Philosophy of the Good Life

Author: Hill, Thomas E.
This book explores the question “What is a Good Life?” from the perspectives of several major regulative ends characteristic of human lives. This important question tends to be neglected among contemporary philosophers or else treated merely as an aspect of Aristotle’s philosophy. The author examines relations between the ends of personal happiness, personal fulfillment, a just community, and a loving community. Drawing from a broad range of philosophical and literary sources, he argues that lives exclusively or primarily devoted to any of the first three ends would fall short of an ideally good life. A principal conclusion is that the values of a loving community include but transcend the values inherent in the other major regulative ends. This work is unusual in its systematic treatment of an important but too rarely discussed topic, in its commitment to drawing together the best from many philosophical resources, and in its critical insights regarding deficiencies in lives exclusively devoted to relatively narrow ends.


“[This book] explores a perennially important question often neglected by contemporary philosophers…..The book treats its topic systematically, but in an informal, non-technical style. Undogmatically but with conviction rooted in a life-time of reflection, the author proposes a vision of a good life for human beings as a combination of many important factors, no one of which is satisfactory by itself. He repeatedly acknowledges insights in diverse and conflicting philosophical theories, and he tries to synthesize the best that can be drawn from each. He often comments respectfully, but critically, on the ideas of other philosophers, classic and contemporary, but his primary aim is to present an account of a good life that is compelling on its own merits. He offers supporting arguments, but equally important in his attempt to make the account persuasive are his literary allusions and examples intended to illustrate different sorts of good lives.” (From the Commendatory Preface) Thomas E. Hill, Jr., University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

“….a profoundly impressive work, a fitting culmination to a long and productive career of wide reading, deep reflection, and earnest endeavors to share his insights…..There is much in [Professor Hill’s] book for the student of philosophy and for the general reader as well. The student of literature, especially of poetry, may be surprised by the philosophical depth of some his favorite lines that it reveals, and he will acquire a deeper delight in his subject. ….Although not written in the logic-chopping style now favored by contemporary analytic philosophers, this book is organized by the great teacher’s understanding that his topic has a logical structure and should be presented with respect for that structure….this is a grand book, written in a classical style that is rarely executed successfully nowadays….the book is so well-organized, so clearly and compellingly written, and so powerfully argued, that is difficult not to be persuaded and inspired by it. It is fine contribution, and I urge its timely publication.” – Professor Bernard Boxill, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

“Well-written, wise, and scholarly, it is also carefully analytic – making useful distinctions and arguing extreme positions….This is a beautiful book of scholarship and wisdom. Based on an analysis of the human being, and reflecting a life time of study of the great minds in the history of civilization, Professor Thomas E. Hill offers a book from which any reader can learn – from the general reader to the professional philosopher of ethics and politics…..Professor Hill’s analysis is careful and acute and informed by a knowledge of alternatives, which he discusses critically. His style is readable….[This] is a book to inform, to persuade and to challenge.” – Henry R. West, Macalester College

Table of Contents

Commendatory Preface – Thomas E. Hill, Jr.
Preface – Thomas E. Hill, Sr.
Introduction – Thomas. E. Hill, Sr.
1. What Is It for Anything to Be Good
2. What is a Life of a Human Being?
3. A Good Life from the Point of View of Personal Happiness
4. A Good Life from the Point of View of Personal Fulfillment
5. A Good Life from the Point of View of Just Community
6. A Good Life from the Point of View of Loving Community
A Concluding Comment
Select Bibliography