Video-lecture: the history of happiness, with Dr. Benjamin Storey

Today’s video-lecture comes to us by way of Furman University, where Dr. Benjamin Storey serves as associate professor of politics and international affairs, while also co-directing the Tocqueville Program with its mission of “seeking the truth about the moral and philosophic questions at the heart of political life” through a variety of extra-curricular activities.


In the following lecture, Dr. Storey outlines “The History of Happiness,” from the perspective of three great French thinkers: Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), and Alexi de Tocqueville (1805-1859). As Dr. Storey argues, the strains of thought that lead from Montaigne’s art of “psychic self-circumscription—a variation on classic temperance—through the eternal longings of Pascal’s “thinking reed” are noteworthy for the prescience and insight they offer to the contemporary world. From his experience working with contemporary university students, a “restless paralysis” beguiles today’s young (and not so young) people, just as much as it did in the days of Montaigne and Pascal. And, those thoughtful Frenchmen provide us two examples of a way forward, through our limits by acknowledging those limits.

Today’s 20-minute video-lecture will be followed, next Tuesday, by another Storey: Benjamin’s wife and co-director of the Tocqueville Program, Dr. Jenna Storey, who also teaches politics and international affairs at Furman. (A dynamic professorial duo, to be sure!) In Part 2, Jenna will be detailing the third member of this French trifecta on happiness, Alexis de Tocqueville.

Both Drs. Storey originally offered these lectures at this year’s National Classical Education Symposium, with its emphasis on the “The Historian’s Craft and the Art of Teaching History.”


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