19. Mark Vernon on: What is wellbeing?

Mark Vernon WellbeingMark Vernon has just brought out a book on wellbeing in a new series of which he’s general editor. But this isn’t a run-of-the-mill self-help series. The series is called The Art of Living  and it’s published by independent philosophy specialist, Acumen. Their stated aim is to “open up philosophy’s riches to a wider public once again”. Consequently, authors have been asked to tackle the big question “How should we live?” in relation to a diverse selection of topics, including hunger, illness, work and sex. (You can hear my interview with Raymond Tallis on Hunger in a couple of weeks.) So the books have practical ambitions, but they’re rooted in an understanding of philosophical tradition (though this isn’t limited to the western canon).

In the interview I was keen to get Mark to tease apart wellbeing and happiness. Happiness has been the subject of many books recently, whereas we tend to think of wellbeing as more of a Sunday supplement concept that embraces getting a good night’s sleep and drinking less caffeine. So what exactly is wellbeing? Isn’t it just a low-fat version of happiness? And did writing the book make Mark think about his own life differently? Listen to the podcast and find out.

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