Copyright in Canada: The Damage Caused by Unfair Interpretations of “Fair Use”

Originally published in The Hill Times on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A significant part of the debate about copyright in Canada is over the question of whether authors and publishers are in fact being hurt by educational institutions refusing to compensate them for the use of copyrighted material.

The background here needs to be filled in. Many Canadian universities have interpreted a 2012 Canadian Supreme Court “fair use” ruling (regarding the use of “short excerpts” in classrooms) to mean that copyrighted works such as poems, short stories, and plays may be used in photocopied or digital coursepacks for students, without any compensation being paid to authors or publishers (provided each work is copied from a text or collection in which it comprises no more than 10% of the whole); instructors are thus encouraged to assemble their own entire anthologies for use in their classes—again, with no compensation whatsoever provided to the authors or copyright holders.

The extent of the damage caused by this interpretation of the law by educational institutions shouldn’t be exaggerated; the financial health of authors and publishers in Canada is not, of course, entirely dependent on payments for use of copyrighted material. But is the change hurting Canadian authors and publishers? There can be no question about that.

Let me provide some detail so far as Broadview Press is concerned. Although we at Broadview have managed to make at least a tiny profit in each of the years since 2012, in most of those years it’s been in the range of $50,000-$100,000—and we estimate the effect for us will be at least $100,000 annually if the universities’ interpretation of the Court’s decision (involving what seems to us to be an egregious distortion by Canadian universities of the meaning of the words “short excerpts”) becomes universal across Canada. Already we estimate we are damaged to the tune of at least $50,000 annually by this interpretation having become as widespread as it has.

Thus far we have continued to publish 40-45 titles per year, and we will certainly remain in business for the foreseeable future. The danger is not that we will disappear as a publisher, but that our publishing program will become far smaller, far less interesting, and far less culturally significant. If we do receive reasonable compensation (whether in the form of a per copy fee or an overarching per student fee for all coursepack and related uses), we can continue to justify publishing culturally valuable but commercially iffy collections such as Native Poetry in Canada and Introduction to Indigenous Literary Criticism in Canada—as we would certainly like to do! (We also like to keep prices very reasonable–unlike some other publishers of post-secondary textbooks, sad to say.) But if we receive no compensation whatsoever, we simply can’t continue to publish books of that sort; we cannot work for free. In that case we will simply have to focus more on publishing introductory composition texts and introductory logic texts that are less susceptible to being pillaged for “short excerpts.” Such books are, I think it’s fair to say, on average of less cultural value. But if the only way we can pay the bills is by publishing a steady diet of books of that sort, I’m sure that’s what we’ll do.

I should also make clear that we are not the sort of press that regards any and every protection of copyright or extension of copyright as being in the public interest. Another vitally important copyright issue on the table now in Canada is the Trans Pacific Partnership; if that agreement is ratified, copyright restrictions in Canada will go from 50 years after the death of the author (already too long, in my opinion) to a full 70 years after the death of the author, thereby preventing for an additional generation the publication of competing editions of literary classics—editions that can often be of immense cultural and pedagogical value.

Finding an appropriate balance in copyright issues is not easy. But in one direction it is surely unfair to simply not compensate authors and publishers of copyrighted material that is used to put together what are, in effect, entire textbooks. And in the other direction it is surely not fair to make it impossible to publish competing editions of century-old works, so that an author’s great grandchildren (or a corporation such as Disney, if copyright is held by an organization) can still retain an exclusive hold on all publication rights of a work that should have long ago entered the public domain.

Don LePan
CEO and Company Founder, Broadview Press

The Paradox of the Heap, from John L. Bell’s Oppositions and Paradoxes

In Oppositions and Paradoxes John L. Bell explores a variety of mathematical and scientific paradoxes with philosophical precision, while retaining a great sense of humour in his investigations. In this excerpt, Bell formulates and works through “The Problem of the Heap,” asking: how many grains of sand does one need to make a heap, exactly?

The paradox of the heap or sorites paradox (from the Greek sōritēs “heap”)—attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Eubulides of Miletus—arises from the vagueness of certain predicates in ordinary language. In a typical formulation, we consider a heap of sand, from which grains are removed one by one. The paradox arises when one considers what happens when the process is repeated sufficiently many times. For suppose we make the natural assumption that, if we remove a single grain from a heap, we are still left with a heap. Then eventually just a single grain remains: is it still a heap? Or are even no grains at all a heap? If not, when did the heap change into to a non-heap?

We can turn the paradox on its head by starting with a totally bald man, and, noting that any man with just one more hair than a bald man is still bald, conclude that every man must be bald. For a man with no hair is bald, so a man with just one hair is bald, and thus a man with two hairs is bald, … whence a man with any number of hairs is bald.

