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The New Rational TherapyReview - The New Rational Therapy
Thinking Your Way to Serenity, Success, and Profound Happiness
by Elliot D. Cohen
Rowman & Littlefield, 2006
Review by Kevin M. Purday
Jul 1st 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 27)

This is a self-help book with a difference. It is the result of the hybridization of philosophy and psychology. The author is a professional philosopher who also studied Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) under Albert Ellis. He then came up with his own variant which he calls Logic-Based Therapy (LBT). This is a self-help improve-your-life approach to human behavior which sets out to help us behave in a way which, because it is based on logic and reason, is likely to lead to happiness.

The author comes up with what he calls the eleven transcendent virtues which he names as: metaphysical security: feeling secure in an imperfect universe; courage: confronting evil and growing stronger; respect: learning to refuse to damn the whole because of an error in a part; authenticity: being your own person; temperance: learning to control oneself; moral creativity: learning to separate what one really ought to do from what it is not necessary to do; empowerment: avoiding all forms of manipulating others; empathy: finding ways of avoiding egocentric perspectives and making genuine connections with others; good judgment: avoiding polarization; foresightedness: avoiding over-optimism and pessimism and ensuring that risks are reasonably assessed; and scientificity: looking at why things are as they are. There is a chapter on each of the eleven transcendent virtues detailing several antidotes to the vices which are the opposites of the virtues.

The author makes some extremely good points and his LBT should enable people to lead much happier lives so long as they accept one fundamental premise which is that happiness is very different from pleasure. Happiness is a close relative of contentment and serenity and, although people often think of pleasure as a member of this family, in practice pleasure is an unruly member. Pleasure can, unless well regulated, destroy happiness, contentment and serenity. So long as the reader is prepared to accept that premise then this book could be an extremely good guide to how to live a happy/serene/contented life. There has been a great deal of literature written on the subject of happiness from Aristotle's philosophical disquisition on what he termed eudaimonia to modern psychological studies such as Michael Argyle's The Psychology of Happiness (London and New York: Routledge, 1987). The book under review is very much within the philosophical tradition rather than the psychological but its approach is valid and compelling.

The author has what is for this reviewer one irritating habit – the tendency to employ and even create jargon -- words such as "can'tstipation". Other readers may be less irritated by this habit and they certainly should not be put off because this book is genuinely useful. A whole lot of people would be a great deal happier if they realized that pleasures add to happiness only if they fall within certain rational parameters. Pleasures outside of those parameters actually detract from happiness in the long run. The author also makes it clear that we humans tend to have a fairly large number of self-defeating mechanisms. He does a very good job of exposing them and giving us the mechanisms to avoid them in the future.

This is a genuinely useful book that deserves a wide readership. It could help a lot of people become a great deal happier.


 

© 2008 Kevin M. Purday

Kevin M. Purday has just completed his fortieth year as a teacher and has recently returned to the U.K. after being principal of schools in the Middle East and Far East. His great interests are philosophy and psychology.


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