Conference in Ireland leads to professors’ book on friendship, happiness
Convening in a monastery on the slopes of the Knockmealdown mountains in Ireland, scholars from across the globe — including sociology chair Tim Delaney of SUNY Oswego and philosophy chair Tim Madigan of St. John Fisher — met for a unique conference on the subjects of friendship and happiness.
A new book of essays submitted in the wake of the conference now has appeared under the imprint of Vernon Press’ Series in Sociology. Edited by Delaney and Madigan, the 189-page collection features a foreword by conference host Sean Moran of the Pandisciplinary Network, who is also a professor at Ireland’s Waterford Institute of Technology.
“Friendship and Happiness: A Global Perspective” follows the 2017 publication of Delaney and Madigan’s own exploration of the subjects, a book titled “Friendship and Happiness: The Connection Between the Two.” Delaney said the newest book is his 20th in the past 20 years.
The book includes two essays co-authored by Delaney and one co-authored by Madigan. Several of the Cistercian (also known as Trappist) monks of Mount Melleray Abbey — which had never hosted a conference before — became fascinated with the proceedings. One, Denis-Luke O’Hanlon, contributed an essay titled “Friendship and Happiness: The Cistercian Alternative.”
Other chapters are by scholars in economics, English literature, history, political geography, philosophy, psychotherapy, sociology and other disciplines, hailing from Brazil, Denmark, France, Israel, Malaysia, Romania, Russia and Turkey, as well as Ireland and the United States.
Delaney, whose own lineage traces to County Waterford, said the conference’s setting made for a profound experience. “It’s a beautiful area and abbey, at one of the highest elevations in Ireland — it overlooks five counties. It really did add to the whole idea of talking about friendship and happiness,” he said. Editing the book — though difficult due to language translations, even from British to American English — “turned into a labor of love.”
The scholarly study of friendship and happiness traces its roots to Aristotle. “Everyone seems to know what friendship and happiness are, but when you really dissect them, different people have really different ideas about what makes friendship and happiness,” Delaney said. “The more you drill into it, the more you realize there’s great value in studying diverse ideas of friendship and happiness.”
The wide-ranging essays in the book delve into subjects from the validity of friendships that are digital only to friendships between gay teachers and their students, and from exploring the role of knitting in identity and well being to unhappiness among polygamists in Malaysia.
“Just like our own book on friendship and happiness, this one could complement a variety of courses,” Delaney said. “It’s a nice reader in cultural studies, introductions to philosophy, sociology, history and others you can imagine. It’s a good learning experience for everyone, especially societies of the West.”