Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of award-winning books of philosophy, history, and poetry. Her Doubt: A History (HarperCollins, 2003) demonstrates a long, strong history of religious doubt from the origins of written history to the present day, all over the world. Hecht’s The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism and Anthropology (Columbia University, 2003), won the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s 2004 prestigious Ralph Waldo Emerson Award for scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity. Hecht’s first poetry book, The Next Ancient World won the Poetry Society of America’s 2002 Norma Farber First Book Award. Her most recent poetry book, Funny, won the University of Wisconsin’s 2005 Felix Pollak Poetry Prize, and Publisher’s Weekly called it one of the most original and entertaining books of the year. Her book reviews appear in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Her newest book, The Happiness Myth, has achieved wide critical praise.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Hecht discusses the history of the idea of happiness, and various ways that people throughout history have sought happiness. By looking at history, Hecht offers new ways to reimagine the way our society uses happiness drugs, money and shopping, news and vigils, refusal of exercise, and television culture. Surprisingly, Hecht comes out in favor of all of the above, but in the most common sense ways, valuing the actual choices real people make. Hecht also speaks about her own happy atheism.