Plutarch's Table

Happiness | October 8, 2010

Thanks to everyone who came out to last night’s salon – what a fabulous group!  We were left with some profound questions that I hope we’ll get the chance to revisit sometime.  In the meantime, please e-mail me if you’d like a list of further reading.   And cheers to our wonderful hosts Leah and Kanishka.

And now for what the Onion has to say about happiness.,17258/


Posted in Salon summaries


  1. Thanks, Joanna, for a great evening! The only problem was we were left wanting more.

    Comment by Leah — October 8, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

  2. Thanks for this, and have fun with the next. We’ve been talking a lot about the questions you raised with us, with all kinds of people. Here’s something I thought might be interesting and related to our salon: an arguably Deleuzean take on happiness, in our spectacular technoculture:

    Comment by Kanishka Goonewardena — October 17, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

    • Thanks Kanishka, this is a great article. I’ve been thinking I have to read Brave New World again, and this reminded me! Indeed I decided to do happiness again because I felt there were so many issues and questions raised that still need exploring, so thanks again for all your input.

      Comment by Joanna Polley — October 17, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    • I just re-read the article, and was wondering whether you meant that it is this society that is focused on self-realization that is Deleuzian? If so, I see your point, especially with the idea that the contemporary failing is that of not actualizing all of ones possibilities. But the Brave New World-style leveling out of all difference and rebellion strikes one as so un-Deleuzian, especially insofar as Deleuze’s sense of human flourishing seems to come so directly from Nietzsche. Do you think that the key distinction might be that for Deleuze there can’t possibly be an ideal of the fully realized self, that one would hold up as evidence for failure, for not having attained what one should have, or as the goal to be reached? It’s the immanent vs. the transcendent impetus for taking ones powers to their limit, where this drive for happiness at all costs seems rather to be inspired by some very specific (and very Judeo-Christian rationalist) ideas of what it means to be fully human, which isn’t taking power to its limit but limiting power, in Deleuze’s view. I’ll have to rethink my account of a Nietzschean flourishing with this in mind! I was also finding it interesting to think about the way that we encourage the use of drugs that iron out extremes of behaviour and feeling, that limit excess, and we prohibit the use of drugs that are experimental, psychotropics that do exactly the opposite as they are experimental and expose one to possibilities that don’t appear to us in our increasingly monocultural world. This article helps me understand that prohibition in a way I didn’t before, since I always thought it was just a government control thing! It’s scarier to think that it might also be a more pervasive aversion to life.

      Comment by Joanna Polley — October 18, 2010 @ 9:30 am

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About author

My name is Joanna Polley. I am a writer and a philosopher experimenting with ways of practicing and teaching philosophy outside of the university environment. I completed my PhD at the University of Toronto and have taught for several years in the departments of philosophy and literary studies, and am currently exploring ways to bring philosophy out of the ivory tower and into the wider public sphere. My specific research interests have been in the history of philosophy, philosophy of language and culture and the philosophy of literature, but I am interested in any philosophy that helps illuminate contemporary problems and deepens our experience of being alive. You can also visit me at for information about my philosophical therapy services.







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