Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Is Virtue Its Own Reward?

L. W. Sumnera1

a1 Philosophy, University of Toronto

If I lead a life of virtue, that may well be good for you. But will it also be good for me? The idea that it will—or even must—is an ancient one, and its appeal runs deep. For if this idea is correct then we can provide everyone with a good reason—arguably the best reason—for being virtuous. However, for all the effort which has been invested in defending the idea, by some of the best minds in the history of philosophy, it remains unproven. Worse, in this skeptical age hardly anyone really believes it. I don't really believe it either, at least not in its strongest forms, but I think that the question is nonetheless worth examining. Even if we cannot show that virtue and self-interest coincide, we can at least measure the breadth of the gap between them.

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