Philosophy Well-Being
by
Andrew Moore
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0284

Introduction

One’s well-being is a matter of having things go well for oneself or with one’s life, and one’s ill-being is a matter of their going ill. Among well-being’s friends and relations are welfare, happiness, utility, eudaimonia, self-interest, quality of life, fulfillment, flourishing, and prudential good. What is it for things to go well for oneself or one’s life? Hedonists say it is a matter of having pleasure and not having pain or displeasure. Desire theorists think it is having in one’s life things that fulfill one’s desires, objectivists say it is having certain things in one’s life whether or not they fulfill one’s desires, and perfectionists think it is having in one’s life things that are relevantly related to one’s individual or group nature. Monists hold that well-being is constituted by just one basic sort of matter, while pluralists think it is constituted by more than one. For most of these theories, parallel accounts are possible also for ill-being. Much of the contemporary philosophical debate about well-being concerns which properties, states, or activities in one’s life are prudential goods or bads for one, in themselves and independent of any further effects they might have. Less prominent but also significant is a loosely connected set of debates about the nature of well-being’s subjects and the shape of their lives, concerning human versus non-human subjects of well-being; individual versus group or collective subjects of well-being; whether there are any phase-sensitive prudential goods, such as goods of childhood; relations between one’s well-being at a time and one’s well-being over time, including over one’s lifetime; the role played by life’s overall “shape”; and the place of culture and social forms or practices in well-being. The good, bad, or indifference for one’s own well-being of one’s birth, death, and posthumous legacy is also examined. Further subjects of ongoing debate include well-being’s wider connections to the psychology of happiness, the meaning of life, practical reason, morality, and politics.

General Overviews

A good overview sets out an overall framework and places the main positions and lines of argument within this. Perhaps the most significant overviews are those that were and that remain formative and continuous influences on contemporary discussion. In these terms, the most significant general overview of the well-being terrain is Appendix I of Parfit 1984. This work is highly influential both for its tripartite carve-up of the terrain into hedonist, desire-fulfillment, and objective list theories of what makes life go best, and for its sharply focused critical examination of each of these welfare-theoretic options. In its Part 1, Griffin 1986 broadly retains Parfit’s tripartite framework, but with the significant and influential addition of perfectionism as an option, plus the less influential option of need-based accounts. Part 2 of Griffin 1986 examines well-being’s measurability, and Part 3 assesses its moral importance. Griffin 1998 further develops the author’s account of prudential matters, including his nuanced variant of informed desire theory. Nussbaum and Sen 1993 is a collection of leading work by philosophers, economists, and social scientists on quality of life. Kupperman 2006 presents a brief, accessible, broad-visioned examination of “myths” about the good life, engaging with Confucius and Buddha alongside Plato and Aristotle, and also with empirical studies of happiness. In its chapters 2 and 3, Crisp 1997 offers a Mill-centered overview and examination of hedonist, experiential, desire-based, and ideal-based accounts of well-being. Hooker 2000 presents a brief and incisive overview of the well-being terrain in its chapter 2.3, then gives well-being a central role within Hooker’s rule consequentialist moral theory. In its third chapter, Scanlon 1999 presents an overview and powerful critical assessment of the role of well-being in practical deliberation, action, and morality.

  • Crisp, Roger. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Mill on Utilitarianism. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

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    In his clear and highly readable chapters 2 and 3, Crisp offers a Mill-centered overview and examination of hedonist, experiential, desire-based, and ideal-based accounts of well-being. Here too, Parfit’s influence in how the well-being terrain is mapped and approached is discernible without being dominant.

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    • Griffin, James. Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement and Moral Importance. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

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      This critical overview has proved to be subtle, influential, and durable. Part 1 broadly retains Parfit’s tripartite framework while also adding the important option of perfectionism, Part 2 is an overview and examination of well-being’s measurability, and Part 3 introduces and assesses well-being’s moral importance.

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      • Griffin, James. Value Judgment. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998.

        DOI: 10.1093/0198752318.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        This is a further development of Griffin’s account of prudential matters, including his nuanced variant of informed desire theory, and his articulate mistrust of such “dubious dualisms” as that between subjective or “good-because-desired” accounts and objective or “desired-because-good” accounts.

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        • Hooker, Brad. Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule Consequentialist Theory of Morality. Oxford: Clarendon, 2000.