A related formulation of the paradox is to suppose given a set of coloured chips such that the variation in colour of two adjacent chips is too small—a difference in wavelength of 1 nanometre say—for the human eye to be able to distinguish between them. Suppose that the first chip is coloured violet, which has a wavelength of about 400 nanometres, and the last chip is coloured red, with a wavelength of 650 nanometres. If we assume, as in the case of the bald man, that a chip whose colour differs in wavelength by one nanometre from a violet coloured chip would still be seen as violet, then the ‘bald man’ argument leads to the conclusion that the red chip would also have to be seen as violet.

The paradox can be reconstructed for a variety of predicates—all of which can be seen to be vague—for example, with “short,” “poor,” “young,” “red,” and so on.

A natural response to the paradox is to introduce a “fixed boundary” to the concept of heap by defining a “heap” to be a set of grains containing at least a certain fixed number—10000, say—of grains. In that case, a set of 9999 grains is not a heap but one of 10000 is. This seems unnatural since there would appear to be little significance to the difference between 9999 grains and 10000 grains. Wherever the boundary is set, it remains arbitrary. A more acceptable, if radical solution would be to call any collection of two or more a heap!

The paradox can be given a striking formulation by generalizing the colour example above. Suppose that we have a set S of things—colours, collections of grains of sand, people—on which is defined arelation I which we shall call indistinguishability. So for two elements a and b of S, a and b will be in the relation I—which we write as aIb—if and only if a is indistinguishable from b. We shall suppose that I is reflexive—for any a, aIa—and symmetric—for any a, b, aIb if and only if bIa. Let us call a property (or predicate) P defined on S vague if it is preserved under indistinguishability, that is, if aIb and P(a) then P(b) (in words: anything indistinguishable from something with the property P also has the property P). Let us say that two elements a, b of S are connected if there is a sequence a0, …, an of elements of S such that a0 = a, an = b and, for each i, ai,Iaii+1. Call S connected if each pair of elements of S are connected.

Suppose now that S is connected. Then, for any vague property P on S, if some element of S has P, then every element of S has P. To see this, suppose that a is an element of S such that a has the property P—we write this as P(a)—and let b be an arbitrary element of S. Then since S is connected, there is a sequence a0, …, an of elements of S such that a0 = a, an = b and, for each i, ai,Iaii+1. Now since P(a), i.e., P(a0) and a0Iai1, it follows from the vagueness of P that P(a1). From this it follows similarly that P(a2), whence P(a3) and so on. Finally we obtain P(an), i.e., P(b). Since b was arbitrary, we conclude that every element of S has P.

From this we infer that a vague property either applies to everything, or it applies to nothing. For example, consider the case of the vague predicate “bald” or better, baldish. Here S is the set of (heads of) men and I is the relation of differing by at most one hair. Then, if there is at least one baldish man, all men are baldish—including Brad Pitt. If, on the other hand, there is at least one nonbaldish man, then all men are nonbaldish—including Bruce Willis.

New to the Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Thomas Dekker’s Plague Pamphlets

Broadview recently released a third edition of The Broadview Anthology of British Literature Volume 2: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century. As with all new editions of our anthology, the third edition of Volume 2 features exciting new material. In this entry of the Broadview Blog, we present a sample of this material: two excerpts from The Wonderful Year, Thomas Dekker’s pamphlet chronicling the plague that struck London in the year of Elizabeth I’s death. A comprehensive list of additions to the anthology—and to its companion website “BABL Online”—also appears below. More information about The Broadview Anthology of British Literature is available here.

From Dekker’s The Wonderful Year, on the plague in the city and the country:

In this pitiful (or rather pitiless) perplexity stood London, forsaken like a lover, forlorn like a widow, and disarmed of all comfort: disarmed I may well say, for five rapiers[1] were not stirring all this time, and those that were worn, had never been seen, if any money could have been lent upon them, so hungry is the ostrich[2] disease, that it will devour even iron: let us therefore with bag & baggage march away from this dangerous sore city, and visit those that are fled into the country. But alas! … you are peppered[3] if you visit them, for they are visited already: the broad arrow of death, flies there up & down, as swiftly as it does here: they that rode on the lustiest geldings,[4] could not out-gallop the Plague. It overtook them, and overturned them too, horse and foot.

