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Do the Virtues Make You Happy?

Katharina Nieswandt, Ulf Hlobil


We answer the title question with a qualified “No.” We arrive at this answer by spelling out what the proper place of the con- cept ‘happiness’ is in a neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics: (1) Happiness in the sense of personal well-being has only a loose relation to virtue; it doesn’t deserve any prominent place in virtue ethics. (2) Happi- ness in the sense of flourishing is impossible without virtue, but that doesn’t imply that individual actions should aim at flourishing. (3) Instead, flourishing sets the standard of good practical reasoning; it is hardly ever the proper aim of a practical inference.

This paper begins with a common (mis)interpretation of neo- Aristotelian virtue ethics, on which it is a form of rational egoism. We then develop our alternative understanding against this foil.


neo-Aristotelianism; virtue; deep happiness; practical rationality; virtue egoism

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