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          This book presents a brief and incisive overview of accounts of well-being in its chapter 2.3, while the rest of the book places well-being centrally within Hooker’s influential rule consequentialist moral theory.

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          • Kupperman, Joel. Six Myths about the Good Life: Thinking about What Has Value. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2006

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            Kupperman here presents a brief, accessible, broad-visioned examination of “myths” about the good life, engaging with Confucius and Buddha alongside Plato and Aristotle. The book is informed too by contemporary empirical studies of happiness.

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            • Nussbaum, Martha, and Amartya Sen. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

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              This edited volume collects leading work by philosophers, economists, and social scientists on quality of life. It includes a paper by Sen that sets out the core content and merits of his influential “capabilities-and-functionings” conception of well-being.

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              • Parfit, Derek. Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Clarendon, 1984.

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                Appendix I is an influential critical overview of hedonist, desire-fulfillment, and objective list theories of what makes life go best. Parfit’s tripartite carve-up of the terrain remains the default map of theories of well-being, though “desire theory” is often replaced by the broader category “subjectivism,” and “perfectionism” is widely added.

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                • Scanlon, Thomas. What We Owe to Each Other. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999

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                  Scanlon presents an overview and critical assessment of well-being’s role in practical deliberation, action, and morality. He argues that the idea of well-being lacks unification of the sort that theory requires, and that appeal to well-being is typically not needed in deliberation about one’s own life or in moral understanding.

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                  History

                  The question of what it is for one’s life to go well or ill for oneself tends to generate human interest and thought across a wide breadth of experience, culture, and history. The present entry focuses primarily though not exclusively on the tradition of Western philosophy, and within it the main historical sources of thought about well-being are the eudaemonist, natural law, egoist, utilitarian, and intrinsic value traditions. White 2006 is both wide-ranging and widely accessible in its examination of understandings of well-being, welfare, happiness, utility, eudaimonia, self-interest, quality of life, fulfillment, and flourishing in the Western tradition from Solon (c. 594 BCE) to the early 21st century. Annas 1993 is a more detailed and more narrowly focused examination of happiness and of its moral role, in the tradition of Western thought from Aristotle to Cicero. In a splendid three-volume history of Western moral philosophy, Irwin 2011 examines thought about the human good as one of its recurring themes. A distinction between desire theory or subjectivism and objective list theory or objectivism plays a leading role in contemporary discussion, and so does a distinction between monist and pluralist accounts. By contrast, discussion of the history of philosophical thought about well-being tends not to give much descriptive or analytical role to either distinction; and to date nor has the history of either distinction itself been a notable object of study.

                  • Annas, Julia. The Morality of Happiness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993

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                    This is a detailed examination, in leading thinkers from Aristotle to Cicero, of happiness and its place in morality. Main themes include the centrality of happiness in ancient accounts of morality, and of virtue in ancient accounts of happiness.

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                    • Irwin, Terence. The Development of Ethics. 3 vols. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                      This three-volume history of moral philosophy in the tradition from Socrates to Rawls is a prodigious piece of scholarship. Among its major themes is the development of accounts of the human good.

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                      • White, Nicholas. A Brief History of Happiness. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

                        DOI: 10.1002/9780470690888Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        A lively and wide-ranging philosophical history of the idea of happiness in the Western tradition from Solon (c. 594 BCE) to the early 21st century, this clear and readable account also offers a helpful glossary, list of key thinkers in the history of its topic, and bibliography.

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                        Textbooks and Anthologies

                        There are presently more anthologies than textbooks about well-being. Good expressions of each genre judiciously combine breadth of coverage with depth of examination; and good anthologies also showcase diversity of authorial perspective and of method. Guignon 1999 is a wide-ranging collection of classic texts on the good life from the philosophy and literature of West and East. Part 1 of the textbook Shafer-Landau 2010 is an engaging, concise, and highly readable introductory examination of hedonism and desire theory, and more briefly of objectivism. Paul, et al. 1999, a special issue of the journal Social Philosophy and Policy, is an excellent collection of papers by leading authors, variously on contemporary and historical accounts of well-being. Crisp and Hooker 2000 is a strong collection of essays, nearly all by leading moral philosophers, on the Griffin-style themes of well-being’s nature, measurement, and moral significance. Miller and Eggleston 2014 includes excellent current papers that examine subjective and objective theories of well-being, respectively by Chris Heathwood and Ben Bradley.

                        • Crisp, Roger, and Brad Hooker. Well-Being and Morality: Essays in Honour of James Griffin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000

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                          A strong collection of essays, nearly all by leading moral philosophers, on the Griffin-style themes of well-being’s nature, measurement, and moral significance. The volume is further enhanced by Griffin’s characteristically thoughtful and nuanced replies to the contributors.

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                          • Guignon, Charles. The Good Life. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1999.

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                            This is a wide-ranging collection of classic texts on the good life, from the philosophy and literature of West and East. In addition to the usual suspects, it includes well-chosen excerpts from the work of Lao Tzu, Buddha, Epictetus, Augustine, Luther, Dostoyevsky, Emerson, Buber, and de Beauvoir.

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                            • Miller, Dale, and Ben Eggleston. Cambridge Companion to Utilitarianism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014

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                              Well-being is a central theme in the utilitarian tradition. This edited collection contains current and excellent examination of subjective theories of well-being by Chris Heathwood, and of objective theories of well-being by Ben Bradley.

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                              • Paul, Ellen, Fred Miller, and Jeffrey Paul, eds. Special Issue: Human Flourishing. Social Philosophy and Policy 16.1 (Winter 1999).

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                                The focus of this excellent edited collection of papers by leading authors is on contemporary and historical accounts of well-being.

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                                • Shafer-Landau, Russ. The Fundamentals of Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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                                  Within this highly engaging textbook, Shafer-Landau devotes Part 1, “The Good Life,” to critical overview of hedonism and desire theory. He also presents briefer critical discussion of objectivism about well-being.

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                                  Reference Works and Other Resources

                                  A good reference work contributes to the philosophy of well-being through an entry in a philosophical encyclopedia, “companion,” or “handbook.” Excellent instances of this genre can be found in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Another set of examples is in LaFollette 1999–2004.

                                  • LaFollette, Hugh, ed. International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Malden, MA: John Wiley, 1999–2014.

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                                    In this valuable online resource, see especially Richard Kraut’s entry “Well-being,” and Krister Bykvist’s entry “Prudence.” Available online by purchase or subscription.

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                                    • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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                                      Roger Crisp’s “Well-being” assesses critiques of well-being’s individual and moral significance from G. E. Moore and Thomas Scanlon; concisely reviews hedonist, desire, and objective list theories; and appraises well-being’s connections with morality and virtue. Daniel Haybron’s “Happiness” explores connections between philosophy of well-being and psychology of happiness.

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                                      Hedonism

                                      What is it for things to go well for oneself or with one’s life? A hedonist answer is that it is for one to get pleasure and to avoid pain or displeasure. Hedonism about well-being tends to be a monist view. Hedonists differ among themselves about the nature of pleasure and displeasure, and thus about what it is for one to get these. A key contrast here is between experiential or phenomenal or felt-character forms of hedonism and attitudinal or representational or intentionalist forms. Hedonism about well-being has a substantial pedigree from at least as long ago as Plato’s 4th-century-BCE dialogue Protagoras at lines 251b–c. Hedonism also remains a live and active option in contemporary Western philosophy. Only the contemporary work is discussed in this section. One influential charge against hedonism is that not all pleasure adds non-instrumentally to well-being. Even more prominent is the charge that there are some matters other than pleasure that add non-instrumentally to well-being. Tännsjö 1998 defends hedonism about the good, a felt-character account of pleasure, and a utilitarian moral theory that embeds these. Feldman 2004 argues that attitudinal hedonism has a range of variants that are resilient against a whole battery of objections. Crisp 2006 argues for a felt-character account of pleasure and a hedonist account of well-being, and for the centrality of well-being in both reasons for action and morality. In a book full of arguments, Bradley 2009 advances a felt-character form of hedonism about well-being and also a distinctive account of the bad of death.

                                      • Bradley, Ben. Well-Being and Death. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557967.001.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Bradley presents a felt-character form of hedonism about well-being and a distinctive account of the bad of death. The book is also highly stimulating in its reflections on many other topics; for example, in its brisk critique of objectivism about well-being.

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                                        • Crisp, Roger. Reasons and the Good. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

                                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199290338.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          This clear and concise book argues for a felt-character account of pleasure and a hedonist account of well-being. Crisp also examines reasons for action and morality, and argues that pleasure plays key roles in both.

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                                          • Feldman, Fred. Pleasure and the Good Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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                                            Feldman distinguishes sensory from attitudinal pleasure, and argues that the former must but the latter need not have felt character. More centrally, he also argues that the attitudinal hedonist cluster of theories is resilient against a whole battery of objections that have often been thought to damage or destroy it.

