The first question of moral philosophy, going back to Plato, is “how ought I to live my life?”. Perhaps the second, following close on the heels of the first, can be taken to be “ought I to live morally or not?”, assuming that one can “get away with” being immoral. Another, more familiar way of phrasing this second question is “why be moral?”, where this is elliptical for something like, “will it be good for me and my life to be moral, or would I be better off being immoral, as long as I can get away with it?”.
Bringing together the ancient Greek conception of happiness with a modern conception of self-respect, it turns out to be bad to be a bad person, while in fact, it is good to be a good person. Here are some reasons why:
(1) Because being bad is bad. Some have thought that being bad or immoral can be good for a person, especially when we can “get away with it”, but there are some good reasons for thinking this is false. The most important reason is that being bad or immoral is self-disrespecting and it is hard to imagine being happy without self-respect. Here’s one quick argument: