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Taking the morality out of happiness


Kneer, Markus; Haybron, Dan (2023). Taking the morality out of happiness. SSRN 4350806, University of Zurich.

Abstract

In an important and widely discussed series of studies, Jonathan Phillips and colleagues have suggested that the ordinary concept of happiness has a substantial moral component. For in- stance, two persons who enjoy the same extent of positive emotions and are equally satisfied with their lives are judged as happy to different degrees if one is less moral than the other. Considering that the relation between morality and happiness or self-interest has been one of the central questions of moral philosophy since at least Plato, such a result would be of considerable philosophical interest. On closer examination of the original research and new studies, we suggest that the data point to a different conclusion: in the dominant folk understanding of happiness, morality has no fundamental role. Findings seeming to indicate a moralized concept are better explained, we suggest, by folk theories on which extreme moral turpitude indicates that an individual suffers from psychological dysfunction.

Abstract

In an important and widely discussed series of studies, Jonathan Phillips and colleagues have suggested that the ordinary concept of happiness has a substantial moral component. For in- stance, two persons who enjoy the same extent of positive emotions and are equally satisfied with their lives are judged as happy to different degrees if one is less moral than the other. Considering that the relation between morality and happiness or self-interest has been one of the central questions of moral philosophy since at least Plato, such a result would be of considerable philosophical interest. On closer examination of the original research and new studies, we suggest that the data point to a different conclusion: in the dominant folk understanding of happiness, morality has no fundamental role. Findings seeming to indicate a moralized concept are better explained, we suggest, by folk theories on which extreme moral turpitude indicates that an individual suffers from psychological dysfunction.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Happiness, Well-being, Moral Psychology, Experimental Ethics
Language:English
Date:20 January 2023
Deposited On:08 Feb 2023 15:51
Last Modified:22 Sep 2023 12:31
Series Name:SSRN
ISSN:1556-5068
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4350806
  • Content: Submitted Version
  • Language: English