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date: 24 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Environmental problems driven by unsustainable consumption are lending new importance to an ancient question: are there bounds to the goods required for a happy or flourishing life? A standard assumption in recent economics is that there are no such bounds. Many further argue that markets, technological change, and resource substitution can deliver sustainability while allowing consumption of final goods by consumers to increase. This chapter criticizes this approach and considers two much older traditions, the Epicurean and Aristotelian, which do recognize the existence of limits to the goods required for the good life. Their revival has been used to argue that consumption can be reduced without loss of well-being. This chapter argues that the promise found by environmentalists in the recent hedonic revival of the Epicurean tradition is misplaced, and that the Aristotelian tradition provides a richer account of why the future—and therefore consuming sustainably—matters to our well-being.

Keywords: consumption, sustainability, limits, well-being, the good life, Epicurean, Aristotelian, markets, technological change

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