Should we orient our lives toward happiness or goodness?

I recently read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, where he argued that a fundamental human goal/purpose is the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, it was interesting to read David Brooks’ take on human purpose in “Some People Turn Suffering Into Wisdom,” (NYT, 4/21/2022):

Suffering is evil, but it can serve as a bridge to others in pain. After loss, many people make a moral leap: I may never understand what happened, but I can be more understanding toward others. When people see themselves behaving more compassionately, orienting their lives toward goodness instead of happiness, they revise their self-image and regain a sense of meaning.

Although “orienting our lives toward goodness instead of happiness” conflicts with Aristotle’s happiness goal, he would probably agree with Brooks because he also wrote about the pursuit of virtue. 


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