The Pursuit of Happiness

Project Description

Most famously formulated in the American Declaration of Independence, "the pursuit of happiness" theme is an ancient and enduring Western ideal grounded in various Hebrew, Greco-Roman, Christian, and Enlightenment sources. Recent developments in positive psychology have brought the idea of happiness back to public attention with a flurry of books and undergraduate courses. By putting religion and science in conversation, and by focusing on the relation between altruistic love and happiness, our project will retrieve some of the rich traditional teachings captured in this ideal and reconstruct them for our day in light of the new findings of the human and social sciences and of the new liberties of constitutional democracies.

Project Accomplishments
  • Roundtable, October 13-15, 2006
  • Roundtable, April 20-22, 2007
  • Roundtable, October 12-14, 2007
  • Roundtable, April 11-13, 2008
  • Roundtable, April 17-19, 2009
  • Roundtable, October 16-18, 2009
  • Roundtable, April 16-18, 2010

The John Templeton Foundation and The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love

Senior Advisors
CSLR Participants

Project Publications

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"An Adaptation for Altruism? The Social Causes, Social Effects, and Social Evolution of Gratitude," Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 17, No. 4 (2008): 281-285 Michael E. McCullough, M.B. Kimeldorf, A. Cohen
Better to Give than to Receive: Service, Virtue and Happiness in Christian Ethics New Stephen J. Pope
Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct, Jossey-Bass, 2008 Michael E. McCullough
The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness, Oxford University Press, 2012 New Brent A. Strawn
"The Black-White Paradox in Health: Flourishing in the Face of Inequality," Journal of Personality Corey L.M. Keyes
Called to Happiness: Where Faith and Psychology Meet, Orbis Books, 2011 Sidney Callahan
"Compassion- focused reappraisal, benefit-focused reappraisal, and rumination after an interpersonal offense: Emotion regulation implications for subjective emotion, linguistic responses, and physiology," Journal of Positive Psychology, Vol. 5 (2010): 226-242 Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet
"Compassionate reappraisal and emotional suppression as alternatives to rumination: Implications for forgiveness and psychophysiological well-being," Journal of Positive Psychology Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet
Counting Virtues: The Difference that Transcendence Makes, Oxford University Press New John R. Bowlin
"The Effects of Experiential Avoidance and Rumination on Depression," International Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy W. Edward Craighead, A. Bjornsson, M. Hauser, A. Karris, V. Kaufmann, E.S. Sheets
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In Their Own Words

"Happiness is both a perennial topic and a currently fashionable one, and the relation between some of the current trends in positive psychology and the traditions in philosophy and theology are as yet unclear, so this is an opportune time to take stock and to focus on the topic. What most intrigues me about the "Pursuit of Happiness" project is the way it brings scientists, humanities scholars, and theologians around the same table. The "dialects" that we use in our respective professional worlds are so diverse that our meetings sometimes feel like Babel, or chaos; and some members are a little troubled by that; but its an adventure. Moreover, the usual turf battles that go on within academic fields are completely irrelevant here, which is quite refreshing."

–Philip L. Reynolds