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Combative, provocative and engaging live debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Giles Fraser, Melanie Phillips, Ash Sarkar and Ella Whelan. #moralmaze

Philosophers and artists, from Epicurus to Ken Dodd, have grappled with the secret to happiness. Now, neuroscientists at University College London suggest the answer could lie in the equation: (t)=w0 +w1∑j=1tγt −jCRj +w2∑j=1tγt −jEVj +w3∑j=1tγt −jRPEj. While hardly rolling off the tongue, the formula roughly translates to mean that we should lower our expectations to be happy – but not so low, and for so long, that it makes us unhappy. This appears to fly in the face of a celebrity culture that chases fame, status and success as ends in themselves. Self-help books and "positive psychology" promise to train us into a happy mood. While the wellness industry is booming, so is the prescription of antidepressants, increasingly for teenagers – according to The National Institute for Health Research. What does this reveal about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? What is wrong with personal happiness as a life goal? Some think that there is too much stuffiness about happiness, that there is nothing selfish about self-care, and that people should be free to set the bar as high as they wish and explore personal fulfilment however they chose. Others believe that life should be about more than seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, that the conscious pursuit of happiness can make us more miserable, and that happiness – rather than being an expectation – should be a by-product of a life well-lived. How useful or desirable is it to measure happiness, particularly when it comes to the wellbeing of a nation? As some economists have observed, beyond a certain point, GDP no longer captures the nuances of citizens’ happiness. Is it time to consider Gross Domestic Happiness? Or is there something dystopian about a government defining what happiness means, since our moods are fleeting and we all have own definition of a happy life? With Dr Andy Cope, Dr William Davies, Dr Ashley Frawley and Sir Anthony Seldon.

Producer: Dan Tierney.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Sat 5 Jun 2021 22:15


  • Wed 2 Jun 2021 20:00
  • Sat 5 Jun 2021 22:15

The Evidence Toolkit

The Evidence Toolkit

Check out the claims made in news stories with this interactive tool.