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Comparative Ethics: Happiness and Human Flourishing




Admission requirements

Similarly-tagged 200/300-level courses or permission from the instructor.


This course is a philosophical cross-cultural exploration of human happiness and flourishing. The underlying question we will explore together is what makes a life go as well as possible for the individual. Specific topics we will consider include the elements of a good life, the relation between morality and happiness, the relation between virtue and human flourishing, the role of social relationships in happiness, the relation between pleasure and happiness and whether tension and challenge might be an important part of a good life. We will read selections from Indian Buddhism, Chinese Confucianism and Daoism, ancient Greek philosophy as well as work by contemporary authors. Students will be to encouraged to test the philosophical theoretical works we read in class against their own experiences and intuitions about what will bring them and others happiness.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to: * demonstrate familiarity with and be able to critique several influential accounts of happiness and human well-being from the history of philosophy.

  • distinguish between psychological and philosophical understandings of well-being.

  • understand the connections between philosophical work on well-being and your own experience.

  • gain an appreciation of what it means to work with philosophical ideas cross-culturally.


Gethin, Rupert. 1998. The Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. (Required).
Mengzi. 2009. The Essential Mengzi. Translated by Bryan W. Van Norden. Hackett Publishing. (Required).
Aristotle. 1999. Nicomachean Ethics. Second Edition. Translated by Terence Irwin. Hackett Publishing. (Recommended but not required).
Mill, John Stuart. 2002. Utilitarianism. Second Edition. Hackett Publishing. (Recommended but not required).

Other readings will be made available or linked to the course website.

Contact Information