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Living the Good Life

Steven J. Jensen

Publication Year: 2013

Living the Good Life presents a brief introduction to virtue and vice, self-control and weakness, misery and happiness.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank all those who have helped with this book. Those deserving special mention include my wife, Christine, for her constant support and guidance; James Stromberg, who provided the foundation and inspiration; ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-7

I once sat on a bioethics panel in which a member opined that he had discovered the most profound insight while watching a documentary in which the closing shot asks the question, “Is there an absolute truth?” The narrator steps down a hill into a swamp and scoops up some of the slime. ...

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2. Ethics and the Good Life

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pp. 8-16

In the Republic Plato has Glaucon build upon an earlier argument of Thrasymachus; he asks us to imagine one person who is perfectly unjust and another who is perfectly just. The perfectly unjust person, he says, will rise to power through unjust means, but because he is so perfect at his injustice, he will never get caught. ...

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3. Reason and the Emotions

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pp. 17-31

We have all heard the saying, “If it feels good, do it,” but we probably wouldn’t associate it with ethics or morality. Indeed, it seems like a recipe for disaster. Raping feels good to rapists, killing feels good to serial killers, and tyrannizing others probably felt good to Hitler and Stalin. ...

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4. Conscience and Choice

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pp. 32-46

Have you ever heard it said, “All that matters in ethics is that you do what you believe to be right”? Or “Just follow your conscience”? Seems like sound advice. Unfortunately, too often the seed of truth within these sayings is distorted into a denial of all morality. ...

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5. Loving and Choosing

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pp. 47-59

The will plays a central part in the moral life, and yet many people want to deny that we have a will. They say that we are merely complicated animals, whose emotions are less inborn and more learned than in other animals. Nevertheless, they are inborn, and they are learned. ...

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6. Doing Right and Desiring Right

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pp. 60-75

We haven’t yet discovered whether I took the twenty dollars or returned it. Recall that the teller gave me the extra twenty; with my reason I judged that it was fair to return it, but in my emotions I longed to keep it, so that I was beginning to rationalize. What, ultimately, do I do? ...

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7. Virtue and the Emotions

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pp. 76-96

Ethics is sometimes presented as a series of complicated and difficult choices, for which we must become adept at sophisticated mental techniques. We are asked, “Is capital punishment justified?” “Should we legalize euthanasia?” “Is abortion morally wrong?” “Should we censor pornography?” ...

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8. Justice

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pp. 97-111

The antithesis to the virtue of justice is probably realized in the modern ethical theory called utilitarianism, as well as its many offspring, which go by the name of consequentialism. For while the virtue of justice seeks to treat others with equity and fairness, utilitarianism disregards equality for the sake of quantity. ...

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9. Injustice

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pp. 112-122

If justice is equality, then injustice is inequality, which is derived from the closely related word “iniquity.” Injustice treats others as tools, mere instruments for the sake of some further good. The unjust person sets himself above others as the arbiter of their destinies. ...

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10. Intrinsically Evil Actions

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pp. 123-135

Utilitarianism denies that any actions are universally wrong, no matter the circumstances. Take killing the innocent, for instance. Many people, Thomas included, would say we must never kill an innocent human being. ...

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11. Virtue and Truth

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pp. 136-149

Ethics does not tell us the truths of science; it does not teach us mathematics or physics; nor does it teach us how to be a doctor or an architect. We might be surprised to find, then, that Aquinas lists science as a virtue, and that various skills, such as medicine or architecture, also count as virtues (I-II, 57). ...

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12. Practical Wisdom

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pp. 150-162

We have already suggested that ethics is more than resolving complicated moral questions, for even after the questions are answered, the choices must be made. Those choices, we have seen, will be heavily influenced by our habits of desiring. ...

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13. Ethics and Knowledge

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pp. 163-181

In our discussion of ethics we have asserted that some things are right and others wrong. We have said, for instance, that we ought to have fair exchanges with others, that we ought to conform our desires with reason, and that we ought to work toward the common good. ...

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14. Ethics and Happiness

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pp. 182-200

We are now prepared to answer Glaucon’s and Thrasymachus’s question. Which way of life is the happier and more profitable, the unjust life or the just life? You will recall that Thrasymachus thought that the unjust life was happier, because the perfectly unjust man is never caught, ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 201-202


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pp. 203-205

Production Notes

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p. 217-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780813221465
E-ISBN-10: 0813221463
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813221458
Print-ISBN-10: 0813221455

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1