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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > November/December 2019 > NINE EVIDENCE-BASED GUIDELINES FOR A 'GOOD LIFE'

NINE EVIDENCE-BASED GUIDELINES FOR A 'GOOD LIFE'

A LIST OF GUIDELINES FOR A “GOOD LIFE” BASED EMPIRICALLY ON WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS FOR PEOPLE, AS DISCOVERED BY MODERN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE.

For over two millennia, people have been offering or imposing lists of “rules for living,” whether they be the Ten Commandments; lists of seven, twelve, or fifty Golden Rules; Essential Rules for Living or for Living “Your Best Life” or for a “Happy and Fulfilled Life”; or, very recently, Jordan Peterson’s best-selling book 12 Rules for Life.

Mostly these lists have been simply made up based on the preoccupations, political positions, or even financial interests of the lists’ authors. Rather than give us some advice or guidelines that the social sciences have shown will get many of us through life more happily, these lists tell us whether the author is politically left-leaning or right-leaning; attitudinally more individualistic (capitalist) or communitarian (socialist); or philosophically fairly cynical about human nature (the “original sin” attitude), neutral on it (“tabula rasa”), or deeply Pollyanna-esque (“noble savage”). Some are quite prescriptive (full of “oughts”) and some more descriptive (about what is). And some are just trying to sell you a book, a course of therapy, or a weekend away at an ashram.

But instead of listing guidelines that merely seem profound (Daniel Dennett has called these “deepities”), that make some intuitive sense to us, or that derive from a bias but are cloaked in confabulated logic, what if instead we drew purely from what works, from what has been found to result in the greatest happiness and survival benefits to both the individual and to society? This would inject some objective criteria for inclusion on the list. This would be both a utilitarian and an empirical approach to what has been to date largely a rule-free rule-listing exercise.

There has been an immense amount of research on what is good for us and what makes us happy—what “works” for people in their lives—and this inevitably incorporates what is good for our community. This is because as highly social animals, most of us derive much of our happiness, and most of our ability to survive and to reproduce, from being embedded in human networks—within society.

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Nine Evidence-Based Guidelines for a ‘Good Life’ The Presidential Curse and the Election of 2020 Everything Means Something in Viking and more...