Non-Eudaimonism, The Sufficiency of Virtue for Happiness, and Two Senses of the Highest Good in Descartes's Ethics


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' 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 , my concern is instead with a second and sometimes neglected distinction that Descartes makes between two different senses o..

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Frans Svensson
University of Gothenburg

References found in this work

.J. Annas (ed.) - 1976
Descartes and the Passionate Mind.Deborah J. Brown - 2006 - Cambridge University Press.
Descartes’s Concept of Mind.Lilli Alanen - 2003 - Harvard University Press.
Descartes’s Moral Theory.John Marshall - 1998 - Cornell University Press.

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