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Can Existentialists be Happy? Authentic Life, Authentic Happiness

Can Existentialists be Happy? Authentic Life, Authentic Happiness

 Jennifer Mei Sze Ang

 Associate Professor and Director Centre for University Core, Singapore University of Social Sciences.

ABSTRACT

 This paper aims to fill a gap in today’s literature on well-being studies from the existentialist tradition, through a selection of the early works of the father of French existentialism Jean-Paul Sartre. It questions whether existentialists can be considered “happy” by first discussing the supposed incompatibility between an authentic life filled with dread and despair and a life filled with generally more positive emotions. It starts with outlining Sartrean existentialism – the ontological freedom we are born into experienced as feelings of anxiety and angst, and experiences of hostility as we encounter others through their gaze and objectification. From this framework, it examines and reflects on both the empirical models of well-being focused on desire/satisfaction/positive emotions and the eudaimonic strands of well-being studies emphasizing autonomy. It shows that the strand of well-being which places good mood and satisfaction as central goals of a happy life are projects of bad faith, and that authenticity promotes a more fundamental notion of freedom than the conceptualization of a meaningful life based on autonomy. Finally, it argues that existentialists can be happy by showing that negative emotions play an essential role in how we apprehend and respond to the world positively and meaningfully. 

 

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Pakistan Journal of Zoology

December

Vol. 51, Iss. 6, Pages 1999-2399

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