You whom the arrows of pestilence have reached at eighteen and twenty score … you that sickening in the highway, would have been glad of a bed in an hospital, and dying in the open fields, have been buried like dogs, how much better had it been for you, to have lain fuller of boils and plague sores than ever did Job,[5] so you might in that extremity have received both bodily & spiritual comfort, which there was denied you? For those misbelieving pagans, the plough-drivers, those worse than infidels, that (like their swine) never look up so high as Heaven: when citizens boarded them[6] they wrung their hands, and wished rather they had fallen into the hands of Spaniards: for the sight of a flat-cap was more dreadful to a lob, then the discharging of a caliver[7].…

Illustration from Thomas Dekker, A Rod for Runaways, 1625:

Dekker plague image

From The Wonderful Year, the story of an inebriated man’s adventure:

About twelve of the clock at midnight, when spirits walk, and not a mouse dare stir, because cats go a caterwauling:[8] Sin, that all day dares not show his head, came reeling out of an alehouse, in the shape of a drunkard, who no sooner smelled the wind, but he thought the ground under him danced the Canaries:[9] houses seemed to turn on the toe, and all things went round: insomuch, that his legges drew a pair of indentures,[10] between his body and the earth, the principal covenant being that he for his part would stand to nothing whatever he saw: every tree that came in his way, did he jostle, and yet challenged it the next day to fight with him. If he had clipped but a quarter so much of the King’s silver, as he did of the King’s English,[11] his carcass had long before this been carrion for crows. But he lived by gaming, and had excellent casting,[12] yet seldom won, for he drew reasonable good hands, but had very bad feet, that were not able to carry it away. This setter-up of malt-men,[13] being troubled with the staggers, fell into the self-same grave, that stood gaping wide open for a breakfast next morning, and imagining (when he was in) that he had stumbled into his own house, and that all his bedfellows (as they were indeed) were in their dead sleep, he, (never complaining of cold, nor calling for more sheets) soundly takes a nap till he snores again: in the morning the sexton comes plodding along, and casting upon his fingers ends what he hopes the dead pay of that day will come too, by that which he received the day before, (for sextons now had better doings than either taverns or bawdy-houses): in that silver contemplation, shrugging his shoulders together, he steps ere he be aware on the brims of that pit, into which this worshipper of Bacchus[14] was fallen, where finding some dead men’s bones, and a skull or two, that lay scattered here and there; before he looked into this coffer of worms, those he takes up, and flings them in: one of the skulls battered the sconce[15] of the sleeper, while the bones played with his nose; whose blows waking his musty worship, the first word that he cast up, was an oath, and thinking the cans had flown about, cried zounds,[16] what do you mean to crack my mazer?[17] The sexton smelling a voice, (fear being stronger than his heart) believed verily some of the corpses spoke to him, upon which, feeling himself in a cold sweat, took his heels, while the goblin scrambled up and ran after him: but it appears the sexton had the lighter foot, for he ran so fast, that he ran out of his wits, which being left behind him, he had like to have died presently after.

List of changes in the third edition of The Broadview Anthology of British Literature Volume 2: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century:

  • Additions of selections from Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier (Il Cortegiano), presented in Thomas Hoby’s early modern English translation
  • Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy
  • Considerable expansion of Elizabeth I’s writings and speeches
  • More cantos from Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene
  • Selections from Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia
  • All-new selections of Irish, Gaelic Scottish, and Welsh literature
  • Mary Sidney Herbert’s writings now appear in the bound book
  • Margaret Cavendish, whose work has always appeared in the third volume of the anthology, is now featured in this volume as well
  • New contextual materials:
    • Ian Munro has prepared a sampling of “Tudor and Stuart Humor”
    • Section providing context on “Ranters, Levellers, and Diggers” prepared by Joseph Black
    • New materials on emblem books and on manuscript culture have been added to the “Culture: A Portfolio” contexts section
  • New to companion site:
    • Thomas Deloney’s subversive prose narrative Jack of Newbury, in an edition by Peter C. Herman
    • Thomas Dekker’s popular play The Shoemaker’s Holiday (forthcoming), edited by Diane Jakacki
    • The complete text of Aemilia Lanyer’s Salve Deus Rex Judeaorum, edited by Carol Blessing
    • An expanded selection of transatlantic material, including works by John Smith and William Bradford (forthcoming)

Footnotes from the Dekker excerpts:

[1] rapiers  Long, thin swords.
[2] ostrich  Having the fabled behaviors of ostriches, which include a willingness to eat almost anything, especially hard objects.
[3] peppered  Pelted with shot, or infected with a disease that gives its victims spotted sores (like syphilis or plague).
[4] lustiest geldings  Most vigorous castrated male horses.
[5] Job  Eponymous protagonist of the Old Testament book of Job, who was struck by God with extreme poverty, disease, and destitution, to be later saved and restored for his faith and patience.
[6] boarded them  Provided them with lodging and food.
[7] flat-cap  Cap worn by citizens of London;  lob  Lout or country bumpkin;  caliver  Light sort of musket.
[8] caterwauling  Shrieking and wailing while in heat.
[9] the Canaries  Il Canario, a vibrant Spanish dance style supposedly based on a dance performed by the aboriginals of the Canary Islands.
[10] legges  Legs, with a possible pun on “lieges”;  pair of indentures  Identical contracts, which were produced in pairs so that both parties could keep one.
[11] If he … English  A pun on the word “clip,” meaning “to slur one’s speech,” and the practice of coin clipping, shaving precious metals from the edges of coins to make a profit—a crime that was punishable by execution.
[12] casting  Counting; in this usage, of cards.
[13] malt-men  Makers of malt (in this case, clearly, malt for beer).
[14] Bacchus  Roman god of wine.
[15] sconce  Head.
[16] zounds  An abbreviation of the oath “by God’s wounds.”
[17] mazer  Humorous word for head.

