Manual Real American Ethics: Taking Responsibility for Our Country

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The book Real American Ethics: Taking Responsibility for Our Country, Albert Borgmann is published by University of Chicago Press.
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The book explores the limitations of conventional ways of thinking about technology and its social context, both liberal democratic ideals and Marxist lines of thought. Crossing the Postmodern Divide is a techno-religious book characterized in terms of hyperreality and hyperactivity. Hyperactivity is usually described as a pathological syndrome of the child and workaholic , and associated with the familiar symptoms of stress and overwork. Borgmann extends the concept of hyperactivity to society as a whole, and defines it as "a state of mobilization where the richness and variety of social and cultural pursuits, and the natural pace of daily life, have been suspended to serve a higher, urgent cause" p.

Christopher Lasch sees this as a kind of militarization of society — "the suspension of civility, the rule of the vanguard, and the subordination of civilians. In Real American Ethics , distancing himself from both conservative and liberal ideology, Borgmann explores the role of Americans in the making of American values, and proposes new ways for ordinary citizens to improve the country, through individual and social choices and actions. Some of Borgmann's work has also influenced Catholic theologians, who typically interpret Borgmann's work in support of the position that technology is something to be overcome and that religion i.

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Ships same day or next business day with tracking number. More information about this seller Contact this seller 8. The question is: Can applications of a principle do justice to the breadth and depth of the human condition? Will a sequence of properly solved quandaries kinds of ethics amount to a good life?

It will certainly hold a person blameless. The good life, however, extends further and requires more. It is a matter of daily practice, of acquiring moral skills and habits, of keeping them sharp, and of exercising them regularly. Elizabeth Anscombe and Philippa Foot both criticized contemporary moral philosophy along similar lines and revived virtue ethics as a more appropriate way of illuminating and directing moral life.

Twenty-four hundred years ago he warned his students about the inappropriate hankering after precision in ethics, and he developed a moral philosophy that concentrates on moral skills and practice, on the virtuous person, and on the good life. There is one more stream that comes under the heading of practical ethics. It is the application of ethical theory to obvious problems of daily life, especially to those arising in the practice of medicine and in our dealings with the environment.

Real ethics is not. The reality it talks about is the visible, tangible stuff that engages and surrounds us. Reality ranges from the homely to the monumental, and it is ethically charged at every level. It matters morally what all is physically reachable and included in your life, whether churches, synagogues, 29 30 chapter three or mosques, parks, tennis courts, or stadiums, museums, theaters, or concert halls, and mountains, prairies, or seashores.

Philosophers of ethics in particular assume that moral conduct governs, but is not governed by, the tangible environment. There are important exceptions. Philosophers of technology are very much concerned with the shape and import of the tangible culture. But they are marginal within the profession though they have contributed at least as much to the public conversation as their mainstream colleagues.

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Theoretical ethics, practical ethics, and real ethics should be thought of not as rivals but as complements of one another. Together they make up something like a complete ethics just as equalsidedness, four-sidedness, and equality of internal angles make up a square. Or to use another analogy, theoretical ethics provides the skeleton, practical ethics puts tissue on the bones and furnishes an organism, and real ethics sets the organism in its environment and allows us to see whether the organism is prospering or not.

To summarize, I propose that theoretical ethics gives us the landmarks or the framework of contemporary ethics but, left to itself, gives us an impoverished view of the moral life. Practical ethics attends to the texture and the richness of ethical conduct but, if it goes no further, remains inconsequential and inconclusive as regards the quality of our lives. Real ethics investigates the moral structure of the material culture and thus reveals the levies, dams, and channels that constrain the course of life, and it discloses the things of art and nature that inspire and engage us.

The exclusion of women and slaves from the principle of equality is a sorrowful fact. But even the limited equality of the Constitution was contested in the early republic and threatened by monarchy. The danger of monarchy was not that one man would grab absolute power and declare himself king; the specter was rather the accumulation of power by a landed and moneyed elite. Thomas Jefferson was the most vigorous defender of democracy, but though he was deeply troubled by slavery and wished to see it abolished he did not promote abolition, nor did he believe in the equality of African Americans with white people.

It took a civil war to extend equality to all African Americans and strenuous campaigning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to realize it for women. Equality turned out to have a moral force that carried it beyond its initial limits. Today its power is being tested once more in the struggle of homosexuals. Dignity gives equality substance. The term is not mentioned in the Declaration, though it is implied in the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and the Supreme Court at one time found it 34 chapter four to be implied at an equally prominent place—the Preamble to the Constitution.

