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Professor Ursula Coope (Keble College, Oxford), “Is happiness cumulative over time? An argument from Plotinus”


Is happiness the kind of thing that is cumulative over time? To many modern philosophers it has seemed obvious that the answer is yes. For example, Richard Kraut, in his recent book The Quality of Life, argues that the total happiness of a life is an aggregate: it can be calculated by adding up periods of well-being and subtracting periods of ill-being. Against this, it is striking that many ancient philosophers denied that happiness is the kind of thing that is cumulative over time. This talk is an attempt to understand why they denied this, and to say something about the notion of happiness that lies behind their view. I focus especially on a line of argument in Plotinus’s Enneads I.5. After discussing Plotinus’s argument, I raise a question about its practical relevance. If we accept Plotinus’s view that happiness is not cumulative over time, what difference should this make to the way we live our lives?

This is an event in partnership with the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Monday, 29th May at  4pm (UK) / 6pm (Greece)

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Michael Frede Memorial lecture
When: 29 May, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm EEST
Where: – –