The Broadview Sources series in history launches with The Trial of Charles I

We are very pleased to announce the launch of the Broadview Sources series with the March 2016 publication of K.J. Kesselring’s The Trial of Charles I. Each volume in this new series features a short overview of a historical topic, together with a collection of documents. Geared towards the undergraduate classroom, these texts allow students to engage with a diverse collection of primary sources. Inexpensive and short (usually no more than 200 pages), the volumes provide convenient access to carefully curated sets of documents. The accessible introductions are authored by experts in the field.


The new series features a wide trim size that leaves space for marginal glosses of key terms, and also allows readers to make marginal notes. In addition to excellent introductions, these volumes offer additional apparatus such as a chronology, a glossary, and key images that will help provide additional context and guidance for students.

Other forthcoming titles in the Broadview Sources series include The Stamp Act Crisis, edited by Jonathan Mercantini of Keen University, and Documenting Humans and Animals in American History, 1700-1975, edited by Adam Shprintzen of Marywood University. If you’d like to submit a proposal for the series please contact Brett McLenithan, one of our Acquisitions Editors. We’d also be happy to discuss any other book project ideas you may have within the discipline of history, as this is an area in which we are now actively acquiring.

Trial of Charles

This particular volume focuses on the trial and execution of King Charles. This event marked a watershed in English politics and political and legal theory, and thus also affected subsequent developments in those parts of the world colonized by the British.

This book presents a selection of contemporaries’ accounts of the king’s trial and their reactions to it, as well as a report of the trial of the king’s own judges once the wheel of fortune turned and monarchy was restored. It uses the words of people directly involved to offer insight into the causes and consequences of these momentous events. The editor, K.J. Kesselring, is Professor of History and Associate Dean, Academic, at Dalhousie University. She is the author of The Northern Rebellion of 1569 and Mercy and Authority in the Tudor State, and the co-editor with Tim Stretton of Married Women and the Law: Coverture in England and the Common Law World.

Below we’ve provided the table of contents from The Trial of Charles I in the hopes that it will give you a better sense of this book and of the structure of the Broadview Sources series.

Trial of Charles I Table of Contents

Questions to Consider

Part 1: Trying the King

  1. Title page and Extracts from John Nalson, A True Copy of the Journal of the High Court of Justice for the Tryal of K. Charles I (London, 1684)
  2. Lord President Bradshaw’s Speech: Extract from Gilbert Mabbott, A Perfect Narrative of the Whole Proceedings of the High Court of Justice (London, 1649)
  3. The Death Warrant of Charles I

Part 2: Reactions and Aftermath

  1. Acts Establishing a Republic
    1. Extracts from “An Act for the abolishing the Kingly Office in England and Ireland, and the Dominions thereunto belonging” (1649)
    2. Extracts from “An Act for the Abolishing the House of Peers” (1649)
    3. “An Act Declaring and Constituting the People of England to be a Commonwealth and Free State” (1649)
  2. A Contemporary Depiction of the King’s Execution
  3. A “Martyr” Speaks from the Grave: The King’s Eikon Basilike (London, 1649): Extracts and Frontispiece to the Eikon Basilike
  4. A Soldier’s Doubts: Extracts from Francis White, The copies of several letters contrary to the opinion of the present powers (London, 1649)
  5. Principles and Pragmatism: Extracts from John Lilburne, The legal fundamental liberties of the people of england revived, asserted, and vindicated (London, 1649)
  6. Overthrowing “Kingly Power” as well as Kings: Extracts from Gerrard Winstanley, A New Year’s Gift for the Parliament and Army (London, 1650)

Part 3: Trying the King-Killers

  1. A Contemporary Depiction of the Executions of the King and of His Judges
  2. The Trial of Major General Harrison: Extracts from Heneage Finch, An Exact and most Impartial Accompt of the Indictment, Arraignment, Trial, and Judgment (according to Law) of Twenty Nine Regicides (London, 1660)

Glossary of Key Figures and Terms
Select Bibliography

It’s live, it’s here, it’s ready! Broadview’s brand new website:

Broadview Press has a brand new website! This site offers improved functionality and a clean, mobile-friendly design. Our new search and browse architecture will help you quickly find the book you’re looking for, or allow you to discover one you didn’t know you needed. Buy a book, see what’s new, follow us on social media, or subscribe to our newsletter! Our new website makes all of this fast and easy. Check it out!