Everyone has it by nature. We are, after all, quite unequal in strengths, smarts, and looks. But we are all equal in dignity. There is a high-mindedness to how we understand equality. We are not equals as rascals or losers. Rather, each of us has inviolable worth. Dignity has acquired a characteristically American cast in this country and, again, one that had a hard time becoming established. And ethnic immigrants, even after their equality had been established in the abstract, had to struggle, wave after wave, for the recognition of their dignity.

Or: What do we as a society have to do practically to meet the theoretical standard of dignity? President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the face of fascism and communism, called for a Second Bill of Rights to secure such basic dignity for all. If dignity lends or ought to lend substance to equality, what are the grounds of dignity? What entitles us to take a high-minded view of ourselves? Each of us is entitled to self-determination. The new world was seen as the land of freedom and challenge where people could escape the bonds of poverty and oppression and make something of moral landmarks themselves.

Leaving Europe was the liberating part of self-determination; arriving on these shores was the challenging and sometimes crushing part of making your own place and life. In moments of moral confusion, we look to these three moral landmarks to get our bearings. Although they worked their way through layers of oppression and prejudice and now loom large, I am not sure they would be visible to the untutored eye. It took the work of ethical theory to instruct us and to reveal them clearly and distinctly. Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant — provided the theoretical groundwork for modern ethics.

It was his ambition to lay down the moral law, a rule of conduct that would be universally and necessarily valid. It revealed the moral skeleton that has given modern ethics its cardinal shape. Kant articulated them as commands. The norm of equality he spelled out as the celebrated categorical, that is, unconditional, imperative: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can want at the same time that it become a universal law. To put the basic insight of that version more simply, ethics requires that we only obey that moral law that we impose on ourselves.

Such self-legislation is what the word autonomy means. Freedom for Kant is autonomy. But they are likely to provoke rueful reactions—cowardice most immediately because, even while acting cowardly, we know we are debasing ourselves. But occasions where fortune or self-indulgence has pleased our desires are often followed by disappointment or even sorrow.

We all sense, and the observers of the modern predicament are explicit on the point, that each of us carries a burden of self-determination that sets us apart from our ancestors and endows us with a special dignity. We are subjects, submitting to the moral law, only because we are at the same time sovereigns, giving ourselves the moral law.

Such is the enduring support for the principle of human dignity. On the face of it, humanity divides into very unequal persons. Some of us are handsome, others are homely; some are healthy and strong, others are sickly and frail; some are gifted musically, others have a tin ear; some are of African ancestry, others of European. But we are all alike in being moral agents, beings that can and must determine their own moral conduct. But he gave the three key terms a penetrating theoretical treatment. Kant would have found the claims and arguments familiar. He would have disagreed with those who opposed human rights, and he would have rejected some of the arguments that were made in support.

At any rate, he would have embraced the clear-minded, secular, and cosmopolitan vision of the Declaration. The passage of the Declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, , was a momentous event. We can take pleasure in knowing that the United States contributed substantial expertise 37 38 chapter four to this achievement and the widely admired leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt.

With the Declaration, such critics have ever since had an articulate and authoritative basis on which to proceed. Is there perhaps a form of Asian human dignity that does not imply equality and self-determination? If a plurality in a country like Algeria freely votes, as it did in , for a fundamentalist Islamic government, have the defenders of democracy and secularism, in this case the Algerian military, a right to prevent the result?

The last question reveals a conundrum at the very heart of democratic theory: Can a society freely give up its freedom? This used to be a precious puzzle of political theory.

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If you have a right to self-determination, then I have a duty of tolerance. I cannot tell you how to live your life. The only limit on your self-determination is my freedom to determine my life. The practical version of tolerance is usually thought to be this: You can organize your life any way you like as long as you do not harm anyone else. Are we harmed by people who decide to walk about in the nude? What if they smoke marijuana? There are gross cases. Can two adults consent to cannibalism? The arguments in support of answers come from our understanding that common decency is more substantial and important than harmlessness.

We shape our principles of decency, and afterward our principles shape us. Just as we do not want to live in a rundown city, we do not want to live in a bizarre society. This way of looking at the substance and limits of tolerance leads to a collision of tolerance and equality. Worse, it sanctions misery and misunderstands ethics. If common morality and its limits of tolerance are things we, as a society, have constructed in the same way we have built our cities, then what are we to do when we deal with a society whose moral construction we disagree with?

