I just wrote a review of Against Happiness by Eric G. Wilson for the Wall Street Journal. It’s an interesting and provocative book, arguing that American culture is far too obsessed with happiness and not respectful enough of misery. The author admits to his melancholic tendencies, but celebrates them, rather than lamenting them. The general point is that gloom produces insight, creativity and depth, while happiness is bland and static. It raises the question in my mind of whether utilitarianism might have neglected the fact that melancholy can sometimes be a good thing–both instrumentally and intrinsically. Instrumentally, because it can lead to wisdom, creativity etc; but also intrinsically, in that a certain sort of melancholy might be good in itself. What do people think?

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