Prof Anné Verhoef of the North-West University (NWU) presented an inaugural lecture titled “Transcendence, Chance and Happiness” on 24 June 2021.
The lecture’s focus was on how happiness relates to notions of chance and transcendence. Prof Verhoef specifically looked at the relation between unhappiness and happiness, to determine where unhappiness links with our understanding of transcendence and chance, and then linked it back to happiness.
Prof Verhoef said if happiness is understood as the overcoming of the fundamental lack or negative of our existence, then we remain stuck in the endless cycle and effort of trying to overcome unhappiness.
“We can try to do this in so many ways we want, but it remains fundamentally impossible. We remain stuck in negation and eventually unhappiness. Unhappiness remains a problem for happiness here.”
“If unhappiness is rejected as something life-denying (as negation), and one only embraces the positive forces, powers and energies of life and nature – of chance – the potential positive meaning and power of unhappiness is denied. It becomes an unhappy task to suppress unhappiness at all cost,” said Prof Anné.
“There is a recognition that unhappiness is fundamentally part of happiness. We lack nothing at the core of our existence. There is not an emptiness determined by chance or fallenness determined by transcendence. There is nothing to fundamentally overcome, not even unhappiness.
“This is however not a mere acceptance of unhappiness, but a creative tension between negation and affirmation; a complex negotiation between happiness and unhappiness where we have the potential to live with ethical responsibility – with a sense of meaningfulness and even happiness,” said Prof Anné.
More about Prof Verhoef
Prof Verhoef obtained a doctoral degree from Stellenbosch University in 2008. He began his academic career in 2010 when he was appointed as a senior lecturer at the School of Philosophy at the NWU. In 2014 he was promoted to associate professor in philosophy and in 2020 he was promoted to professor in philosophy.
During his career, he received several awards from his faculty and from the NWU.
In 2014 he obtained a research award to study in Belgium. This was followed by an NRF research grant in 2017 and a C2 National Research Foundation rating as a researcher in philosophy in 2019. He is currently the director of the School of Philosophy and a member of the NWU Senate.
Click here to read the full lecture and here to watch the video
Prof Anné Verhoef