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MORALITY IS HAPPINESS





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Nurturance typically requires sacrifice. And so it might seem strange that a concomitant of moral nurturance would be a view of morality as the cultivation of one's own happiness. Yet such a moral scheme is a consequence of Morality As Nurturance. The reasoning goes like this:

Unhappy people are less likely to be compassionate (empathetic and nurturant) than happy people, since they are not likely to want others to be happier than they are. Therefore, to promote one's own capacity for compassion (empathy and nurturance), one should make oneself as happy as possible – provided one doesn't hurt anyone in the process.

This view of the morality of happiness is intuitively understood and widespread among a great many whose moral system is Nurturant Parent morality. Incidentally, it is a longstanding part of the Buddhist tradition. There is a reason, after all, why the Buddha is smiling.

Moral Happiness is anything but a form of selfishness or crass self-interest, since the prior commitment to compassion – to help and not hurt others – rules that out. In the context of a commitment to empathy and nurturance, making oneself as happy as possible is anything but mere hedonism, since it promotes empathy and nurturance, which are the most profound forms of moral behavior.

Some Americans have adopted a perverted view of Moral Nurturance, a view in which self-sacrifice is required for the sake of others and someone who pursues his own happiness cannot be seen as being sufficiently nurturant. To those for whom morality mainly means self-sacrifice, the very idea of Moral Happiness is foreign. But, interestingly enough, a great many Americans do have an intuitive sense that, in the context of the priority of empathy and nurturance, the cultivation of one's own happiness serves a moral end. The desire that your children be happy does not contradict your desire that they be empathetic and nurturant and socially responsible – at least not within Nurturant Parent morality.

Such an idea does, however, contradict Moral Strength, where self-denial is seen as serving the moral purpose of building moral strength serving a higher authority. To someone who functions within Strict Father morality, the idea of Moral Happiness will seem like self-indulgence. In the Strict Father moral system, happiness is appropriate as a reward for self-discipline and hard work; in that context, it can serve a moral purpose. But in Nurturant Parent morality, the cultivation of one's own happiness can serve a moral purpose in itself.

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