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The Psychology of Happiness: A Life with Meaning

As our twelve-part series on Objectivism and happiness nears its close, philosopher Gregory Salmieri and psychologist Gena Gorlin join Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report, to discuss their personal experiences and professional perspectives on what happiness is, what it feels like, and how to pursue it successfully.

Salmieri stresses the role of philosophy in understanding and achieving happiness. He contrasts the practical guidance offered by the Objectivist ethics with the destructive power of conventional morality, whose “thou shalt not” commandments amount to: “What thou shalt really not do is live for yourself.” Both experts share personal stories of what it’s like to experience happiness, including accounts of how Ayn Rand’s works helped them see the connections between her conception of rational selfishness and happiness.

“The meaning of life is the happiness you choose,” observes Salmieri in a discussion of Rand’s ideas on the subject.
The wide-ranging discussion is replete with practical suggestions on achieving happiness in one’s personal life. Both Salmieri and Gorlin stress the importance of pursuing a central purpose, a “mission,” to give meaning to one’s life. “The meaning of life is the happiness you choose,” observes Salmieri in a discussion of Rand’s ideas on the subject.

Discussion topics include:

  • Does the pursuit of happiness require a choice between being practical and being moral?
  • What does it mean to treat happiness as a process, not just an outcome?
  • Does the pursuit of happiness reduce to a “hedonic treadmill” — the pursuit of an endless series of “cheap, shallow fixes” that never truly satisfy?
  • Is happiness compatible with measuring your moral worth by how much you give of yourself, suffer and sacrifice?
  • How does a central purpose allow you to resolve internal conflicts?
  • Are there “baby steps” one can take on the road to happiness?
  • Can a person be happy and yet experience disappointment, anxiety, failure?
  • Is the meaning of life to be found somewhere outside the self?
  • How can moral ideals fuel a happy life?

The next episode in this series will focus on Objectivism as a competitive advantage in the business world (featuring John Allison, former CEO of BB&T Corporation), and the final episode will deal with how to make sense of today’s political culture (featuring analysis by Gregory Salmieri).

Objectivism on Happiness (Rubin Report episode list):

Objectivism on Happiness – Episode list

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Tom Bowden

Tom Bowden, JD and former civil litigator, is a research fellow and publishing manager at the Ayn Rand Institute. He is also a coeditor of Illuminating Ayn Rand (2022) and a contributing editor of New Ideal.

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