Adam Adatto SandelOct 6, 2022
Happiness in Action
A Philosopher's Guide to the Good Life
Harvard University Press 2022
A young philosopher and Guinness World Record holder in pull-ups argues that the key to happiness is not goal-driven striving but forging a life that integrates self-possession, friendship, and engagement with nature.
What is the meaning of the good life? In Happiness in Action: A Philosopher's Guide to the Good Life (Harvard UP, 2022), Adam Adatto Sandel draws on ancient and modern thinkers and on two seemingly disparate pursuits of his own, philosophy and fitness, to offer a surprising answer to this age-old human question.
Sandel argues that finding fulfillment is not about attaining happiness, conceived as a state of mind, or even about accomplishing one’s greatest goals. Instead, true happiness comes from immersing oneself in activity that is intrinsically rewarding. The source of meaning, he suggests, derives from the integrity or “wholeness” of self that we forge throughout the journey of life.
At the heart of Sandel’s account of life as a journey are three virtues that get displaced and distorted by our goal-oriented striving: self-possession, friendship, and engagement with nature. Sandel offers illuminating and counterintuitive accounts of these virtues, revealing how they are essential to a happiness that lasts.
To illustrate the struggle of living up to these virtues, Sandel looks to literature, film, and television, and also to his own commitments and adventures. A focal point of his personal narrative is a passion that, at first glance, is as narrow a goal-oriented pursuit as one can imagine: training to set the Guinness World Record for Most Pull-Ups in One Minute. Drawing on his own experiences, Sandel makes philosophy accessible for readers who, in their own infinitely various ways, struggle with the tension between goal-oriented striving and the embrace of life as a journey.
Adam Adatto Sandel is a philosopher, Guinness World Record holder for Most Pull-Ups in One Minute, and an award-winning teacher. Author of the critically acclaimed book The Place of Prejudice: A Case for Reasoning within the World, Sandel has taught at Harvard University and is currently an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn.
Daniel Moran earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. in History from Drew University. The author of Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers, he teaches research and writing at Rutgers and co-hosts the podcast Fifteen-Minute Film Fanatics, found at https://fifteenminutefilm.podb... and on Twitter @15MinFilm.