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Try Broadview’s New Custom Text Builder

This fall, Broadview Press is launching a new website designed to make it fast and easy to create custom texts for use in your classes. This website features an ever-growing digital library of many of Broadview’s most popular titles, including every volume of the Broadview Anthology of British Literature, The Broadview Introduction to Literature, many of our new writing and composition titles, a selection of critical thinking texts, and much more. Using this site, you can mix-and-match the readings you want into a single, attractively produced, customized volume with perfect binding and a cardstock cover. Each Custom Text will be treated as a book that can be sold at your university bookstore under a unique ISBN.

Why use a Custom Text?

Broadview Custom Texts offer added flexibility when selecting course readings and are often more cost-effective than traditional anthologies.

Whether you’re looking for readings by a single author, or readings from a specific period, the selection process is clear and straight-forward. Browse by volume, or use our handy search feature to find the exact reading you’re looking for. As you add readings to your Custom Course Text you will see a running total of both the price and the page count. Throughout the process, your selections will be displayed in a table of contents on the right hand side of your screen.

Can’t find the book or reading that you’re looking for? Do you want only part of a given reading? Don’t worry–Broadview’s staff will do their best to accommodate customization requests. With the exception of readings that are in-copyright to a rights holder other than Broadview Press, the majority of material published by Broadview is available for inclusion in a custom text.

For those of you who prefer the traditional method of building custom texts (submitting a list of readings to a Broadview staff member), don’t worry; we will continue to offer this possibility.

The best way to experience our new custom text builder is to give it a try! Follow the link below to see the site in action.

Try Broadview’s new Custom Text Builder

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Our popular edition of Frankenstein just got better! Welcome to Broadview’s Online Critical Editions

Can you get 10/10 on our Business Ethics quiz?

Business Ethics

Andrew Kernohan’s forthcoming book, Business Ethics: An Interactive Introduction, not only explains various business-relevant applications of ethical theory, it also invites readers to practice those applications through interactive digital exercises. The text includes over 400 such exercises, along with videos, flash cards, and other digital materials (all included with no registration or additional cost beyond the book’s modest student price of $29.95).

Here’s a sample of one of the book’s case studies and its accompanying interactive questions. Can you score 10/10?

What Should Carol Do about Workplace Safety?

Carol Walters is a production manager for World Auto Parts, a large manufacturer of transmission components for cars and trucks. Transmission parts production is a very competitive sector. If WAP’s production cost were to rise, then WAP’s two main competitors would rapidly take over WAP’s markets.

WAP has the advantage of a loyal and experienced workforce who have nearly all been with WAP for over ten years. WAP is not unionized, but it does pay well. One reason that the employees stay with WAP is that there are no other jobs available in the local area.

Technology, however, has not stood still. Most of the machinery that was up-to-date ten years ago has gone obsolete, and WAP has replaced many of the machines on which employees originally worked. One such machine is the Sterling Gear Press Mark IV, with which WAP recently replaced the slower Mark III model. This new machine is the mainstay of gear production in the factory, and many employees now run it. WAP has installed the new Mark IV on the factory floor beside the older Mark III machines. Both of WAP’s competitors have also upgraded to the new Mark IV machine in the same way.

Carol and another production manager, Phil Thomas, have recently noticed that the injury rate on the new machines is higher than the injury rate on the old machines. There appears to be a defect in the design of the safety cover of the Mark IV. The new design causes workers who use the machine to strain their backs and left arms. Because the new machine is so much faster than the old version, production has gone up. The savings to WAP have outweighed the cost of downtime and time off for injured workers taking sick leave. WAP gives sick pay at 60% of regular wages, and only for 10 days per year.

The situation does not violate local Occupational Safety and Health regulations. Still, it is in Carol’s interest to fix the problem because, as a production manager, she will likely end up being blamed by senior management. Carol and Phil discuss how WAP could do something about the situation. They believe that if they both independently talk to their boss, Joan Ross who is the VP of production at WAP, then Joan will believe them that there is a workplace-safety problem. Joan could order them to inform the operators of the new machines about the problem. Joan could also order the machine operators to slow down and be more careful. Alternatively, Joan could order the operators to resume using the Mark III machines, which still sit beside the new models. Any of Joan’s possible responses will put WAP at a competitive disadvantage, unless Joan can convince both of WAP’s competitors to do the same. Even if WAP’s competitors verbally agree to follow one of these workplace-safety strategies, Joan would not be certain that she could trust them actually to implement the strategy.

