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The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

de Bertrand Russell

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Russell held progressive, often controversial views on social issues, including sexuality. Vigorously opposed to conventional or religious morality, he sets forth here a rationalist approach to achieving a happy life.
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  David.llib.cat | Jan 20, 2021 |
Bertrand Russell has always been one of the most fascinating philosophers to me, and this is such an excellent piece of work by him. Sure, it is dated, and has a lot of genderisms and society talk and even underlying racism, but its pretty easy to pack away and say 'product of its time' and say its the old British style. There is a charm to his old folksy / British ways of writing things and sayings that underpins the racist sounding terms or the male-centric nature of things. I also imagine that if Bertrand Russell was alive today (2020) and writing, his style would be much different, and more inline with our cultural norms of today.

Russell certainly depicts people in a certain way in this. Men are X and women are Y. Norms are Z and A. There isn't a lot of wiggle room in his thinking in this volume. His comments on what makes people anxious or upset or unhappy are because of these symptoms - B through G - and thats all there is to it. Some might label this as 'narrow-minded' which might be apt, but I think its more a product of how society was then, what the norms were, and his attempts at doing more psychology than philosophy in this volume.

He talks mainly of what leads to unhappiness, primarily through mental fatigues and the such. He discusses what one can do to KEEP happiness or CREATE happiness. Mental fatigue, anxiety, etc is pretty much the root of the evil in his opinion; and that kind of leads me to say this is a far more psychological outlook at happiness than a philosophical one. This isn't a complaint or a problem, just more or less my commentary and notes on this piece of work.

I think there is very much a level of 'your mileage may vary' on this volume. Some might get a lot of out of it, some might not get much at all. I think men might find it more interesting than women, as his depictions of women are ...rather Victorian... "housewife" type ideas of women. (And remember, Russell was a women's rights activist). I do think, no matter what, this is something anyone looking into happiness, or the 'right life' or 'living well' should read. ( )
1 vote BenKline | Oct 30, 2020 |
L’elemento disarmante di questo libro è la semplicità. L’ingrediente per raggiungere l’agognata felicità. In effetti il percorso di Russell è estremamente semplice: ad una prima lettura quasi banale; ma non è così. Anzi. Perché è sempre utile ricordare che la vita è uno splendido passaggio. Ma breve. E la felicità è l’ingrediente che serve a dare a questo passaggio un senso. Vivere non è facile. Lo dice Vasco nel suo ultimo album. Ed è così. Il dolore, il rancore, l’invidia sono sempre dietro l’angolo. Ma basta poco, sempre Vasco, per vedere tutto da un altro punto di vista. Sono gradevoli e semplici riflessioni che aiutano a trovare un conforto in queste semplici pagine. Anche sotto il profilo metodologico, il libro è ottimamente organizzato, con paragrafi semplici ed essenziali. Un classico. Giustamente un classico. ( )
  grandeghi | Sep 1, 2020 |
Russell is through and through a rationalist. In The Conquest of Happiness, Russell employs the reductionist approach of reasoning from first principles. He proposes solutions for freeing oneself from unhappiness and attaining happiness. Standing on the shoulders of giants who've ventured to talk publicly about social problems they haven't spent much time thinking about (Einstein, my grandma, Richard Dawkins) and being well-received because of their success in other fields (relativity, pancakes, nothing at all) Bertrand Russell got his attempt at conquering happiness published.

Russell, over 50 by the time he wrote this book, relies too heavily on personal experience and sometimes unconscious prejudice (most notably in his examples with women) to give suggest common-sense one-word solutions to problems that are more complicated than he assumes. The book begins with a promise of practical methods to rid the average man of the curse of unhappiness, with a definitive anti-establishment tone towards the intelligentsia of the day. It quickly devolves into consistently boring examples which don't solve the bigger problem and a boringly consistent tone of delivery for the solutions to these examples.

He divides the causes both happiness and unhappiness into chapters, and divides those chapters further into cases, corner cases, and exceptions to the rule. Sounds like a fair enough approach to a problem like happiness, right?




...right?




1. The cases and examples are not exhaustive and sometimes too simple. Russell makes no attempt to hide this for it is assumed that all these cases are in service of proving a bigger point in the chapter. Unfortunately, the bigger point never comes. Also in most cases the remedies fix just the case and not the problem of happiness. This is more a critique of the epistemology of reductionism than it is of this book. Sometimes answers to the reduced problem donot simultaneously address the original problem, especially when problems lack inherent hierarchy of structure. Human emotion is a great example and unfortunately enough, it is precisely what Russell has chosen to battle for his "conquest".
2. He rarely REALLY gets behind anything he says, the hardest he pushes a point is "a wise man would do X" instead of "if you want happiness do X". This leaves the reader with a looming lack of confidence in the text, which is far from feeling of knowing absolute truth you'd expect from determinism and rationality-based approach as Russell's. This might explain the unexplainable dissatisfaction I felt finishing this book, like watching SNL and finding out the musical guest is Coldplay.
3. You can read the book, agree with everything, and still walk away learning nothing new.
Ofcourse one can argue, that this probably WAS Russell's point. That you already know everything you need to be happy, you just forget it time to time (especially when you need it) and that's why you need this book. But in that case, a two-page infographic pamphlet would've sufficed to communicate the points that Russell was making, instead of a 200-page book with a self-important title. The medium is the message, and in this case there's nothing new to learn from either.

This book was my introduction to Russell. Now the rest of his books, with their big questions and his even bigger name on them, seem to be calling out from their place in my bookshelf "I have a solution to some of the biggest problems of mankind, read me first" only to offer "common wisdom" digested in under 200 pages, with the tone of casual aloofness that only the guarantee of being taken seriously can bring. Or winning a Nobel prize. Hopefully, after a few more doses of the Russellian rationalist medicine™, I will stand a changed man. But I can say with certainty the contents of my review for this book will not.

Highlight chapters: Byronic Unhappiness, Zest (can be read independently) ( )
2 vote pod_twit | Mar 30, 2020 |
Letto quando avevo 16 anni e poi riletto più volte, c'è sempre da imparare da Russell ( )
1 vote Ste1955 | Apr 24, 2019 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Russell, Bertrandautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Grayling, A. C.Prefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Hollo, J. A.Tradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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PREFACE -- THIS BOOK is not addressed to highbrows, or to those who regard a practical problem as merely something to be talked about. No profound philosophy or deep erudition will be found in the following pages. I have aimed only at putting together some remarks which are inspired by what I hope is common sense. All that I claim for the recipes offered to the reader is that they are such as are confirmed by my own experience and observation, and that they have increased my own happiness whenever I have acted in accordance with them.
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All our affections are at the mercy of death, which may strike down those we love at any moment. It is therefore necessary that our lives should not have that narrow intensity which puts the whole meaning and purpose of our life at the mercy of accident.
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