Handbook on the Economics of Happiness
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Handbook on the Economics of Happiness

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

This book is a welcome consolidation and extension of the recent expanding debates on happiness and economics. Happiness and economics, as a new field for research, is now of pivotal interest particularly to welfare economists and psychologists. This Handbook provides an unprecedented forum for discussion of the economic issues relating to happiness. It reviews the more recent literature and offers the interested reader an insight into the vast scope of the field in terms of the theory, its applications and also experimental design. The Handbook also gives substantial indications as to the future direction of research in the field, with particular regard to policy applications and developing an economics of interpersonal relations which includes reciprocity and social interaction theory.
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Chapter 15: The Not-So-Fragile Fragility of Goodness: The Responsive Quality of Fiduciary Relationships

Vittorio Pelligra


15 The not-so-fragile fragility of goodness: the responsive quality of fiduciary relationships Vittorio Pelligra* This word ‘fides’, means ‘rope’ which binds and links us together. (A. Genovesi 1770 [1924: 148]) The advantage of humankind of being able to trust one another, penetrates into every crevice and cranny of human life: the economical is perhaps the smallest part of it, yet even this is incalculable. (J.S. Mill 1848: 131) 1. Introduction In 1986, Martha Nussbaum developed her well-known argument of the socalled ‘fragility of goodness’ (Nussbaum 1986). According to her reading of Aristotle’s theory of eudaimonia (meaning ‘human flourishing’, an enlarged view of ‘happiness’), the pursuit of the good life, which ultimately leads to happiness, is doomed to be subject to the will of fate. Since, in fact, one of the constitutive elements of such an enterprise is the possibility of building meaningful interpersonal relationships, and the quality of such relationships is necessarily a function of others’ behaviour and such a behaviour is, in turn, out of the control of the subject itself, our own happiness is ultimately in others’ hands. That is one of the reasons why our own happiness has always been so strongly perceived as related to luck. However, a critical point in Nussbaum’s argument is that, while ego can only decide to open his/her life to the influence of alter before knowing whether such an influence will be positive or negative, that is to expose him/herself to the risk of opportunism, at the same time,...

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