National happiness discussed at RIT’s conference on Bhutan

Happiness is as important as national resources in Bhutan

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Brian Schroeder

Bhutanese residents performing a traditional mask dance.

A symposium to study happiness and how happiness is treasured in Bhutan will be held Friday at Rochester Institute of Technology.

“This symposium is an opportunity for the RIT and greater Rochester community to think about something that concerns all our lives: namely, happiness,” said philosophy Professor Brian Schroeder, who is hosting the event, “Bhutan’s Philosophy of Gross National Happiness and its Relevance for Western Society.”

The symposium is free and open to the public.

Schroeder said despite growth in material wealth, people are becoming less content with their lives.

“The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan’s concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ has provoked much interest and controversy since it was first proposed as an alternative to the measure of Gross National Product that determines the prosperity and success of most other countries,” Schroeder said. “The presenters at this symposium have all traveled to Bhutan and will address various philosophical aspects – ethical, social, religious, economic, environmental – of Gross National Happiness and its relevance to Western society. This is not to say that Bhutan is some sort of Shangri-La as some have tried to make it out to be.”

Schroeder said the event is not intended to be a forum to discuss the politics of the Bhutanese government, but rather to take a look at their cultural approach to assessing happiness and how to increase it.

Schroeder said he hopes those attending will “think outside the confines of our own cultural parameters and take a look at whether other societal attempts to measure happiness can be effectively done. And if so, how might we benefit from those other perspectives?”

Opening remarks are at 10 a.m. Friday in Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Student Innovation Hall, followed by films, conversations and speakers. The symposium concludes at 5:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by RIT’s Department of Philosophy, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, the Center for Religious Life, the associate provost of international education and global affairs, and the Hon. Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Chair in International Studies.

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