New parents are sometimes asked whimsically what they want for their children when they grow up. The safest reply, and most common one today, is: “I just want them to be happy.” Another possible reply, often unspoken but certainly part of most parents’ thoughts about their children’s future, might be: “I just want them to be good.”

In such a way, parents routinely join an age-old debate about the human condition: Should striving for happiness be a goal in itself or does moral virtue trump personal contentment? If we’re good, will happiness follow? And what does it mean to be happy, anyway?

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