I completely agree with his assessment that it is wrong to consider the pursuit of knowledge only worthwhile if it has some functional purpose behind it (namely making vast quantities of money.) This problem has become even more pronounced since this book was written, perhaps due to increased corporate funding of post secondary educational systems. If you have the time, here is a simple exercise: google the phrase 'Are the humanities.....?' and see what the suggested auto completes are. He was also quite prescient in his analysis of the ability of the media to stigmatize people who have 'the wrong views.' This book might be considered an early example of the self-help genre. A lot of it could be construed as common sense, albeit extremely well articulated common sense. Early in the book Russell takes to task the book of Ecclesiastes (I would contend he entirely misses the point of the book of Ecclesiastes while staring it full in the face) but in light of his views one might consider this a rosier vision of a man 'under the sun.'

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