Virtue and Happiness

Kanji Dictionary — Virtuous

Happiness is not a thing. Everything in life, in some way or another, sometimes directly other times indirectly, contributes to or negates how happy we are. Different personalities find happiness in different ways. Some of us might find happiness in the cold, others might be at peace in the heat. Some find fulfilling happiness alone, others find only sadness by themselves. Think about everything you like, or your most important possession. Wonder about things that you don’t have but eagerly anticipate. Imagine the possible contentment of naturally not thinking that much. The examples of ways people can find happiness are endless. They are endless because we are all different, and the world in which we live is filled with infinite stimuli. The world being, Earth, everything on it, everything related to it, and the effects of all of it, whether tangible or not.

We have all been happy, but I can not say with the same absolute confidence that we all have been virtuous. Most of us know how to find happiness for ourselves. A lot of us, but to a smaller degree than prior, know how to make other people happy too. Keeping down that path, the more people involved in any given scenario or setting, and the less we know them, the progressively fewer of us can influence them in any way, whether it be happiness, sadness, adoration, or malice. A comedian can have a large audience happy and in joyous laughter, but is that comedian virtuous in his pursuit of creating that happiness? Is the solitary intellectual who talks to no one, and by all accounts is quite stoic, unhappy in his grind for discovering truth? The comedian can find happiness and create laughter while being malicious. The intellectual could find happiness in personal sacrifice. One person’s happiness can be another’s sadness. Virtue is not like happiness in that regard. There is only one focus in virtue, that being attaining moral perfection. If your goals, motivations, or behaviors are not to that end you are lacking virtue, but you could still be happy. That makes it clear that virtue is, and should be considered, superior to happiness.

Lawyers have been happy for all types of reasons after losing all types of cases. All of those reasons include unvirtuous ones. We know that because it is a basic truth everyone, including some lawyers, do not perpetually exercise virtue. For example, a lawyer could have just gotten married and was heading on his honeymoon after what he thought was a minor case. As happy as that newlywed lawyer might be, is he virtuous? It is hard to say without knowing the details surrounding the case. But without details and therefore sticking to generalities, if his intentions in the case he lost were driven by moral excellence, then yes he would be virtuous. Well at least virtuous in that act. That same lawyer who was a model for pursuing perfect ethics in court, is a satyr socially and gives into sensual vices without discretion. Making him socially unfaithful, yet professionally virtuous. If virtue is based on its pursuit, and it has to be because without its pursuit it can not exist, whether the pursuit be in our minds or our actions, then indulging in its opposite would make you partially unvirtuous. You would literally be a person of partial virtue. A Nazi who helps an old man carry in his groceries from his car is partially virtuous. Which shows neither the Nazi nor the unfaithful lawyer is virtuous. But both of them, as evil as they might be, could be happier than a shark sensing fresh blood in the water. Virtue appears to not only be superior to happiness, but can only be absolute form.

Virtue can never be bad. Virtuous goals can be reached through destruction. In a vacuum where you have to select the lesser of two evils, the lesser evil would be the more virtuous one. That implies choosing that lesser evil displays some measure of good. Virtue is good so this makes sense. Laws are ideas that have been turned into tangible things. Laws are not uniformly good or bad, nor are they all virtuous, they are laws. Virtue, in a perfect world, which is the goal, would correlate to all laws, but we are not there yet. Since we are not at the point of moral perfection, imperfections in the legal system exist. This applies to all systems, unless that anthropic system of consequence is perfect. The legal system is what is being used to illustrate that. There are many lessons throughout history that show flaws in the rule of law, whether they have to do with trade, human rights, or politics. In any of these cases, working against the respective law often brought punishment as the price paid for virtuosic ideals. Some laws or institutions, like the Inquisition, are bad, and the sacrifices made in pursuit of virtue in correcting it were good. In the USA this can be seen through unjust norms being reality only recently with segregation, and interracial marriages which were illegal in some places until Loving v. Virginia in 1967. Virtue is superior to happiness, can only be pure, and should be the goal of all laws, and is therefore at a pinnacle in which legality should reach.

These discoveries on virtue surprise me. Not only the finding of them, but that it is all very obvious. Happiness comes in many forms, as does the pursuit and ideal of virtue, but virtue is never bad, and happiness can be. Laws are sometimes unjust because people can be that way, and the goal of perfectly moral laws would only be possible through virtue. And laws are but one system of many.

Any system that is not geared towards perfect moral excellence is unsatisfactory, because the option of virtue can always be taken. Business is a system. Money can be made and ambition can be realized in a virtuous manner. Often though it is not. Making money is not virtuous. Possessing and being motivated by virtue is virtuous. Keeping with the system of business, business requires capital. Along with capital there is ownership of said capital. A manufacturing facility and everything in it is capital. To keep things simple, the owner of the business owns the assets in the factory such as sewing machines, tables, chairs, and supplies, but the workers, who are human capital, are not owned. If the workers were owned that would amount to slavery. If that owner who used slavery does not willfully become virtuous, than to achieve a state of virtue someone from the outside would have to force the ending of that instance of slavery. This shows a very important new trait, that relates to virtue and law, that virtue appears to supersede ownership. To test this finding again say a company is selling its stock of forks at cutthroat prices, employing children, or has horribly unsafe working conditions. In all these examples the source of vice is owned by the wrongdoer. The children aren’t owned, but employed by the business that he owns. If the owner will not strive for virtue then the virtuous must do it for him. Again it is shown that virtue is not codependent with ownership.

We are seeing the stakes being huge when people are put first. There is no such thing as a partially virtuous person, virtue is absolute, virtue is superior to happiness, it is the pinnacle towards which all laws should strive, and does care where ownership lies. We all want civilization to be more virtuous. But we all have different ideas, values, and abilities so uniformly accomplishing this ideal appears unrealistic. However, the best and most realistic route to make our planet more virtuous is through laws made by the virtuous. Virtue as an ideal and principle is often independent from happiness, and it needs certain people to institute it and improve society. We can’t all be comedians.





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David Ellison

David Ellison


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