Happiness is impossible, if we’re engrossed by self-love

Happiness is impossible, if we’re engrossed by self-love

by Michael Austin for Psychology Today

Happiness is impossible, if we’re engrossed by self-love.

Published on October 26, 2010

Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent some time studying virtues and virtue-based ethical theories. This is, amazingly, part of my job as a moral philosopher! One book I have found to be useful is A Theory of Virtue, by philosopher Robert Adams. In the chapter dealing with self-love and the vices of self-preference he quotes Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752) as follows:

“if self love wholly engrosses us, and leaves no room for any other principle, there can be absolutely no such thing at all as happiness, or enjoyment of any kind whatever; since happiness consists in the gratification of particular passions, which supposes the having of them.”

Adams comments that with this in mind, it is to our advantage regarding happiness if we have desires or passions for things apart from our own happiness. Otherwise, what could we be happy about?

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Happiness is impossible if all I want is my own happiness.