Virtues and Happiness
Virtues allow specifying one’s moral priorities and demonstrating consistent efforts towards creating the proper ethical environment. It is reasonable to analyze how virtues can contribute to my personal and professional development. Although the problem under consideration is highly complex, it is possible to outline the general principles explaining the role of virtues in one’s life. It enables balancing the interests of different individuals and contributing to the sustainable social development. The combination of rationality and consistency in implementing one’s virtues in the actual life may lead to the highest long-term results.
Virtue as ethical excellence is appreciated by almost all individuals regardless of their culture or religious beliefs. It seems that being virtuous defines all people without any exception. In relation to me, I would like to specify several aspects that are crucial in this context. First of all, being virtuous presupposes the proper understanding of virtue from a theoretical perspective. Therefore, I try to compare the positions of the most influential philosophers in this regard. Secondly, being virtuous includes the moral devotion to implementing the key values in one’s daily life. I realize that even possessing the perfect understanding of virtue from a theoretical perspective does not necessarily lead to the corresponding moral behavior. Therefore, one should demonstrate willingness to act according to the fundamental ethical principles.
Thirdly, being virtuous requires the ability to comprehend rationally the explicit and implicit relationships between means and ends in the social realm. In this way, an individual can select the most appropriate methods for implementing one’s moral principles and values. In other words, possessing positive intentions is insufficient for being virtuous. Finally, virtue requires being consistent with one’s ethical views and daily actions. Therefore, a person should not accidentally but systematically indicate one’s ethical views and principles.
Although the representatives of all cultures recognize the role and significance of virtue, there are substantial differences between various traditions. I believe that my perception of virtue incorporates the existing cultural context. In particular, I suggest that such personal values as independence and responsibility constitute the foundation of demonstrating virtue. At the same time, not all cultures accept the US appreciation of independence and responsibility. For example, Japanese people may indicate the highest respect to the elderly population and declare the priority of collective interests over personal ones. Thus, they may be open to advocating some restrictions on independence as an optimal way for achieving moral excellence.
In general, my ideas of virtue fit within the current US context. I perceive many issues from the position shared by the majority of Americans. In particular, I do not agree that any collective entities should have the possibility of violating or restricting individual freedom. At the same time, I appreciate the representatives of other cultural groups. I suggest it to be possible to find the optimal balance between the interests of different groups if they respect one another’s needs.
I suggest that the properly understood and implemented ideas of utilitarianism can be highly relevant for the majority of the population. Utilitarianism presupposes such ethical views that maximize the general happiness for the largest possible number of people. It seems to be a rational approach towards addressing the key social concerns and resolving the potential disputes. In particular, it is almost always possible to compare the expected social benefits and costs associated with a proposed mode of actions. If the former outweighs the latter, then it is reasonable to implement a particular initiative. Otherwise, it is necessary to search for other alternatives.
It is reasonable to differentiate between individual and groups happiness. The former refers to the subjective assessment of reaching one’s goals and maximum satisfaction by a particular person. The latter refers to maximizing social utility through creating the proper social framework that respects the interests of all individuals and groups. In general, it is crucial to achieve the proper balance between individual and group happiness. On the one hand, policy makers should orient to maximizing the general utility and group happiness. On the other hand, it should involve the violation of individuals’ rights even if they constitute the minority. Thus, individual and group happiness should not contradict one another.
There are causal relationships between virtues and one’s success as a person. Virtues provide the foundation that may guide the person’s decisions and behavior in different life contexts. If a person is successful in implementing the basic virtues consistently, then it contributes to his/her moral development. Although the impact on his/her professional progress is uncertain, it is evident that his/her personal qualities tend to improve. Under the normal social conditions, other people will also appreciate his/her contribution. For example, moral individuals tend to have a higher social respect as other social members prefer orienting to them as their model behavior. My personal experience also confirms the critical significance of morality for achieving long-term objectives. Despite some short-term difficulties, the search for virtue will necessarily lead to the ultimate success in one’s endeavors.
At the same time, personal success should not be confused with financial or material well-being. It mostly refers to one’s spiritual development and the substantial contribution to the just social order. Neither profits nor any other financial results can serve as indicators of one’s virtue. Under some social conditions, virtuous individuals can experience financial difficulties, but it should not prevent them from applying their moral principles. For example, Immanuel Kant faced such problems for the most of his life but developed the systematic moral philosophy. Thus, ethics should guide people’s decisions if any contradictions with material interests emerge.
In conclusion, virtue is a foundation of achieving one’s real happiness as well as the just social framework for balancing the interests of all parties involved. It is crucial to specify the actual meaning of virtue and utilize one’s reason and logical skills for evaluating the available alternatives for making the rational and responsible choice. Although different cultures may adopt different understanding of values and their relative significance, the mutual respect and recognition of inter-cultural differences may allow achieving the proper interactions at the global scale. The proper implementation of utilitarian principles is necessary for harmonizing the interests of individuals and social entities. Virtuous behavior leads to one’s personal success and development although it should not be confused with financial well-being.