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January 13, 2017 / Congau

Immoral Happiness?

Does it matter if a person is moral or not, if he/she is truly happy?

Plato has already rejected that question for us: An immoral person cannot be happy. He will be at war with himself, different desires competing with each other, and he can never reach satisfaction. Plato is right; there can be no happiness without harmony.

Morality is about doing the right thing, but what is right is not to be defined in an abstract fashion disconnected from practical reality. What is right is simply what is healthy in the broadest sense of the term; healthy for mind and body, healthy for people around us, for society at large and for ourselves. Morality is the recommendation of whatever conduct is good for us, or at least what will make us avoid suffering and malfunction.

Included among the people who are affected by our behavior are we ourselves, and good moral conduct also prohibits us to cause suffering to ourselves. A moral person will therefore also strive to avoid pain for himself, that is, he will try to make himself happy. It is contradictory to imagine a truly happy person being immoral because such a person would be actively causing himself pain and making himself unhappy.

Doing what is right to others simultaneously means doing the right thing to oneself. A person seeking to take advantage of others will compromise his own integrity. He may be able to satisfy one specific desire, but he upsets his own healthy equilibrium, covets more, becomes colder in his feelings toward other human beings and thereby reduces his own humanity. An immoral person sacrifices his own happiness.


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