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AN INTRODUCTION TO PROJECT +: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH PROJECT ON HAPPINESS AND HOW IT CAN IMPACT THE WORLD Jean Timsit, French-American Charitable Trust, France, [email protected] Jennifer Sweeton, Stanford University, United States, [email protected] Theme: Social Transformation Research domain: Psychological Wellbeing, Good Governance, Community Vitality, Ecological Diversity and Resilience ABSTRACT Recent progress can help us better understand what allows human beings to maximize their enjoyment of life. At the same time, we are learning on the one hand that we cannot pursue our classical model of economic growth without changing our methods, due to the planet’s ecological limitations and on the other handthe ineffectiveness of this path in terms of happiness. Thus, it is time to revisit the classical questions concerning happiness in view of the scientific progress gained in the last century, and particularly in the last 20 years. A multidisciplinary and multicultural research effort is necessary to combine the knowledge reached in disparate disciplines such as economics, philosophy, neurobiology, psychology, ecology, and sociology. From this multidisciplinary work operational conclusions could be made that would allow us to forge a happier future, avoid the mistakes of the past, and give our children a social model of happiness that is enthusiastic, balanced and sustainable. The means toward that goal will be to hold a series of meetings where a small group of scientists will work together in a free and creative manner. Having researchers from key branches of science work together is original and rare, and bears our hopes of new and long awaited discoveries.
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INTRODUCTION Conception of Project + Project + is conceived from the following idea: Either at the individual or at the social group level, human beings reason, feel and make their decisions in relation to a key value whose realization they seek to maximize. In the case of the self-called developed societies, this value is the acquisition of the maximum wealth possible in terms of material goods [1, pp.31-32]. These material goods are expected to make people happy. In this way, one switches from a pursuit of one’s being (being happy) to a quest of having (having more goods). Even though the pursuit of wealth is increasingly dominant throughout the world, its realization faces two major limitations: on the one hand, we understand that it does not necessarily improve happiness [2] [3] and, on the other hand, the path to growth inherent in this model carries very negative side-effects and implies many dangers (particularly when it comes to the depletion of the planet’s resources and the wars and catastrophes it may cause) [4]. Hence, Project + questions what would happen if we were to focus primarily on one’s being (being happy) without having to excessively or exclusively pass through the having (having more goods). Would this be an efficient way to solve some of our worst structural problems? At the same time, would this help each of us reach
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