Happiness and Moral

Imagine a person named Sarah. After going to nursing school for several years, Sarah got a job at the children’s hospital and sees many different children each day. This is the job she has always wanted. Almost every single day Sarah feels good and generally experiences a lot of pleasant emotions. In fact, it is very rare that she would ever feel negative emotions like sadness or loneliness. When Sarah thinks about her life, she always comes to the same conclusion: she feels highly satisfied with the way she lives.

The reason Sarah feels this way is that she helps the sick children by giving them vitamins that taste like gummy bears. Sarah doesn’t really know how many children have been helped by her, but she likes to think about it when she falls asleep at night.

If we are asket to rate Sarah’s level of happiness, we probably would give Sarah a high rating. But consider this case, about another nurse named Sarah:

After going to nursing school for several years, Sarah got a job at the children’s hospital and sees many different children each day. Almost every single day Sarah feels good and generally experiences a lot of pleasant emotions.

The reason Sarah feels this way is that she poisons the sick children by giving them vitamins that have pesticides inside of them. Sarah doesn’t really know how many children have died because of her, but she likes to think about it when she falls asleep at night.

We could think this Sarah isn’t as happy. Why do we think Sarah 1 is happier than Sarah 2? One answer is that feeling good isn’t enough to be happy. This suggests that the influence of moral value on assessments of happiness is highly robust. Put differently, most of us think that happiness involves living a moral life.

Summing-up: You probably think happiness involves living a good life. And a good life includes being a good person, a moral person.

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