The World to Come: Moral Hope as the End of Virtue in Holbach
Hasse Hämäläinen

January 12, 2024, 6:30pm - 8:00pm

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Baron d'Holbach, arguably the most influential and radical atheist thinker of the 18th century, is often read as thinking that pleasure is the end of virtue. However, this interpretation seems to ignore the fact that according to Holbach, in the real world, virtue tends to be punished rather than rewarded with pleasure. Nonetheless, he acknowledges that, despite this, some exceptional individuals—the virtuous—are willing to suffer and even sacrifice themselves rather than compromise on virtue. This recognition seems to imply that Holbach does not believe that pleasure is the end of virtue. My interpretation is that he rather believes that only when individuals demonstrate the courage to be virtuous to the point of self-sacrifice can they hope to establish a moral society where virtue is justly rewarded with pleasure and vice is appropriately punished.

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January 12, 2024, 9:00am UTC

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