What about a society where women cannot get an education or own property? Should we be tolerant of the social construction or urge equal rights for women? Demanding respect for distasteful features of another culture raises more eyebrows than once more defending equality and self-determination does.

A provocative posture in this particular case can also count on rueful recollections of Euro-American chauvinism that used to look down on indigenous cultures, deriding their beliefs, condescending to their arts, belittling their technology, and ignoring their wisdom. We must also recognize that it would be unfair to condemn the women who submit to domestic violence and to convict them of stupidity or cowardice.

Evidently equality and self-determination are not yet moral options for every woman in Chiapas. But whether normal or not, wife beat- 39 40 chapter four ing and incest are not uncontested in Chiapas.


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There are indigenous voices demanding equality, dignity, and liberty for women. The answer is that a threefold relation needs to be worked out when we encounter a premodern or foreign culture. To begin, there are always moral norms that we share with another culture, virtues like courage or generosity or social arrangements such as private property or monogamy. Finally there are standards and social arrangements that we can entertain as moral possibilities without being able to embrace them, matriarchy, for example, or government by a council of elders the original meaning of senate.

Matters are more complex, of course. Ethical ideals and practices are interwoven with one another and cannot be divided simply and neatly into the three categories above. Something like a combination of endorsement, rejection, and empathy will have to shape our relations to moral strangers. It is often thought that ethical validity and ethical universality stand and fall together, that a moral norm can be binding only if it is binding everywhere and at all times.

But there is no such logical tie. Consider democracy.


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It is the only viable form of government today, but it was not such for Shakespeare. The plays that deal with the rise and fall of kings, the so-called histories, do not challenge the notion of kingship. Some of us may be able to empathize with the validity of monarchy, but no one of consequence would think of embracing any form of government but democracy.

The underlying norms of equality, dignity, and liberty were uncovered at a particular time, and yet there is no question but that they are binding on us. They are gradually spreading around the globe and sometimes clash with traditional forms of privilege, subservience, and bondage. But they must and will prevail. They are binding on everyone today. Thus beyond absolutism and relativism lies what we may call epochalism—the realization that every epoch in history has its uniquely characteristic and valid norms. When we see or learn of women raped, homosexuals derided, children abused, or minorities exploited, it is then, in actual life, that proof of ethical norms is forthcoming.

Appeals to male prerogatives, biblical passages, parental authority, or superior breeding sound hollow and disingenuous. When prejudices of old have lost their power, we are witnessing a new epoch. Jefferson was a statesman, architect, musician, horseman, naturalist, historian, and plantation owner. He was a loving husband, though widowed early, and a devoted father if not such to all his children. He traveled widely in the United States and in Europe.

There is no doubt, however, that Jefferson had a strong hand in shaping the beginning of the United States, its geographical extent, its educational system, its architecture, and, to sum it up, its culture. But both were men of the Enlightenment and were profoundly attuned to the rational and egalitarian spirit of their time. Reason was for both of them the source of light. He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a science.

For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? They believed in God, but not in revelation or miracles. They admired Jesus for his moral teachings. For both Kant and Jefferson, Isaac Newton — was a cultural monument. God said, Let Newton be! It was ignited in sixteenth-century western and southern Europe.

These were discoveries for Europeans, of course, not for the indigenous people they discovered. Discovery not only opened up the world that surrounds us but also the world that is you and me—the human body. It contradicted the view of folk physics that a heavy thing falls faster than a light one. Galileo not only showed that all falling bodies accelerate at the same rate but also that the way things fall can be demonstrated mathematically. This achievement established modern theory as the standard of insight. If you want to understand something, you have to have a theory of the thing—an explanatory account that centers on laws, principles, or rules.

The notion of theory and its explanatory force reached its apogee in the seventeenth century when Isaac Newton published his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy Attempts over thousands of years had failed to specify and relate to one another the forces, distances, and velocities we observe in things when they move. Galileo made headway by casting the lawfulness of terrestrial motion in the language of mathematics, and Johannes Kepler — did the same for celestial motion. When Newton succeeded in stating the laws of any motion whatever, his achievement persuaded many, up into the nineteenth century, that every explanation worthy of its name would have to be mechanical in character, that is, would show that underlying the appearance and behavior of things was the lawfulness of matter and motion.

