Course level: Graduate
The highest good or summum bonum has traditionally been conceived as the highest or ultimate good, the singular and overriding end which human beings ought to pursue. But what actually is the highest good? Is it happiness, intellectual contemplation, virtuous activity, or some combination of these? And why should we suppose that there is any single answer to this question? In this course, we will explore various different views on these questions, focusing on the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions and on German Idealism. We will also use this topic to explore various different questions in ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and epistemology. These include: Why should we be moral? How should we conceive the relationship between virtue and happiness? Can theoretical reason deliver knowledge or cognition of the three primary objects of special metaphysics: God, freedom, and the soul? If not, can practical reason justify belief in God’s existence, our own freedom, and the immortality of the soul?