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date: 22 May 2017

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter, the author examines what happiness is by looking at what it is not. Although we typically think of happiness and unhappiness as opposites, empirical research is showing that they are not—at least not on the commonsense understanding of what opposites are. Different definitions of happiness have different opposites, but underlying all of them is the important insight that happiness is not simply the absence of unhappiness. This has important implications for the pursuit of happiness, since happiness involves both the presence of certain states or conditions and the absence of others. The chapter examines the importance of these points for understanding philosophical advice on the pursuit of happiness, focusing on the works of Epictetus and Boethius. The author also points out the need for more empirical study on the proper balance between the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of unhappiness.

Keywords: happiness, unhappiness, opposites, eudaimonia, dysdaimonia, Aristotle, Square of Opposition, Seligman, Diener, Fredrickson, Keyes, Nussbaum, Epictetus, Boethius

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