Non-Eudaimonism, The Sufficiency of Virtue for Happiness, and Two Senses of the Highest Good in Descartes's Ethics
2015 (English)In: British Journal for the History of Philosophy, ISSN 0960-8788, E-ISSN 1469-3526, Vol. 23, no 2, 277-296 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
In his reflections on ethics, Descartes distances himself from the eudaimonistic tradition in moral philosophy by introducing a distinction between happiness and the highest good. While happiness, in Descartes's view, consists in an inner state of complete harmony and satisfaction, the highest good instead consists in virtue, i.e. in 'a firm and constant resolution' (e.g. CSMK: 325/AT 5: 83) to always use our free will well or correctly. In Section 1 of this paper, I pursue the Cartesian distinction between happiness and the highest good in some detail. In Section 2, I discuss the question of how the motivation to virtue should be accounted for within Descartes's ethical framework. In Section 3, I turn to Descartes's defence of the view that virtue, while fundamentally distinct from happiness, is nevertheless sufficient for obtaining it. In the final section of the paper (Section 4), my concern is instead with a second and sometimes neglected distinction that Descartes makes between two different senses of the highest good. I show that this distinction does not remove the non-eudaimonistic character of Descartes's ethics suggested in Section 1, and present two reasons for why the distinction is important for Descartes's purposes.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 23, no 2, 277-296 p.
eudaimonism, ethics, Descartes, virtue, happiness, the highest good
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-115979DOI: 10.1080/09608788.2014.982508ISI: 000350654900004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-115979DiVA: diva2:804983