In Pursuit of Happiness was the 1998 book by Mark Kingwall. He explains how even though the pursuit of happiness may seem futile, it is essential and that happiness is different for each person. While his thesis states that happiness cannot be defined in one sentence, it is something people continue to strive for. This dissertation is intended to appeal to more than just philosophy majors, since the author is also a Toronto professor. The author effectively supports his argument in three ways.
Kingwell begins his article talking about the human need for happiness and how it affects daily life. Kingwell also discusses how people define happiness. This is despite the fact that philosophers have nearly always failed to find a definition of happiness in the past. He says that searching for the one-sentence definition of happiness from a dictionary is “a fool’s game”. (Kingwell. 248) I noticed something in the article that was very well planned. He clearly states his ideas upfront, followed by the ideas of those who came before him and finally the scientific evidence behind them. He does not fumble around or stray too far from the topic he is addressing. The essay was very clear in my eyes. I could clearly see the endings and the beginnings of each thought. It was obvious why it was there. For example, he transitioned from his first paragraph into his next idea with the following sentence: “Happiness is …’ does not likely to do us any good.” (248). This transition creates a smooth transition into his next idea. While it doesn’t pause his current thought, it allows for the transition to the next. This is an important sign that he is an organized writer. He also shows this by showing how he effortlessly transitions between philosophical and scientific studies. This is a sign that he is a true writer.
Kingwell discusses the second section of the excerpt. He talks about great philosophers and thinkers who have studied happiness and sought to understand its root. Kingwell quotes many philosophers and authors whose ideas about happiness are well-known. To demonstrate the complications of seeking happiness, Kingwell uses John Stuart Mill’s autobiography quote. Kingwell quotes many famous authors. Some are very similar, others are quite distinct. Kingwell’s excerpt is written in a detached tone. Kingwell does not try to argue with the philosophers or say what his views are about the works they wrote. The author never expresses his opinions in the entirety of the text. He also never states his ideology regarding happiness or whether it is feasible. His writing is unbiased because he doesn’t express his opinion often. This makes him more confident in his argument and creates a relaxed atmosphere for his readers. You can also see that Kingwell is impartial when he refers to the work of the author before him. He does this in a way that is understandable by the audience, but still maintains an impartial air about the writing.
The essay concludes with a discussion about how social rank and genetics can influence happiness. He supports his theory with data gathered through studies by geneticists and scientists. David Lykken (a University of Minnesota behavior geneticist) says that people who travel in their overalls to work on buses can feel as happy as those who drive Mercedes-Benzes and wear suits. Kingwell also presents another study that suggests that your genes are set and that no amount of change or searching can change this. This is evidence that the author has argued well. Strong arguments are supported by strong organization, clear tone, solid supporting evidence, and facts. This makes the essay more credible because the evidence is not limited to one field of medicine or science. Even though it is not conclusive, the data fills in some gaps and makes the essay more persuasive than it would have without it.
Although I believe that the essay is well-written, I don’t believe the excerpt makes the point. The author states in the middle that everyone thinks they understand happiness. However, very few people are able to convince others that they are right. (248). This is not true for me as I see millions of people listening to their opinions and finding out what makes them happy. It is likely that many people will agree or even try this statement. I have to admit that not everyone agrees with the idea of happiness. People will disagree with some of the details, but they’ll also agree with others when it concerns their personal views on happiness.
Although I was horrified by the article at first, I continued to read it over and over. After reading the article many times, I learned that it had many valid points. The article was solid and had great data. But it was very persuasive and helped me to see happiness as a reality.
In Pursuit of Happiness: Better living from Plato, Prozac by Mark Kingwell is my conclusion. Because happiness can be viewed as too abstract or impossible to apply to real-life situations, there are many reasons why it is complicated. This author makes a valid point regarding happiness, using criteria, research, organizational skills, and an impartial tone.