How to be Happy: Virtue and the Path to Human Happiness
Call both one’s efforts at being a good person and the ways of thinking, feeling, and responding to circumstances that develop while one works to be a good person ‘virtue.’ Let ‘human happiness’ pick out a pattern in one’s life marked by such connected and interrelated goods as love, health, strong family ties and friendships, intellectual engagement, interesting work, a reasonable measure of material security, optimism for one’s future, and availability to experiences of joy and peace. On some traditional views, the development and exercise of good character—of virtue—is supposed to be enough to guarantee happiness. On other views, traditional and more modern, virtue and happiness can come apart. Both sorts of view share the idea that people want happiness. Both sorts of view share the understanding that acting well can be costly. In this talk, I will trace some of the tensions between virtue and happiness, urging that, while there may be no guarantee that the living will be easy when we work to be good human beings, the kinds of temporal happiness we can enjoy are only worth going for in the context of our efforts to be good people.
Good and the Privative Understanding of Evil
In this talk, I will think about bad things, and the ways in which we can apprehend and consider what is bad—both the kind of badness at issue in so-called “natural evils” like illness, injury, and some forms of suffering, and so-called “moral evils”—like injustice (with the understanding that moral evil can sometimes show itself in manmade natural evil). It can seem like both sorts of bad function completely independently of the goods that they block, impede, prevent, or otherwise sabotage. It can seem that way even if we don’t have unproblematic access to an account of what overall good might look like in the relevant area of human experience, life, or action. I will take seriously the difficulty of giving an account of all-around goodness in specific areas of life, experience, and action, and argue that, nevertheless, any understanding of badness is parasitic on a grasp—however inchoate or indeterminate—of good.