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The Conquest of Happiness

By Bertrand Russell

book iconWW Norton


“Should be read by every parent, teacher, minister, and Congressman in the land.”—The Atlantic

In The Conquest of Happiness, first published by Liveright in 1930, iconoclastic philosopher Bertrand Russell attempted to diagnose the myriad causes of unhappiness in modern life and chart a path out of the seemingly inescapable malaise so prevalent even in safe and prosperous Western societies. More than eighty years later, Russell’s wisdom remains as true as it was on its initial release. Eschewing guilt-based morality, Russell lays out a rationalist prescription for living a happy life, including the importance of cultivating interests outside oneself and the dangers of passive pleasure. In this new edition, best-selling philosopher Daniel C. Dennett reintroduces Russell to a new generation, stating that Conquest is both “a fascinating time capsule” and “a prototype of the flood of self-help books that have more recently been published, few of them as well worth reading today as Russell’s little book.”

Summary by AI

The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

  • Author's Background: Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. He was one of the founders of analytic philosophy and is considered one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.

  • Main Theme: The book explores the causes of unhappiness and offers practical advice on how to achieve happiness.

  • Key Points:

    • Happiness is not a passive state but an active pursuit that requires effort and cultivation.
    • The main causes of unhappiness are fear, envy, and hatred.
    • To achieve happiness, one must overcome these negative emotions and develop a positive outlook on life.
    • Love, friendship, and intellectual pursuits are essential for a happy life.
    • External circumstances do not determine happiness; it is an internal state that can be cultivated regardless of one's situation.
  • Reputation:

    • Positive:
      • Widely acclaimed as a classic work on happiness.
      • Praised for its clear and accessible writing style.
      • Offers practical and timeless advice that has helped countless readers.
    • Negative:
      • Some critics argue that Russell's advice is too simplistic and does not address the complexities of modern life.
      • Others find his emphasis on reason and logic to be overly rationalistic and neglectful of the emotional aspects of happiness.
  • Who Should Read It:

    • Anyone interested in exploring the nature of happiness and finding practical ways to achieve it.
    • Individuals struggling with unhappiness or seeking to improve their well-being.
    • Readers interested in philosophy, psychology, and self-help.


Sakura Arden Park
Yuya Uzu



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Yuya Uzu

"The secret of happiness is very simply this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile"

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