Original Articles

The Self-Justifying Desire for Happiness

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 23, issue 4, 2004 , pages: 343–352
DOI: 10.4314/sajpem.v23i4.31402
Author(s): Raffaele RodognoDepartment of Philosophy,


In Happiness, Tabensky equates the notion of happiness to Aristotelian eudaimonia. I shall claim that doing so amounts to equating two concepts that moderns cannot conceptually equate, namely, the good for a person and the good person or good life. In §2 I examine the way in which Tabensky deals with this issue and claim that his idea of happiness is as problematic for us moderns as is any translation of the notion of eudaimonia in terms of happiness. Naturally, if happiness understood as eudaimonia is ambiguous, so will be the notion of a desire for happiness, which we find at the core of Tabensky’s whole project. In §3 I shall be concerned with another aspect of the desire for happiness; namely, its alleged self-justifying nature. I will attempt to undermine the idea that this desire is self-justifying by undermining the criterion on which Tabensky takes self-justifiability to rest, i.e. its basicness, but also by shedding doubt on the idea that there is such a thing as an ultimate basic principle and, even if there were, that it is what Tabensky calls the eudaimon principle.

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