Saturday, 2:15 PM
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
The federal government recently gave Fred Feldman $50,000 to take a year off work and search for the meaning of happiness.
No, he did not buy a one-way ticket to Las Vegas, rent a thatch-roofed cottage on some remote Caribbean island, or use the cash to buy two tickets to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona.
Feldman is a philosophy professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the $50,400 came as part of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"It's not $50,000 to make me search for happiness," Feldman said this week by phone from his home in Leyden in Western Massachusetts. "It's to explain what it is, not get of much of it as I can in the next 12 months."
Feldman is trying to finish a book tentatively titled “What is This Thing Called Happiness?” He will sift through the work of psychologist, sociologists, and others who have researched bliss, exploring theories about hedonism, quenching desires, and the search for satisfaction at home, work, and at play.
He has dubbed his own theory “attitude hedonism” and suggests that happiness can be measured by the pleasure a person takes in their thoughts. The theory goes beyond sensory pleasure, Feldman explained, and explores whether a person’s thoughts makes them happy.
Does that mean he was “happy” when he won the fellowship?
“You bet your life I was,” Feldman said. “Over the moon, is that the expression?”
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