In part this is a difference between the new world and the old. Jefferson in his younger and mature years was endlessly energetic and optimistic, eager to shape and strengthen the young republic. Kant witnessed the collapse of an old order and the endless pains of a new order struggling to be born. Social theories typically illuminate their subject matter by showing how they are governed by some pattern or paradigm, the market, for example; a certain kind of struggle for power; or a feedback system.

The germane kind of explanation in the humanities is a sort of disclosure that points out the salient centers and features of a historical event, a poem, or a painting. We may call these two types of explanation paradigmatic and disclosive, and most of the explaining in the book before you is of those two kinds. The Charms of Principles Strictly speaking, Kant did not believe that there could be something like a rationally demonstrable theory of ethics. The force of the moral law, he thought, makes itself felt in our sense of duty, not through rational proofs. Moral reason was practical, not theoretical.

Yet in the end, Kant could not escape the hold of theory in a deeper sense—the conviction that a law or principle is at the bottom of moral conduct, that the principle can be uncovered, and that innocent common folk need the help of the philosopher after all. Therefore wisdom itself, which otherwise consists more in doing and omitting than in knowing, also needs scholarship, not to learn from it, but to obtain entry and durability for its precepts.

The trustee, meanwhile, and his wife and children live in poverty and misery while the heirs are rich, wasteful, and thoughtless. What is the poor man to do? Should he, by returning the trust, try to gain the kind of recognition that will serve him well? Hence the kind of ethics Kant championed is called deontological, from Greek deonta, meaning owed.

For the poor man with the trust, it is the idea of taking the valuables. This is his maxim. Now the crucial question is whether the maxim can be universalized without yielding a contradiction or absurdity. Stealing makes no sense if I want everyone else to steal as well. It works only if everyone—with my exception—obeys the right of property. Kant delighted in demonstrating the moral force of the categorical imperative in a variety of cases.

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How Should We Live?

In the culture of the poor man, the norms of honesty and property were so well entrenched that there was no genuine alternative to turning the valuables over to their rightful owners. The question was not so much what the man should do as to whether he would get himself to do the right thing.

So the poor man frames this maxim: I will take one hundred gold coins to the heirs. Then he universalizes: Everyone must take one hundred gold coins to the heirs. Does that make sense? Are people to mortgage their farms and homesteads to come up with the coins? This is absurd. Hence it is wrong for me to take one hundred gold coins to the heirs. But then the baker relents and with a few pleasantries takes his leave. Evidently his problem is not whether he can live up to an obvious maxim, but what maxim or option he should choose among the ones that come to his mind: 1 Hoping that the baker will keep silent about the incident, Gustl could pretend nothing has happened.

Gustl considers all options, the last one most seriously. What does self-determination demand of Gustl? Schnitzler gives us a portrait of a personal crisis, of a man whose identity and intentions have been upset by a trivial incident. What makes the crisis personal is the apparently unyielding solidity of the social conventions that are surrounding Gustl. Not that the New World has been entirely free of the senseless honor code. Admiral Jeremy Boorda, it appeared, had not quite deservedly been wearing a combat medal, and when in this was about to become public knowledge, Boorda shot himself.

Gustl does in fact think of emigrating to America. He knows it is a refuge and a place for new beginnings. But he feels unequal to the challenge. When the new day dawns and Gustl has breakfast in a coffee house, he learns that baker Habetswallner died of a heart attack on his way from the concert. Gustl shakes off his soul searching and continues in his supercilious ways. The moral of the story is that the landmarks of theoretical ethics give us orientation that is as broad as it is indispensable.

They give us a rough bearing, but they leave the regions of daily life unmapped, and their very visibility can become blurred in a moral crisis, personal or social. In the early years, and broadly speaking, the Republicans championed equality, the Federalists prosperity. Jefferson was the most prominent Republican, and he thought that equality and liberty would best be served in a decentralized and agrarian society. In his later years, Jefferson accepted the necessity of manufacturing and industry. They agreed that life should be devoted to the pursuit of happiness.

It looks, therefore, as if Mill was the heir and executor of Jefferson rather than his opponent and vanquisher. We can infer what Jefferson meant from his times, his readings, and his writings. Next, education and knowledge were crucial for the successful pursuit of happiness. Individuals could promote their happiness only by promoting the happiness of all. Jefferson said little, however, about the actual shape of happiness. With allowances made for the injustices of his time, Jefferson answered the question, not in the writings he left but in the life he lived.