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                                            • Tännsjö, Torbjörn. Hedonistic Utilitarianism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

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                                              Tännsjö presents here a vigorous defense of hedonism about the good, a felt-character account of the nature of pleasure, and a utilitarian moral theory that embeds both of these key thoughts.

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                                              Desire Theory

                                              Desire theorists or subjectivists claim that anything’s adding to one’s well-being is a matter of its being an object of some desire or some other sort of pro-stance that one has, or that would be had by oneself or by some counterpart of oneself if relevantly idealized. Desire theory can be developed in many different ways, but the shared leading thought of many such views is that individuals are in some way authoritative about their own well-being. Another way to put this core subjectivist idea is that one’s own favorable regard for anything is necessary, or sufficient, or both, for that thing to add to one’s well-being. Desire theory is typically though not essentially a monist view about the conditions for well-being. The two broadest challenges faced by subjectivism are that some favored things are not good for one, and that not all that is good for one is favored. Brandt 1979 presents an influential counterfactual desire account, the naturalist or reductionist character of which remains widely prevalent among desire theorists and subjectivists more generally. Railton 2003 collects key work on the author’s “full-information” counterfactual theory, his influential “alienation” criticism of objectivism, and the naturalistic meta-philosophy that informs his work. The author of Sumner 1996 differentiates his happiness-centered subjectivism about welfare from its various hedonist and subjectivist kin, and also presents both a critique of objectivist and perfectionist rivals and an argument that morality is welfare-centered. Darwall 2002 argues that a person’s welfare is what one should want for her insofar as one cares for her for her sake, and that such care and thereby welfare itself is a non-reductive and broadly ethical matter. Dorsey 2012 examines which sort of pro-stance does the best subjectivist job of accounting for well-being. One reason that this issue arises is that conflict among one’s various stances is both possible and commonplace, and it is not obvious that any idealized cognitive enhancement or cognitive cleansing of the sort that many subjectivists favor would eradicate all such potential inconsistencies.

                                              • Brandt, Richard. A Theory of the Good and the Right. Oxford: Clarendon, 1979.

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                                                Brandt here presents and argues for a widely influential counterfactual desire account that claims the prudentially authoritative pro-stances are those of a hypothetical individual from whom “cognitive psychotherapy” has cleansed all mistakes of fact or logic.

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                                                • Darwall, Stephen. Welfare and Rational Care. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

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                                                  In this slender and elegant volume, Darwall argues that a person’s welfare is what one should want for her insofar as one cares for her for her sake. Against the general current of subjectivist thought, he also argues that such care and thereby welfare is a non-reductive and broadly ethical matter.

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                                                  • Dorsey, Dale. “Subjectivism without Desire.” Philosophical Review 121.3 (2012): 407–442.

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                                                    Subjectivists hold that a thing is good for one if and only if one has a certain pro-stance toward it. Dorsey argues that among such accounts, “judgment subjectivism” is superior to desire theory—that the best subjectivism is centered not on desire for a thing but instead on judgment or belief that that thing is good.

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                                                    • Railton, Peter. Facts, Values and Norms: Essays towards a Morality of Consequence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511613982Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      This volume collects much of Railton’s key work on his counterfactual subjectivist theory. This takes the prudentially authoritative stances to be those of a hypothetical individual who has full information on all non-prudential matters. Railton’s influential “alienation” criticism of objectivist accounts and his underlying naturalistic meta-philosophy also feature.

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                                                      • Sumner, Wayne. Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

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                                                        Sumner argues for the superiority of his happiness-centered subjectivism over its various hedonist and subjectivist kin. He emphasizes our actual rather than our idealized or counterfactual pro-stances. He also presents a critique of objectivist and perfectionist rivals, and a case for welfare-based morality.

