Character and the Conduct of Life: Practical Psychology for Everyman

By William McDougall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
Character and Happiness

IT is generally agreed that it is reasonable and right to desire to be happy; that we ought to be happy, if we can, not only because happiness is a desirable state of mind in itself, but also because it diffuses itself, tending by simple contagion to make happier those with whom we come into contact. We need not stop to enquire whether those philosophers are right who represent happiness as the chief good, and the production of happiness as the proper aim and final purpose of all moral action. I, for one, would rather define that final purpose and chief aim as the production of nobility of character; yet, though I would rather have men noble than happy, if the nobility were incompatible with happiness, we fortunately are not confronted with any such hard choice. In a decaying and morally degraded society there would be such incompatibility; but in our modern world the moral tradition is so far developed and respected that happiness tends to accrue to those who achieve nobility of character. I do not assert that nobility of character is the surest road to happiness or brings the greatest happiness. Quantitative estimates and comparisons of degrees and intensities

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