UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner is the real deal — the kind of professor I wish I’d seen more often in my university days. Not only is he a cutting-edge researcher in the field of human emotion, he’s also a gifted teacher, who gives well organized, interesting lectures and who has a flair for involving his students in discussion of the material.
For fall quarter 2009 he is teaching Human Happiness, an overview of the emerging field of positive psychology, which studies the emotions that make us happy, like love, awe and compassion. (Update 8/29/11: This course is no longer available. But the Human Emotion course below is still online.)
Some of the material will be familiar to those who have listened to his excellent course of Human Emotion (iTunes), but there’s also lots that is new, including historical and cultural themes. For example, it comes as no surprise to learn that America’s cultural emphasis on individuality seems to make us less happy than folks in cultures that emphasize compassion and group solidarity. (In this vein, especially check out lecture 8 on the topic of compassion.)
The reading list is also impressive and worthwhile. Keltner’s own book, Born to be Good, is a great companion for the course as is Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness, which talks about the science of happiness and includes a lot of do-it-yourself activities to increase your own happiness. And if you enjoy the history of ideas, be sure to check out Darrin McMahon’s Happiness: A History, which traces Western ideas about happiness from ancient thinkers to our own day.