What is the point of higher education if it doesn’t make people happy? | Jonathan Wolff

Forcing universities to compete with each other is a bad idea. What we need is a Teaching Happiness Framework

In The Methods of Ethics, a book read only by philosophers with an overdeveloped sense of duty, the late Victorian utilitarian moralist Henry Sidgwick argued that other philosophers of his day were wrong to believe that human beings act only for the sake of their own happiness or pleasure. There is a second spring of human action, he argues: the pursuit of excellence. A poet, a philosopher, or a sportsperson working obsessively may hope to be happy, but, more likely, what matters to them most is what they can achieve.

Sidgwick’s work faded from fashion soon after his death in 1900. At Cambridge University, where he had been professor, he became a symbol of times past. The young Bertrand Russell and his fellows referred to him as Old Sidg. But his fortunes revived in the 1980s, and he is being read by undergraduates again. I don’t know if the current generation of university regulators ever studied him, but, if so, they have only remembered half of what he taught. We have the Research Excellence Framework, and the Teaching Excellence Framework. Where is the Research Happiness Framework, or the Teaching Happiness Framework?

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