Theory of Knowledge

A unified approach to psychology and philosophy

Happiness Versus Well-Being

Happiness is an important emotion, but it should not be considered our sole or ultimate value. Instead, we should think about well-being, which, to borrow from Kant, can be defined as happiness with the worthiness to be happy. Read More

I have 3 core values that I

I have 3 core values that I suspect every human (and perhaps every animal) should be benefitted of: life, health and happiness. Though, I have a distinct feeling that something is of lack, perhaps something about ease or utility.

But if one has life, health and happiness, what more can a mortal ask for?

reminds of

What you said reminds me of Dr. Joseph Burgo's book "Why Did I DO That" about defense mechanisms. When he was in therapy, his therapist would ask him if he wanted to feel happy or what he was really feeling. While I have never experimented with drugs and don't even drink alcohol, I'm not opposed to believing that I am happy even if I may have a subconscious feeling contrary to that unless the lie is a danger to myself or others. I appreciate your honesty and giving us something to think about.

Wow. Such an important distinction.

Your article reads like my own autobiography. I too, in the early 70-s had a one time experience with a happiness-inducing drug. As intensely fun as it was, I never ever have had an urge to repeat it, and until now have never even thought about it.

Am I getting old that now my idea of fun is to sit at my computer writing PT blogposts? Or hang out playing games with my grandkids? Or talk and walk or maybe play our guitar and banjo with my husband? Or play tennis in the bright sunshine? Or to sit in religious services and talk with Someone-Up-There?

Delightfully thought-provoking article Greg. Thanks so much for writing it.

Happiness overrated?

In your article, you describe that particular night decades ago, when you took ecstasy, as one of the happiest nights of your life and have wondered, if at such minimal cost, why you have not done it again.

From a biological standpoint, as I have learned in psychology, our brains have the ability to produce these same chemicals (serotonin in the case of ecstasy) that can infuse us with these euphoric feelings of happiness, be it through physical and mental excitement/ stimulation, proper balanced diet, and so on. May be you have been lucky enough over time to have had these occasions to produce enough of these feelings on your own, and therefore been able to maintain a sense of well-being and (occasional) happiness.

May be happiness viewed by itself is rather overrated in our society, and as you said, even in positive psychology there are draw backs and controversy with a constant “rose-colored view”.

Happiness may simply not be meant as a long-lasting state of emotion (as much as we would like it to be), only as an occasional “booster” so to speak, as it would be merely exhausting, and would seem to serve us better overall during our evolutionary journey to be in a relatively constant state of mind and well-being.


I´m reading Martin Seligman´s book, Flourish. I got a little bit confused, what is the difference between happiness and wellbeing? Which one comes first? Are they related as cause-effect, or what is the relation between happiness (measured by reporting life satisfaction) and wellbeing (that measured by measuring PERMA even objectively as well as subjectively)? Then what is the ultimate currency, happiness or well being? Martin talks about the 5 pillars of wellbeing (his new theory), PERMA, which includes the three basic elements that feeds into happiness ( Positive emotions, meanning and engagment). So does it mean that wellbeing has replaced happiness ? So our goal in life is to be PERMA-er? I would appreciate a scientific based answer. I´m totally confused, it feels like all of these concepts that I have been learning for the last 5 years were only some scientific hypothesis and lab subjective theories.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Gregg Henriques, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at James Madison University.


Subscribe to Theory of Knowledge

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.