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                                                        Objective List Theory

                                                        Objective list theory or objectivism claims that anything’s adding to one’s well-being is independent of that thing’s being any object of anyone’s pro-stances. One objectivist account is that what it takes for anything to add to one’s well-being is instead a matter of the intrinsic nature of well-being’s constituents themselves. A key task for any such objectivism is to spell out the intrinsic natures of these things that in themselves and non-instrumentally add to the well-being of anyone who has them. A key related task is to explain why the intrinsic natures of every other sort of thing fail to make any such addition to anyone’s well-being. Various monist or pluralist elaborations of objectivism might appeal to one or more of the following putative prudential goods: pleasure, knowledge, achievement, friendship, virtue, and autonomy. Among the challenges to objectivism are that it alienates individuals from their well-being, that it cannot account for reasons of well-being or for individual variation or individual authority, and that it is arbitrary or has implausible metaphysical implications or is not even a theory but is instead just a shapeless heap of alleged goods. In chapter 8.2, Brink 1989 outlines and advances an objectivist account of value, and the rest of the book embeds this in act-utilitarian moral theory and realist meta-ethics. Arneson 1999 argues that objectivism is better on various counts than its desire theory and subjectivist rivals. Fletcher 2013 outlines an objective list theory, arguing that it can usurp a thought that instead usually motivates subjectivism, and that several leading criticisms of objectivism can be satisfactorily rebutted. Hurka 2011 is a clear, brief, accessible argument that there are objective prudential goods, and that these are pleasure, knowledge, achievement, and virtue.

                                                        • Arneson, Richard. “Human Flourishing versus Desire Satisfaction.” Social Philosophy and Policy 16.1 (1999): 113–142.

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                                                          Arneson argues forcefully that objectivism is better than subjectivism on various counts. He shows that its opponents should take objectivism seriously, and that its proponents should do the serious further developmental work that is needed if objectivism is to be a fully competitive option.

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                                                          • Brink, David. Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511624612Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            Brink advances an objectivist account of value, and embeds this in act-utilitarian moral theory and realist meta-ethics. The book illustrates the fact, already noteworthy in G. E. Moore, that a utilitarian can be an objectivist and a pluralist about value.

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                                                            • Fletcher, Guy. “A Fresh Start for the Objective-List Theory of Well-Being.” Utilitas 25.2 (2013): 206–220.

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                                                              Fletcher here outlines an objective list theory. He then argues that it captures a powerful motivation that instead usually fuels its desire-theoretic and subjectivist rivals, that it is not alienating, and that it can be both principled and non-arbitrary.

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                                                              • Hurka, Thomas. The Best Things in Life. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                                                A clear and brief argument that there are objective prudential goods; they are pleasure, knowledge, achievement, and virtue. This is a much more fully developed objectivism than most. It thereby presents objectivism’s critics with both a specific target and a concrete test of the accuracy of their aim.

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                                                                Perfectionism

                                                                Perfectionism claims that anything’s addition to one’s well-being is a matter of that thing’s standing in some relation to one’s individual or group nature. Objectivist perfectionism, prevalent in the eudaemonist tradition, implies that the relevant relation to one’s nature is independent of that thing’s being an object of anyone’s pro-stance. By contrast, one sort of subjectivist perfectionism is the claim that anything’s addition to human well-being is a matter of that thing’s being an object of natural human desire. Among perfectionist accounts, there is a significant division between those that relate well-being to one’s characteristic or essential nature, and those that relate it to one’s distinctive or unique nature. Though hedonists, subjectivists, and objectivists about well-being can typically also offer straightforwardly parallel accounts of ill-being, such parallel accounts of ill-being tend to be less straightforward for perfectionists to generate. Most perfectionists focus on human good, but others focus also on other species, and a few focus on persons rather than humans or other species. One challenge for perfectionism is to link one’s good to one’s nature in a way that eases rather than exacerbates the challenges associated with the theory’s subjectivist or objectivist character. Telfer 1980 argues that the human life worth living exercises our distinctive rational endowment and is a life of hedonic and eudaemonic happiness. Hurka 1993 argues for an objectivist perfectionism about human good and also examines the historical and analytical range of perfectionist accounts, and the place of perfectionism about well-being in morality and politics. Foot 2001 is a perfectionist account of human good and defect that seeks to derive its standards from a teleology of the species, and that also argues it is good for any human individual to be a good instance of its human kind. Kraut 2007 advances an objectivist and Aristotelian perfectionism about well-being that grounds an account of practical reason without appeal to “goodness of its kind” (e.g. to “p is a good human”). The author of Nussbaum 2011 sets out her broadly Aristotelian variant of the Sen/Nussbaum idea that human good is substantive freedom or “capability” to choose among a certain set of activities or “functionings,” and she sets out the ten basic capabilities that she holds to be needed in a life of human dignity. Finnis 2011 develops the Aristotelian thought that human action is directed at participation in basic human goods, a pluralistic objectivist account of such goods, and roles for all these considerations in morality and politics. Informed by Aristotle and by stoicism, Russell 2012 argues that human happiness is a life of embodied virtuous activity that is vulnerable to luck, but without any appeal to the idea of “good human specimen-hood.” Badhwar 2014 argues on Aristotelian grounds that autonomy and reality-orientation are necessary for objective worth, that objective worth is necessary for well-being, and that activities with such worth are components of an individual’s well-being only if she or he has some pro-attitude toward them.

                                                                • Badhwar, Neera. Well-Being: Happiness in a Worthwhile Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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                                                                  Badhwar argues on Aristotelian grounds that autonomy and reality-orientation are necessary for objective worth, and objective worth is necessary for well-being. Both objectivist and subjectivist necessary conditions for well-being also feature in this pluralistic perfectionism.

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                                                                  • Finnis, John. Natural Law and Natural Rights. 2d ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                                                    Finnis develops the Aristotelian thought that human action is directed at participation in basic human goods, a pluralistic objectivism about such goods, and roles for such goods in morality and politics. Natural human desire plays complex roles here, making it a challenge to apply any simple objectivism-subjectivism distinction.

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                                                                    • Foot, Philippa. Natural Goodness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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                                                                      Foot presents a perfectionist and Aristotelian account of human good and defect that appeals to standards she argues can be derived from a teleology of the species. She also argues that it is good for any human individual to be a good instance of its human kind.

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                                                                      • Hurka, Thomas. Perfectionism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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                                                                        Hurka argues for an essentialist and objectivist perfectionism about human good. He also presents excellent analysis of the historical and analytical range of perfectionism, novel discussion of relations between goods in life and the good of life overall, and arguments about the place of perfectionist good in morality and politics.

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                                                                        • Kraut, Richard. What Is Good and Why: The Ethics of Well-Being. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

                                                                          DOI: 10.4159/9780674027084Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Kraut here advances an objectivist and Aristotelian perfectionism about well-being, and deploys this to ground an account of practical reason that makes no appeal to “goodness of its kind” (e.g., to any claim of the form “p is a good human”).

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                                                                          • Nussbaum, Martha. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2011.

                                                                            DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674061200Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Nussbaum’s broadly Aristotelian variant of the Sen/Nussbaum idea that human good is substantive freedom (“capability”) to choose among a certain set of human activities (“functionings”). On her view, there are ten basic capabilities one needs if one is to lead a life of human dignity.

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                                                                            • Russell, Daniel. Happiness for Humans. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583683.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Russell argues that human happiness is a life of embodied virtuous activity that is vulnerable to luck. He also rejects any appeal to the idea of “good human specimen-hood.” His approach involves close but critical engagement with ancient ethics, and builds especially on insights from Aristotle and from ancient Stoic tradition.

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                                                                              • Telfer, Elizabeth. Happiness. New York: St. Martin’s, 1980.

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                                                                                In this slender volume, Telfer argues that the human life worth living exercises our distinctive human rational endowment and is a life of hedonic and eudaemonic happiness.

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                                                                                Well-being and Happiness

                                                                                In the last couple of centuries, the long tradition of philosophical reflection and theorizing about well-being has been joined by substantial work in economics on the nature of utility, the quality of life, and the standard of living. In recent decades a swelling current of work in the social psychology of happiness has also emerged. Several recent projects bring well-selected contributions from at least two of these three fields together in a single volume, and some writing critically examines relations among these streams of work and seeks to draw wider lessons. Nussbaum and Sen 1993 is a collection of work from leading thinkers in philosophy, economics, and social sciences, in which each lead paper is partnered with a valuable “commentary.” Broome 1999 exemplifies the good work that can be done on relations among preference, value, and good when economic sophistication and philosophical acuity join their forces. Haybron 2008 brings philosophical work on well-being into informed and insight-generating engagement with leading themes as well as particular studies in the empirical social psychology of happiness. Tiberius 2008 is distinctive in its empirically, and especially psychologically, informed philosophical approach to the question of how best to live, and in its orientation to this as an ongoing process of decision about one’s life. The author of Feldman 2010 appraises various accounts of happiness in comparison to his own preferred account, and also offers thought-provoking skeptical reflections on the power of empirical psychology to illuminate philosophical inquiry here. The recently established International Journal of Wellbeing aims to publish papers that draw on and illuminate philosophical, economic, and psychological inquiry into its topic.

