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“Happiness as inseparable from nobility…”

August 2, 2010

Click here for a marvelous little reflection piece by Damon Linker in The New Republic from last week. It was inspired by an article in New York magazine that argued that many parents are not “happy” with the whole parenting thing. (Truth be told Linker’s essay had a big influence on my thinking as I prepared my sermon this past week.) Here’s an excerpt:

In the Aristotelian tradition of moral thinking, human beings don’t face a zero-sum choice between fulfillment and moral righteousness. They strive, instead, to fulfill a holistic vision of human flourishing that includes both happiness and nobility. Or rather, this vision of human flourishing treats happiness as inseparable from nobility. This is what Martin Seligman and the best of his colleagues in the positive psychology movement have in mind when they speak of the importance of “purpose” in a fulfilling human life. A life spent in endless pursuit of egoistic self-satisfaction (Kant’s vision of corruption) would end in wretched desolation, but so would a life devoted purely to acts of exalted self-sacrifice (Kant’s moral ideal). A genuinely purposeful life, by contrast, is one in which an individual strives to become a good human being in the fullest sense—contented as much by work, career, and material reward as by devoting oneself to the flourishing of one’s children.

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