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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why Aristole Wants You to Be Good

By Kristjan Kristjansson
Big Ideas at Slate.com

Here is an excerpt:

Many social scientists consider this philosophical question quirky at best. The reason? An abundance of psychological evidence demonstrates the extrinsic benefits of moral choices over immoral ones, even for psychology’s Eldorado: subjective well-being. Of course, even though social scientists pride themselves on their value-neutrality, they are rarely neutral with regard to what they consider the “ungrounded grounder” of all human strivings, namely happiness, and they typically understand happiness as subjective well-being.

A case in point here is the copious literature on the benefits of the moral emotion of gratitude for subjective well-being. We now know with certainty—at least the sort of certainty to which any social scientific inquiry can aspire—that grateful people are in general happy people. Over and above that, meticulous empirical research on gratitude has shown all sorts of instrumental benefits for what social scientists call “pro-social ends.” Thus, as a moral barometer, gratitude attends affirmatively to a positive moral change in our environment; as a moral motivator, gratitude urges us to contribute to the welfare of our benefactor (or even third parties) in the future; as a moral reinforcer, gratitude makes benefactors more likely to replicate their benevolent acts at later junctures and in different contexts.

The entire article is here.