Paul Bloomfield, The Virtues of Happiness: A Theory of the Good Life. Reviewed by Matt Stichter [Book Review]

Social Theory and Practice 41 (3):567-574 (2015)
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Paul Bloomfield’s latest book, The Virtues of Happiness, is an excellent discussion of what constitutes living the Good Life. It is a self-admittedly ambitious book, as he seeks to show that people who act immorally necessarily fall short of living well. Instead of arguing that immorality is inherently irrational, he puts it in terms of it being inherently harmful in regards to one’s ability to achieve the Good Life. It’s ambitious because he tries to argue this starting from grounds which the immoralist (usually an egoist) would accept. He starts from premises about our desire to be happy, and how happiness is inconsistent with a lack of self-respect, which he claims are premises even an egoist would accept. His key argument is then that self-respect is tied to one’s respect for others, so that being happy is therefore inconsistent with a disrespect for others. He then goes on to argue about the necessity of virtue for truly being as happy as we can be. -/- Bloomfield’s book is an interesting synthesis of the traditional Greek focus on eudaimonia (i.e. living well) with the Kantian concern of a respect for persons. I found myself in agreement with much of what he had to say, making this review a bit challenging. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to point out areas where, despite my agreement on his conclusions, I think his arguments could be challenged and would require further support.

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Matt Stichter
Washington State University


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