Complicating the situation is the issue that Carol and Phil are competing for a promotion to Senior Supervisor. In the past, Carol has not always kept her word to Phil, or done her share of work on group projects. She does not think Phil trusts her. If Phil and she independently tell Joan about the safety problem, then Joan may do something, and Carol will still be in competition for the promotion. However, if one of them does not follow through and tell Joan, then Joan will likely do nothing about the safety issue, and Joan will likely not promote the seeming naysayer and troublemaker who did bring up the safety issue. If neither tells Joan, then nothing will happen and the competition for promotion will continue.

Analyze the ethical issues in the situation facing Carol, paying particular attention to any cooperation dilemmas. Should Carol tell Joan about the workplace-safety issue?

Try the case study analysis questions!

Happy Lives, Good Lives: Author Q&A

What does it mean to be happy?

Jennifer Wilson Mulnix and MJ Mulnix address this question and others with philosophical rigour in Happy Lives, Good Lives: A Philosophical Examination and its companion anthology, Theories of Happiness. Broadview’s Philosophy Editor, Stephen Latta, asked Mulnix and Mulnix a few questions about happiness and their new books:

SL: At any major bookstore, one can find an abundance of books on happiness, typically in a section labeled “Self-Help” (or something similar). The commercial success of such books is presumably indicative of a widespread desire to know how to live a happier life. Do you believe that academic work on happiness can satisfy that desire? Can it do so better than books written for “self-help” purposes?

M&M: Happiness is one of our most cherished values, and yet many of us rest content with vague and hazy notions of what it might be, spending little time or energy making sure we are right. With a subject matter so important to our lives as happiness, it is essential that we are careful in how we understand it, and in what advice we follow when living our lives. The last thing we would want to do is to devote significant time and energy to lifestyle changes that are based only on mere hunches or that are not grounded in sound reasoning and good empirical evidence. While many books in the “self-help” section fall seriously short in this regard, work on happiness and well-being in both philosophy and the social sciences can provide us with a careful examination of theories, arguments, and evidence with respect to the nature, value, and causes of happiness. At the same time, however, there is no “silver bullet” for leading happier lives. What works for one may not work for others. Often, this means that in order to successfully pursue happiness, you might have to try on several different approaches to see how each fits with your life and temperament. Still, the three main theories of happiness (hedonism, satisfactionism, and eudaimonism) share a great deal of overlap in terms of the suggested strategies for achieving a lasting happiness in our lives. The key is to reflect on what you take the nature of happiness to be and then to research what social science has discovered to be the causes and correlates of that account of happiness.

SL: It seems to me that we sometimes think of ‘happiness’ as simply ‘pleasure,’ using those terms interchangeably. Is this view overly simplistic?

M&M: On at least one view of happiness called hedonism, this is precisely what ‘happiness’ means: to be happy is to experience pleasure and to avoid experiencing pain. Even so, this does little to settle the question, as we must also answer the question of what pleasure is itself. In other words, although it might appear simple to claim that happiness is pleasure, this simplicity quickly vanishes once we undertake the serious work of understanding what exactly is being claimed when we make this assertion. For example, is pleasure a singular type of sensation that is “pleasure itself,” which we experience whenever we enjoy a pleasant event? Or are there a variety of different types of pleasures, each with its own distinct feel, where there is no feeling common to all of them? Perhaps pleasure isn’t even a feeling at all, but more of an attitude. Further, if there are a variety of types of pleasures, are they all equally important to happiness, or do some matter more, and if so, which ones? So even if we identify happiness with pleasure, there are still many other questions we would need to carefully explore. Nevertheless, even recognizing that how one defines pleasure can be a complicated matter, many argue the further claim that hedonism renders happiness overly simplistic on any account of pleasure, insofar as it fails to account for other features of life that are central to our understanding of happiness, such as the ability to reason, to be creative, to be morally virtuous, to exercise autonomy, to engage in meaningful relationships, to live authentically, to possess good health, to be respected by others, and so forth.

SL: Is the concept of happiness universal? Clearly, individuals can get satisfaction and pleasure from very different things; but is the search for a single definition of happiness, applicable to all people in all contexts, wise?

M&M: We think it is important to distinguish different ways of approaching the question of whether happiness is universal. First, one might think that this question is asking whether the definition of happiness—the nature of happiness itself—can vary from person to person: a pluralist or relativist, for instance, might argue that happiness can mean different things for different people, while others might hold that there is one single definition of happiness that applies to all people (we ourselves are inclined to think that there is a single definition of the concept ‘happiness’ that applies universally). Even so, on the view that the nature of happiness is the same for all people, certain definitions of happiness do allow for a great deal of subjectivity. For example, on the view that happiness is taking satisfaction in one’s life as a whole, people take satisfaction in different things, so the elements I consider as central to my life will be different from those you include, as the desires we have and the importance we place on each will likely vary between us. In this way, although happiness means the same thing to everyone, one’s pursuit of the happy life will take on a particular form relative to one’s subjective desires.

