“It is evident from social observation that human beings desire happiness, not as a means to something else but as an end in itself. Many major worldviews seem to agree that one crucial ingredient of happiness is virtuous living. This idea goes back at least as far as ancient Greek philosophy, particularly the works of Aristotle, who argued that virtue is necessary for a healthy soul, and that the soul is the part of humankind that is closest to the divine. Later, the idea was expounded by the great medieval Christian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas, who wrote that God is the ultimate good, the end toward which humankind must move in order to properly flourish. In contemporary thought, virtue-based happiness is endorsed in the writings of various world religions as well as secular humanism. However, unless a belief system posits the existence of God and an essential human nature that is designed to flourish under divine moral law, then the proposition that virtue, in the classical sense, is integral to happiness is incoherent. Without a transcendent good, virtuous living (moral behavior) has no content beyond mere subjective opinion on right and wrong, good and evil. Prominent atheist philosophers of the Western tradition, such as Nietzsche and Sartre, readily admitted this. Repelled by the notion that objective goodness does not exist, some espouse moral Platonism, but this view suffers from major shortcomings. Christianity provides the best grounds for believing that our happiness is closely linked to how we live.”

This Postmodern Realities podcast episode is a conversation with JOURNAL author Melissa Cain Travis about her Volume 41 #5 feature article “Virtue, Human Nature, and the Quest for Happiness.” To read this article, please subscribe to the JOURNAL. A six-issue subscription is now at a lower price of $33.50 (U.S. funds).