Volume 11, Issue 1, 2014
The Discussion about the Universality of Happiness and the Promise of Neuroscience
The main aim of this article is to contribute to the discussion about the universality of well-being by juxtaposing the theoretical and empirical arguments of the two extreme theoretical positions regarding the possibility of a universal notion of well-being. The article first explains that the question about the possibility of a universal notion of well-being is ultimately a matter of the (differences in the) nature of well-being. While researchers who opt for the universalist position are convinced that their empirical data show that the differences in the nature of well-being are minor enough that a universal notion is possible, the proponents of the culturalist position believe that their research uncovers more dramatic differences in the nature of well-being. Therefore, they reject a universal notion of well-being. By reading one position against the other on theoretical and empirical levels, the article illuminates and assesses the limitations, problems and possible dangers of both and considers which position regarding the possibility of a universal notion of well-being seems more convincing (and possibly less dangerous). The article concludes that currently the culturalist position seems more reasonable, as long as it remains open to a possible discovery of a more universal structure in the nature of well-being promised by the emerging field of neuroscience of happiness.