This then points to a second way of answering the question about whether happiness is universal: will the very definition of happiness make it the case that happiness requires the same elements for all human persons? This is a hallmark feature of certain eudaimonist theories. According to many eudaimonists, living a happy life will require that you achieve certain objective things, such as being virtuous, achieving honor, developing your distinctly human capacities for things like reason, creativity, and morality, among others. These ingredients are the same for all of us in virtue of being human (of course, there still may be some flexibility in how these ingredients are met). This is a more robust way of thinking of happiness as universal, as it requires that we all follow the same path. There is no real room for individuality in happiness, according to such views: what makes one person happy will make all persons happy.

SL: Your books are philosophical in focus but integrate empirical research from psychology and the social sciences. In what ways can the sciences inform the study of happiness?

M&M: Our books are primarily on the philosophy of happiness, about the very nature of that thing we refer to as ‘happiness’ or ‘being happy,’ as well as the attainment of it. Our principal aims are to clarify the concept of happiness and to consider its value. Yet we are not interested in answering this question only as an academic exercise, but also so that we can gain practical insight into how to more successfully pursue a happy life. The whole point of gaining such knowledge is to put it to use in living better lives. This underscores the need for each of us to lay down a plan for achieving happiness, which will involve a consideration of what sorts of things cause and correlate with happiness. In this vein, we need to consider evidence from empirical science. As Tiberius points out, philosophers can benefit from information gathered in psychology and the social sciences, as we want our account of happiness to meet the demands not only of normative adequacy, but also of empirical adequacy. That is, we want an account of happiness and well-being to be action-guiding and reason-giving for people who want to improve their lives; yet we also want the account to be empirically grounded, such that it allows us to study and measure people’s well-being; and if it cannot, then there is reason to look for another view. On the other hand, we also need to realize that even if empirical research can help us find out the causes and correlates of happiness, it alone cannot tell us what happiness is and whether we ought to aim for it.

As an added note, social science may be able to lend some support to, or raise some concerns about, philosophical views. For example, some psychological research conducted by Kahneman, Gilbert, and Wilson suggests that we do not always accurately remember or reliably predict our pleasure. One might conclude from this information that pleasure cannot be all that important to our happiness, so thinking of happiness as pleasure is misguided. Then again, one could counter that this evidence on its own does not refute hedonism as a theory of the nature of happiness, but at best merely underscores worries regarding our ability to effectively pursue happiness. Even so, it can also point to some effective strategies for overcoming common barriers.

SL: I think many of us would assume that a good life must be a happy one. Do you believe that this is true? Could one lead a good life and yet be unhappy, perhaps by having a particularly eventful or morally praiseworthy life?

M&M: This is a question over which there is much disagreement. A good life is a life that is worthwhile and of value for the person who lives it. Theories of the good life, or well-being, specify what is valuable in life; it is an open question how large a role, if any at all, happiness plays in living a good life. Perhaps there are other things of value to a good life that are separate from our own happiness. These might include agency, love of others, and moral commitments, for example. Now some philosophers, such as the ancient Greek eudaimonists, would argue that the happy life and the good life are the same, such that one cannot be living a good life without simultaneously also living a happy life, and vice versa. On the other hand, it is also quite plausible to think of happiness and well-being as referring to different aspects of life. In these cases, happiness might be just one element in our overall well-being. Additionally, it seems quite clear that these other valuable elements can sometimes come into conflict with our private happiness. For example, there seem to be situations in which it is morally problematic to pursue our own happiness, such as when our happiness depends on harming others. This highlights the trade-offs that might be involved in the pursuit of a good life. In cases of conflict, we will need to make a decision between our private happiness and something else we might value. Indeed, there are many real-life situations in which people knowingly sacrifice their own private happiness for some other thing they value. If this is correct, then it might be possible to live a good life without being happy. For instance, some of the Romantic poets seemed to sing the praises of a melancholic life. John Keats comes to mind here as a particularly illustrative example. But if happiness can be in conflict with these other valued things, then perhaps happiness might have very little value at all. And if the pursuit of happiness precludes living a good life, would we still choose happiness? We think we all want happiness, but do we really want a good life? Of course, one who thinks that the happy life and the good life are the same might counter that, insofar as one achieves one’s most cherished values, one would also be living a happy life regardless of how much pleasure or satisfaction it contained.

SL: In Happy Lives, Good Lives, you discuss the kingdom of Bhutan, a small Asian country that uses “Gross National Happiness” as a measure of prosperity, in place of “Gross Domestic Product.” Do you believe it is possible (or desirable) for Western countries to embrace similar happiness-based metrics?

