Can Virtue Make Us Happy?

Cloth Text – $39.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2545-2
Publication Date
March 2010
Page Count
384 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Can Virtue Make Us Happy?

The Art of Living and Morality

Can one be happy and free, and nonetheless be moral? This question occurs at the core of daily life and is, as well, a question as old as philosophy itself. In Can Virtue Make Us Happy? The Art of Living and Morality, Otfried Höffe, one of Europe’s most well-known philosophers, offers a far-reaching and foundational work in philosophical ethics.

As long as one understands "happiness" purely as a feeling of subjective well-being, Höffe argues, there is at best only an accidental unity between it and morality. However, if one means by "happiness" the quality of doing well in the sense of one’s own successful existence, then one must include actions that undoubtedly have a moral character and are named virtues. He uses clear and general language to present what one understands by "happiness" and "freedom" while illuminating the blind alleys in the history of philosophy as well as the difficulties raised by the issues themselves. What has priority: good ends or right action? Is freedom always anarchy? Is it possible to think of a freedom enhanced by morality? Is "morality" only a pretty word for stupidity? Does humanity have a good or a bad character? Is there such a thing as evil? Höffe offers us enlightened philosophical reflection and foundational orientation but no simple formulas; this is precisely what is at stake because anyone who wishes to live a self-determined life rejects any and all formulas.

About the Author

Otfried Höffe is a professor of philosophy and director of the research area of political philosophy at the University of Tübingen, Germany. His other recent works include Economic Citizen, State Citizen, World Citizen (2004); Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (4th ed., 2004); A Short History of Philosophy (2001; paperback 2005); Democracy in an Age of Globalization (1999; paperback 2002); Aristotle (3rd ed., 2006); Immanuel Kant (7th ed., 2007); and Justice (3rd ed., 2006).

Douglas R. McGaughey is a professor of religion and philosophy at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Aaron Bunch is an assistant professor of philosophy at Washington State University.