What Is Happiness and How Does Virtue Relate Essay

I have a friend who recently attended the United Nations Commission on Women. Here's a link to their event: https://www.facebook.com/UNCSW/. When I think about this person, I am struck by her constant and continual work for gender justice in the world. Her dedication to this reality inspires me, in part because she has dealt with more than her fair share of sexism throughout here life. Yet, she does not let this negate her efforts nor does it stop her from working for real change on behalf of women around the world.

If I were to examine her life using virtue theory, I'd say she is courageous, the mean between foolhardiness and cowardice. In virtue ethics the primary goal is to be a good person. And yet this being usually works itself out in doing. In other words, she is courageous. I know this because she works on behalf of others for greater justice. Nevertheless, with virtue theory, the character is primary, a difference from Kant's Categorical Imperative or utilitarianism. 

One way to think about these different approaches would be to ask Katniss and Peeta about killing in the arena. It seems easy to chalk up such a decision to kill as a means to an end: kill others in order to stay alive. The virtue theorist, however, would ask what kind of life that would be? And, I think we see hints of this question through the character of Haymitch. His presence in these books is intended, I think, to point to the realities of war on humanity. Here we are asked to consider what kind of people do we become if we choose to kill?

So, Virtue theory, asks us to take character seriously. Part of one's character is determined, Aristotle thought, by "happiness" or  "flourishing." In other words, some think that the moral life is about determining what are the ideals for human life and trying to embody these ideals. When we attain some kind of moral flourishing, we also will find ourselves truly happy.


In light of what you've learned in this unit about virtue ethics, write an editorial to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram entitled "Happiness is" and in which you convince your readers of your opinion.

You will want to consider whether or not you think we as a society are becoming less virtuous or more virtuous.

What echoes do you hear in our public rhetoric that might support your argument?