Virtue is Necessary for Happiness
Happiness has been a subject in ethics and related studies with various ethicists expressing their beliefs about the connection between happiness and virtues. Ultimately, everybody is familiar with what happiness entails meaning that there could be as many definitions of what makes one happy as people in the world. However, all definitions are similar in a way they claim that happiness is a good thing. Secondly, people may not articulately define virtue, but they can definitely give an infinite list of what makes the virtuous or good life including things such as courage, understanding, benevolence and justice among others. Describing the connection between happiness and virtues, my belief is that virtues lead to happiness while happiness does not necessarily lead to a virtuous life. Therefore, this paper presents arguments for the position that virtue is necessary for happiness. In other words, I believe that one has to be a good person to be happy.
Based on Kantian ethics, happiness is the ultimate goal that it is by itself an end. This simply means that happiness is by itself the greatest end and a person needs nothing more beyond it. On the other hand, Aristotle observed that happiness is the ultimate goal of the good life. An agreement on happiness as an end stands out as one of the areas in which Immanuel Kant and Aristotle would agree on. Secondly, Aristotle established happiness as the ultimate fruit of the tree that is the good life, and to live a good life one must have virtues such as courage, understanding, justice and other factors considered morally good. Aristotle therefore stands out as the ethicist who first discussed the relationship between happiness and virtues. Aristotle also established that virtues are activities whose sole aim is to establish the good and happy life. Thus, if people questioned every activity, they would establish that living a virtuous life leads to happiness while all other activities lead to a bad life without happiness.
Ethical background and understanding of happiness and virtues provides the basis for a strong argument. On the other hand, real life activities provide support for the argument that virtues are important for one to be happy. In the era of social networking, different authors often post information on how to lead a happy life. Common points offered by these self-proclaimed happiness experts include being truthful, generous, humble and grateful among the few. They also advise that one should be respectful and revere god. There has never been a person advising to be ruthless, steal or any other immoral and unethical behaviors. Notably, these advisers will always give the lists of ten ways to be happy and not a single list will be similar to another one. However, all of them state that all the must-do things for one to be happy are all virtues. Consequently, it is reasonable to conclude that virtuous life leads to happiness.
The second major factor supporting the idea that you have to be a good person to be happy implies that people follow various ideological frameworks in pursuit of happiness. These ideological frameworks include religion and ethical considerations. Although people have different beliefs, all ideological frameworks in one way or another teach about virtues and assert that one has to lead a virtuous life in order to be happy. In ethical frameworks, virtuous activities are called the moral or ethical guidelines. In religion, they refer to the virtuous life as the holy life. In the constitutionally guided ideologies there are rules of law, whereas traditional views hold that the virtuous life entails following the ways of the forefathers. Notably, there are proverbs and wise sayings to guide people, which underscore the importance of virtues in leading a happy life. There has not been any single ideological framework emphasizing immoral and unethical activities as the key to happiness. If such ideological frameworks are valid, then virtue is by no doubt the key to happiness meaning that one has to be a good person to be happy.
Nevertheless, a few people may believe the contrary saying that amassing great wealth irrespective of how it is obtained can lead to a happy life. Such an argument is based on people’s understanding of happiness and subjective view of others. Notably, the rule of thumb is that the rich and wealthy are considered happy based on the mere fact that they own a great house, fleets of cars and personal toys such as favorite yachts and private jets.
In response to the objection above, it is important to consider the fact that being rich and wealthy does not necessarily mean that one is happy as well as being poor does not mean that one is unhappy. Secondly, the wealth that is illicitly obtained always comes to haunt the rich. For example, drug lords like Pablo Escobar or El Chapo who have been on the news recently have amassed great wealth, which has not lead them to happy lives. On the other hand, there are people who genuinely acquired their wealth and they can be said to lead happy lives. However, their wealth is not the measure of happiness. Secondly, they cannot be considered happier than poorer people are. Lastly, rich people have always been saying that wealth does not buy happiness. Consequently, the notion that wealth, regardless the means of its acquisition, makes one happy cannot be used as a solid argument against the statement that virtue is necessary for happiness. Instead, this objection should be considered as a poor man’s recourse and explanation to the assumed cause of an unhappy life. This does not, however, mean that wealth does not contribute to happiness.
In conclusion, this paper defends the position that virtue is necessary for happiness. The essay draws heavily from Aristotle’s virtue ethics as well as from Kantian ethics. It also provides examples of how virtues contribute to happiness and the good life. Additionally, the paper employs various ideological frameworks including ethics, traditions, religion and constitutionalism to show the convergence of virtues and with the definition of happiness.
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