A virtuous cycle: The relationship between happiness and virtue


Kesebir, P., & Diener, E. (2014). A virtuous cycle: The relationship between happiness and virtue. In N. Snow & F. Trivigno (Eds.), The philosophy and psychology of character and happiness. (pp. 287-306). New York: Routledge.


What constitutes a good, worthwhile, fulfilling life? How should one live? What kind of a person should one be? From Lao Tzu to Aristotle, from Dostoyevsky to Bertrand Russell, philosophers ancient and modern attempted their own answers to these oldest and most enduring of philosophical questions. Frequently figuring in the discussions on the highest, best possible life were the concepts of “happiness” and “virtue”. Notwithstanding inevitable differences in terminology, many great minds posited that the road to a happy, thriving, worth-of-living life is paved with virtues. Is there any merit to these claims? Does possessing and exercising virtue indeed lead to happiness? The current chapter endeavors to shed light on these questions, by reviewing the burgeoning empirical literature on the relationship between virtues and happiness. In line with the philosophical thinking on the topic, our review reveals virtue and happiness to be closely associated. It furthermore appears that happiness and virtue are bi-directionally related — with virtue leading to happiness and happiness leading to virtue, in a “virtuous cycle.”

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