Mill to the contrary gave an answer that seemed explicit and convincing. It appeared to take the pursuit of happiness seriously. Anyone who knows the details and development of utilitarianism will smile at the suggestion that it has a charming simplicity. The endeavors to make it work have led to endless and forbidding complexity, granted.

But it is the inaugural straightforwardness of the theory that has inspired and has again and again refreshed the energy of economists and philosophers. Each of the three elements of the utilitarian principle—maximizing, happiness, and regard for an entire population—has a dark and dubious side. But let us assume we have found one. Then a yet-deeper problem surfaces. Such a measure would distort the moral life by reducing the great variety of good things to one kind of value and allowing us forcing us—if we stick to the principle to trade off one against the other as maximizing dictates.

The point is not how likely that is to arise, or in what circumstances, but that the whole question of how many racists are involved cannot begin to be an acceptable consideration on the question whether racism is acceptable. More generally, if the mistreatment of some part of the population leads to an overall increase of satisfaction, the utilitarian ought to mistreat those people.

The generous side has been well represented, in theory and practice, by Peter Singer. He has often pointed out that, when we have discretionary funds to spend, utilitarianism requires us so to spend them so that satisfaction is maximized. To cure it, I am thinking of buying a BMW sports car. It will give me satisfaction—heads will turn, the wind will rush about me, twisting mountain roads will become prey of my prowess. As I am deciding on the color and extras, my utilitarian conscience prompts me to ask: Will the money, spent on this car, produce the greatest happiness?

It is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of the society, which he has in view. But the study of his own advantage, naturally, or rather necessarily, leads him to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to the society. Should I? But utilitarianism has this in common with most ethical theories: It works well with clear and urgent cases, or more accurately, it is not needed for such cases.

What then needs to be done to obtain a maximum of satisfaction? There is no answer to this question unless, to come back to the earlier point, we have an answer to a prior question: Is there a valid and reliable unit of measurement a socalled cardinal measure for utility, happiness, or satisfaction? Two answers have been given to this question. Instead, it simply looks at the observable behavior of people, at the decisions they make when spending their money. Those decisions reveal their preferences, and those can be ranked and modeled ordinally, that is, 57 58 chapter six according to what people prefer to what, regardless of why or how much they prefer this to that.

Monetary Utilitarianism There are two problems with this answer. The second is that money slips in as a unit of measurement, and the sum of all goods and services, expressible in money, that is, the Gross National or Domestic Product GNP or GDP becomes the gauge of satisfaction. If we do, we get what can be called monetary utilitarianism—the second answer to the measurement problem. Money excels both as a motor and a measure of maximizing.

The common fervor of the search for fortune needs no proof of existence. As a measure, money lets us get a grip on the sum of all the stuff that is supposed to make us happy, the goods and services annually produced within this country—the Gross Domestic Product GDP. It allows us to measure yields as interest, dividends, and appreciation. We are endlessly fascinated with these measures and worried about them.

Money has a dubious reputation as a measure of satisfaction. But this is partly wrong. But I know I could pull it off—I could be very rich and enduringly happy both. The belief that my next self-indulgent purchase will bring me greater and lasting happiness is as unshakable as it is mistaken, and it is reinforced when my nose is rubbed in relative poverty.

In Hollywood, many do. I did. For many of us on the press side, the money gap leads to resentment and envy. Happiness, if anything, has been declining in this country. For Peter Singer, all people, in theory, have the same claim on his benevolence, be they near or far. For the rest of us, concern diminishes with the square of the distance—very rapidly. But there is something unnatural about utilitarian even-mindedness. It seems right, if theoretically hard to argue, that my wife and daughters have a stronger hold on my affection and support than my neighbors, and my neighbors in Missoula a stronger claim than my fellow citizens in Montana, and so on.

Singer himself has not in fact been immune to the inverse square law. He has spent disproportionate amounts of money and care on his mother, rightly in my view, but in violation of his utilitarian principles. Monetary utilitarianism is revealing because it shows clearly how liable to injustice utilitarianism is and because it begins to show how the current notion of happiness distorts and impoverishes our lives.

The moral Achilles heel of utilitarianism is its commitment to the pursuit of overall happiness no matter what happens to the happiness of some individuals. Prosperity is the annual sum of all goods and services the GDP per person in the United States, also called the standard of living. Both total equality and total inequality are immoral and unfeasible. In the United States it has risen from Again in the s, the ratio of household income of the 10 richest to the 10 poorest percent in this country was by far the worst among the seventeen industrialized democracies.

