The Happiness Project – Book Review

The book, The Happiness Project, is written by a student of Thomas Szasz, Ron Leifer. I was disappointed in this book. I was interested in the work of Ron Leifer because he studied under Thomas Szasz. I thought that perhaps Ron could offer some insights into the human condition. What I found were some poorly constructed, trite thoughts about about human nature.

On the first page of the book, Leifer writes:

Everyone in the world wants to be happy. The desire for happiness is the universal wish of humankind. On this, everyone would agree. Yet everyone suffers and dies. The basic fact and the basic tragedy of life is that every human being longs for peace and happiness and yet everyone is haunted by the specter of suffering unhappiness and death.

I think Leifer is wrong in viewing every human being as wanting to be happy. It would be more accurate to say that every human being wants to have a meaningful purpose filled life. For example was Jesus “happy”? I can’t imagine many people would argue that Jesus was happy – in fact the Bible said he was a man of many sorrows1, yet he lived a purpose filled life, full of meaning. Many people throughout history have not found happiness, but have found meaning in their lives. I was hoping that Leifer’s view of happiness would be more nuanced and include a broader picture of happiness and suffering.

Leifer also seems to group all religions into the same category. I believe this is a mistake. The Buddhist religion is basically atheistic with no belief in an all knowing all powerful God, while the monotheistic religions have a view of an all powerful personal God.

I did not read the entire book. I base my review on the first chapter of the book which was generic, painful to read, and not very insightful. I believe that if the premises of a book are wrong, the rest of the book is not worth reading.

4 thoughts on “The Happiness Project – Book Review

  1. i think more than to be happy people are more looking to be legitimate.

    “Because we are spiritual-social beings, our need for legitimacy is just as important as our need for food, water, and life itself. Sometimes it is even more important.
    There are times when a person wants to die. There is never a time when a person wants to be illegitimate.
    Illegitimacy is an ascription no one attributes to himself. Even the person guilty of a grave moral sin or crime-Judas, Lady Macbeth, Hitler, Stalin-does not view himself as an illegitimate person.
    Legitimacy is the milieu in which we, as spiritual beings, live. To us it is what water is to fish: we notice it only when we are deprived of it (typically, by being incarcerated in a mental hospital).”
    Thomas Szasz

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was skeptical after reading your first paragraph, however you caught on to me after that and it all makes sense to me now. I agree with you, fully.

    I once heard that living a purpose filled life isn’t about being happy. Happiness is a byproduct of having a sense of purpose.

    This is some good insight and well done on the piece. I really enjoyed it


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