The Happy Life Does Not Approve Of Immoral Action?

803 Words 4 Pages
This essay will argue in favour of the view presented by Steven M. Cahn that, while society may not approve of immoral action (with good reason) this is far from sufficient to conclude that anyone who performs an immoral action for the sake of happiness cannot be truly happy.
The key example Cahn uses is Judah Rosenthal (a character appropriated from a Woody Allen film) to explain his argument that the happy life need not be identical with the “morally-good” or “virtuous” life (Cahn & Vitrano, 2015). Judah Rosenthal is a doctor who gets his lover killed (after she threatened to reveal their affair) in order to sustain his reputation as a doctor as well as his relationships with his wife, family and community. In essence, Cahn argues that Rosenthal
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This is a commonly held societal intuition (stemming perhaps from the Aristotelian connection of virtues with happiness) whereby immorality necessarily contradicts being genuinely happy (Kenny, 1992).
A first difficulty with the above view is that the example of Judah demonstrates an example of an immoral action to protect that which is morally admirable. Having a love for one’s wife, children and profession as a doctor is morally admirable by Foot’s account (Foot, 2002). Rather than an immoral act that promotes greed, selfishness, or a psychopathic desire to harm others for example, the use of Judah Rosenthal is much more problematic; as his reasoning is not for revenge or malice, but his sole intention is to increase his own happiness and the happiness of those around him (his wife, family and
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This view then is susceptible to all criticisms of objective list theories; which Cahn notes, in stating that while morality may be an important (or even necessary) condition for a happy life for most people, you cannot generalise this to all people (Cahn & Vitrano, 2015). So while most people could not act as Judah Rosenthal had (and in a Kantian sense of universal principles it would be highly detrimental to society if everyone did) there can be extenuating circumstances for which immoral action will be far more conducive to happiness (Cahn & Vitrano, 2015). Thus, while for most, the happy life is a moral life, this can be a coincidental occurrence and the happy and moral lives are by no means

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