Ours was 5. At the same time, mobility has decreased—more of the poor stay poor and more of the rich stay rich. In important regards, poverty is being without some of the basics that would help you to get out of misery—no health care, no functional education, no day care, no access to a decent job, no effective legal advice, no access to the Internet. One reason why we as a society have become so indifferent to our responsibility for the poor is the continuing transformation of American culture that is also revealed, if more tentatively, by monetary utilitarianism. Money as the decisive prod and measure of happiness has had a leveling and distorting effect on the depth and richness of life.

It carries connotations of disapproval unlike the term that the pursuit of happiness conservatives prefer—privatization—or the term of mixed connotations—commercialization. Moved into the market from where? From the intimate sphere or the public sphere. Some of the public goods, such as justice and elementary education, are not material; others, such as transportation or a healthy environment, clearly are.

The same distinction applies to intimate goods. Friendship and a sense of belonging are not material goods, but food and clothing are. Justice bought is no longer justice, and friendship paid for is not real friendship. But no such opprobrium seems to taint tangible goods. Railroads used to be managed as public goods by European governments. Food and clothing have left the intimate sphere of the household so long ago that we no longer notice their peculiarities as commodities.

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Monetary utilitarianism is bent on maximizing, and it maximizes what is maximizable—things in the market, that is, commodities. The rest is neglected. Advocates for Chevies and Fords are plentiful and take long coffee breaks. Advocates of justice for the poor public defenders are in short supply and terribly overworked. The ethical problems are bound- 61 62 chapter six ary issues: What is in? What is out? What happens to what is out? What has become of what is in?

Consider surrogacy. Total satisfaction seems to be maximized with money serving as the measure of value. Do opponents have arguments? They claim surrogacy is baby buying. Defenders say it is fee for service. Opponents say it exploits poor and less-educated women. Defenders say surrogate mothers are free and autonomous women. It looks like a standoff. Measuring Happiness Perhaps, then, we should revisit the questions: What is happiness?

And how do you measure it? To start with, we may be inclined to the pursuit of happiness agree with Aristotle — BCE , who begins by noting that all kinds of people pursue happiness and then says: But what constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute; and the popular account of it is not the same as that given by the philosophers. Ordinary people identify it with some obvious and visible good, such as pleasure or wealth or honour—some say one thing and some another, indeed very often the same person says different things at different times: when he falls sick he thinks health is happiness, when he is poor, wealth.

At other times, feeling conscious of their own ignorance, people admire those who propound something grand and above their heads; and it has been held by some thinkers that beside the many good things we have mentioned, there exists another good, that is good in itself, and stands to all those goods as the cause of their being good. Happiness is whatever. For Aristotle it is a life of virtue; this is the goal or good that should govern our conduct.

Goal or distance in Greek is telos. Hence Aristotelian ethics is called teleological. In the last thirty years, the apparent elusiveness of happiness has been limited by social scientists who have found that happiness can be validly described and reliably measured. Looking back, people fail to sum their positive and negative emotions accurately. When it comes to pain, for example, they give undue emphasis to the peak and to the conclusion of a painful episode.

If at the conclusion pain was relatively mild, people remember the event as mildly painful even if it was consistently quite painful up to its conclusion. Looking ahead, people overestimate the force and the duration of the pleasure they are planning or anticipating, and looking at the satisfaction of their lives as a whole, they judge it as much by social expectations as by actual experience. If we think of happiness as the net of the pains and pleasures we actually experience, then it is plausible to think that the errors and distortions of recall and anticipation effect a reduction of the amount of happiness individuals could experience.

They should increase those episodes that the DRM and similarly objective methods have shown to be actually pleasurable or more pleasurable than other episodes. If it turns out that we as a society make humanly exhausting and environmentally harmful and yet largely futile efforts to raise overall happiness, then we better think about what we are doing.

The emotional life for its part has a plethora of kinds and contours of feelings, but there is little chance that all of them will get a measurement. Finance, along with computer science and astrophysics, has taught us to use scales of a dozen or more orders of magnitude. By contrast, the scale used to measure happiness in the DRM study allows for roughly six hundred degrees of difference. But even six hundred degrees of pleasure may give us a false or loopy sort of precision. Money allows us to make comparisons and decisions we understand well.