How and How Not to Be Happy
Most people have some share in happiness, not many are simply happy. Why? Not for a moment do I think we are ignorant about this subject -- though I do think we are confused about a great deal of what we half-know about it. The purpose of this book might be described as deconfusing some of our inherited semi-knowledge.
You may notice at this website that I’ve also written a 650+ page commentary on what Thomas Aquinas thinks about happiness, and I’m profoundly in debt to the master. In this book, though, I’m speaking for myself -- and at only 256 pages, it’s lots, lots shorter!
“There is simply no more powerful, profound, or persuasive Christian writer on controversial themes alive in the world today than J. Budziszewski. Just reading this brilliantly written book will make you happy. Living it will be even more potent.” — Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and author of A Summa of the Summa
“Budziszewski has written a fascinating and sublimely readable book. Many authors have taken up this theme, and many have managed to be boring or even vapid, despite the intrinsic interest of the question. With his razor-sharp power of cutting through fallacies, and his extraordinary ability to come up with just the right examples from his treasury of experience, Budziszewski has produced the best book on happiness that you are ever going to read. Rightly understood, happiness is available!” — Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
“Budziszewski is certainly on the side of the angels, and I find his theological work of high quality (especially for a philosopher who specializes in politics usually). He has been heroic in his writing about chastity. He also gets the broader (i.e., societal and personal) implications of what theologians commonly teach about the place of the real good in the moral life. This is a readable book that everyone can learn from about the one thing that matters: happiness.” — Romanus Cessario, O.P., Adam Cardinal Maida Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University
“J. Budziszewski unites a deep expertise in the most important thinking about happiness with an intimate familiarity with our current crisis in seeking happiness. How and How Not to be Happy responds to contemporary difficulties, incorporates modern perspectives, and re-presents in a new and fresh way perennial insights from classic thinkers about the true nature of human flourishing. Students, professors, and intelligent readers can gain great profit and pleasure from reading this book.” — Christopher Kaczor, author of The Gospel of Happiness: How Secular Psychology Points to the Wisdom of Christian Practice and co-author of Jordan Peterson, God, and Christianity: The Search for a Meaningful Life
“Rare is the book that so easily combines deep, interdisciplinary thinking about happiness with an accessible and often beguiling conversational tone that will draw in every reader. Too often, books on happiness are either thick philosophy or glib pop psychology, but Professor Budziszewski succeeds admirably in drawing on and purifying the wisdom of both the philosophical and psychological traditions to provide a real feast for those who want to get beyond easy answers and instead seek to be ‘deconfused’ about this most important topic.” — David Cloutier, associate professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America
“There is much talk about happiness today, but not much wisdom about it. Yet that is precisely what the greatest philosophers of the Western tradition, and especially Aristotle and Aquinas, have to offer us. There is a desperate need to make that wisdom available beyond the ivory tower, to the general public. J. Budziszewski does the job with his usual clarity, erudition, and good sense.” — Edward Feser, professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College
“Everyone, Aristotle observed, wants to be happy. But what is happiness, and how do we achieve it? There, he noted, ‘the many do not give the same account as the wise.’ It’s hard to think of anyone who approaches the question with greater wisdom than J. Budziszewski. This book overflows with subtlety, insight, and a profound understanding of what it is to be human. An education in arts and letters all by itself, it combines philosophical depth with practical advice on how to avoid the snares that catch all of us some of the time and many of us most of the time. And it’s a pleasure to read. If you want to be happier, more fulfilled, and understand more about who and what you are, you need this book.” — Daniel A. Bonevac, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin
“People who know what true happiness is (and there is an answer) won’t need this book. Those who don’t know, also won’t know that they need this book and need to buy it. The obvious answer is for those who don’t need this book to buy it, to give as a gift for those who do. One could hardly find a truer act of love.” — Michael Pakaluk, professor of ethics and social philosophy at the Catholic University of America and author of Mary’s Voice in the Gospel according to John
“We all want happiness, but yet it seems so elusive. In this wonderful little book, J. Budziszewski explains why. Relying on the insights of ancient wisdom, he takes us through all the dead ends that we mistake for happiness. He even shows us why some modern attempts (by Jonathan Haidt and others) to tap into that wisdom fail because they dismiss or ignore the transcendent source to which it points. In an age of ever-increasing distractions and banal amusements, all of us, especially young people, need some direction on the meaning and acquisition of happiness. I can’t think of a better guide than this book.” — Francis J. Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University