M&M: It is certainly possible for other nations to use “Gross National Happiness” as a measure of prosperity in place of “Gross Domestic Product.” More realistically, however, happiness measures would be used to supplement existing economic measures, since while GDP is important, so too are social trust, quality of work, environmental sustainability, and political participation. In fact, many nations—such as Great Britain, Germany, France, Australia, and Mexico, among others—are already using measures of their citizens’ happiness to help influence public policy. Even in the United States, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont have each developed a “genuine progress indicator” that assesses the impacts of how we live on our quality of life. Nevertheless, countries that adopt similar happiness metrics as Bhutan’s should make sure that these metrics are developed with great care and caution. The worry is that when we use happiness measures to design and evaluate public policy, we are assuming a particular theory of what matters in life. In so doing, we might well choose values that some among us reject. If we then allocate resources according to one theory of happiness, we risk alienating some of our fellow citizens, or worse yet, violating their rights. These are age-old problems that attend many attempts to increase the general happiness. For instance, utilitarian political theory has been rigorously challenged due to worries that it overlooks the ways in which the pursuit of the general happiness might well lead to what John Stuart Mill calls the “tyranny of the majority.” We also risk an unjust form of paternalism if we build into our system of legislation a comprehensive account of what is good and valuable in life. On the other hand, settling for the economic status quo also seems seriously problematic. It is a well-documented fact that the pursuit of wealth has not led to its expected payouts in terms of citizens’ well-being; in fact, empirical data show that materialistic pursuits are positively bad for our happiness. The question is how to carve out a middle way: how do we use measures of happiness that are strong enough to capture something that really matters to us without at the same time ignoring the value of individuality? These are tough questions, but we think they can be answered. For example, Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have developed a ‘capabilities index’ of national well-being that attempts to address these very concerns.

The Helpful Suggestions of Academic Writing Now

9781554812493Broadview’s latest book on English compositionAcademic Writing Now: A Brief Guide for Busy Students by David Starkey, invites the student reader to write throughout—and all over—its pages.

Many students write in their books as a method of memorization: textbooks are a haven for highlighters; grammar guides have lines for filling out exercises; a favorite novel is dog-eared and marked up in pencil. The printed page and the writing hand have a relationship as old as reading itself. To reinforce this connection, the conclusion of each chapter of Academic Writing Now includes two sections, one entitled “Questions and Suggestions FOR You,” and the other “Questions and Suggestions FROM You.” The former provide an opportunity to reflect on the chapter just completed, and the latter give space for questions that remain after completing this reflection.

The refrain throughout Academic Writing Now is that effective writing requires practice and repetition; the invitation to write helps the student worry less about being perfect the first time, and it encourages them instead to focus on writing as a process that happens daily. To balance this emphasis on daily writing, Starkey offers up some “Timesaving Tips” to help save students’ time. After all, a good grade is not earned purely on the basis of the number of hours a student works; it also results from how effectively his or her time is spent.

For example, Starkey writes:

Timesaver Tip: Don’t go down with a sinking ship. Most drafts can be salvaged, but not all of them. If you realize your essay has gone very wrong, make major revisions or start over entirely. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a much smarter use of your time to begin work on something new that you can actually turn in rather than laboring for hours on a piece of writing that — for whatever reason — seems destined to fail.

Academic Writing Now also offers a series of “Avoid This Common Error” sections where Starkey tries to steer his student reader away from essay-ruining missteps:

Don'tAvoid This Common Error: “In today’s society….” Unable to think of any other way to begin their essays, students often use the first thing that pops into their heads. One of the most common fallback openings is “In today’s society.” Not only is this a cliché of academic writing — one that is guaranteed to make your instructor cringe — it is entirely unnecessary. Unless you indicate differently, your reader will always automatically assume you are talking about “today’s society.”

The conversational style of Academic Writing Now is especially well-suited for undergraduate students approaching writing at the post-secondary level for the first time. “David Starkey delivers clear, ordered advice in a voice so familiar and colloquial that anyone’s anxiety about this often rigid, academic subject will start to calm,” Richard Guzman of North Central College says in his review of the text. “[W]hat I like best is that underneath it all he encourages students to keep creativity and poetic insight alive even as they tackle the challenge of writing rigorous, scholarly papers.”

We encourage students interested in improving their writing to check out Academic Writing Now. Use the discount code broadview20% at checkout for 20% off the bound book. Professors who are interested in reviewing the text for course adoption can request a complimentary examination copy.

Don’t forget about our other latest and greatest composition titles:

Broadview Guide to Writing, 6/e
Academic Writing Now, Real World Topics
Essays and Arguments

Enjoy the summer! The fall will return soon, and with it the restart of the new academic session.