The value of happiness

Alumni of CC204 will take special interest in this piece at Huffington Post, where Leah Finnegan looks at a new study suggesting a measurable price on day-to-day happiness:

Not having enough money causes emotional pain and unhappiness, the researchers found. But the happiness tipping point is about $75,000 – more money than that doesn’t make a person cheerier, though it can help people view their lives as successful or better.

Kahneman and Deaton distinguished between life satisfaction and joy by asking people to assess how happy they were on the previous day, and found that there was no difference between daily happiness levels of individuals making more than $75,000 per year.

Read the rest of the article, “The Price of Happiness: $75,000,” posted September 7, 2010,  retrieved September 9, 2010. See also the Business Week coverage of the study.

A point relevant to this issue of leveraging wealth into happiness comes from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: “The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.” (I.1096a5)

Prof. Jorgensen, in chatting about this article, recommends that we also consider pilgrim Dante’s encounter with the personification of Fortune in Inferno, Canto VII:

ché tutto l’oro ch’è sotto la luna
e che già fu, di quest’anime stanche
non poterebbe farne posare una

As translated by Allen Mandelbaum:

for all the gold that is or ever was
beneath the moon could never offer rest
to even one of these exhausted spirits.

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