Monday, September 16, 2013

Restoring Virtue Ethics in the quest for happiness report

What makes people happy? Economists typically claim that the answer is higher income and consumption. Sociologists emphasize the quality of social support such as one's network of family and friends ("social capital"). Psychologists stress the importance of personality, mental health, and an individual's state of mind (e.g. "positive psychology"
or "mindfulness"). Many moral philosophers and religious leaders have suggested that virtue is the key to happiness, an approach sometimes called virtue ethics.1 Of these factors, it is the ethical dimension that is most often overlooked in current discussions of well-being, and one that I explore in this highly speculative essay. As shown compelling by Helliwell and Wang (2013) in this volume, all four types of factors — economic, social, psychological, and ethical — help to account for the differences across individuals
and nations in measured happiness, used in the "evaluative" sense of life satisfaction. Helliwell and Wang identify six basic covariates that fall within the four dimensions.

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