                                                                                • Broome, John. Ethics out of Economics. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511605888Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  This book collects papers by Broome on relations between preference and value, the structure of the good, and the value of life. In these essays, philosophical and economic thought combine powerfully on well-being–related themes.

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                                                                                  • Feldman, Fred. What Is This Thing Called Happiness? Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571178.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Presents a critique of various philosophical and psychological accounts of happiness, alongside his own preferred attitudinal hedonism. One distinctive feature of the book is his generally skeptical view about the powers of empirical psychology to illuminate the topic.

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                                                                                    • Haybron, Daniel. The Pursuit of Unhappiness. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                      A sustained piece of bridge-building between philosophy of well-being and empirical psychology of happiness. One theme in the book is the fragility of many judgments and stances of ours that are related to our own good.

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                                                                                      • International Journal of Wellbeing. 2011–.

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                                                                                        This journal concentrates on papers about well-being that draw on research from more than one discipline and that are of value to well-being researchers from more than one discipline. Philosophy, psychology, and economics are the journal’s leading target disciplines.

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                                                                                        • Nussbaum, Martha, and Amartya Sen. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/0198287976.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          This collection of work from philosophy, economics, and social sciences examines the nature of the quality of life, and how best to measure it. Its focus is on multi-disciplinary insights, and on potential upshots for public policy. It includes a good piece by Sen on his influential “capabilities” account of well-being.

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                                                                                          • Tiberius, Valerie. The Reflective Life: Living Wisely within Our Limits. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199202867.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            With a Humean animating spirit and also exemplifying empirically informed inquiry, Tiberius focuses on the ongoing life process of choosing how best to live.

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                                                                                            Subjects and Lives of Well-being

                                                                                            The contemporary philosophical literature about well-being includes a loosely connected set of debates about the nature of well-being’s subjects and the welfare-related shape of their lives. One set of issues, discussed most prominently in publications about perfectionism (see Hurka 1993) concerns whether well-being has only human subjects or also has non-human subjects. About human subjects at least, Annas 1993 asks whether one norm will serve for all, or whether different norms are needed for male and female subjects of well-being. Within lives, some discussion has focused on whether there are phase-sensitive goods; in particular, Slote 1983 and Brennan 2014 have illuminatingly discussed the case for there being goods of childhood. Another sort of issue, discussed in Taylor 1995, is whether the subjects of well-being are individuals only, or also certain groups or collective entities; and whether any group or collective well-being that there might be derives wholly from individual well-being. Both Taylor 1995 and Walzer 1993 discuss the significance, for the theory and practice of well-being, of the cultural settings and social forms in which subjects of well-being are embedded. A further set of issues arises about whether its subjects have well-being only over a lifetime, or also at a moment, and over periods between these two poles. Several questions in this area are adroitly examined in Hurka 1993. One issue is whether lifetime well-being is composed largely from contributions made by experiences, activities, relationships, and so forth within one’s life. One rival view is that well-being is also or instead largely a matter of whole-of-life features, such as the overall shape or trajectory or narrative of one’s life.

                                                                                            • Annas, Julia. “Women and the Quality of Life: Two Norms or One?” In The Quality of Life. Edited by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, 279–296. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/0198287976.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              This paper’s title makes its central issue plain. This is part of a wider issue about whether there can be any unified account that credibly covers all subjects of well-being.

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                                                                                              • Brennan, Samantha. “The Goods of Childhood and Children’s Rights.” In Family-Making: Contemporary Ethical Challenges. Edited by Françoise Baylis and Carolyn McLeod, 29–47. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199656066.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Brennan argues that there are goods of childhood and their significance cannot be fully reduced to their contribution to later life-stages. She also argues such goods can ground interest-based children’s rights.

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                                                                                                • Hurka, Thomas. Perfectionism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                  Part 2 of this excellent book includes discussion of time-neutrality within lives, summing and averaging of goods, assessment of lives in terms of their “highest peak,” and the merits of well-roundedness versus narrower focus in one’s life.

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                                                                                                  • Slote, Michael. Goods and Virtues. Oxford: Clarendon, 1983.

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                                                                                                    The lively first chapter of this slender volume discusses whether there are goods of childhood that are not goods if had in later life-stages. It also discusses other relations between goods and lives, including whether one’s having goods later can compensate for bads earlier in life.

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                                                                                                    • Taylor, Charles. “Irreducibly Social Goods.” In Philosophical Arguments. By Charles Taylor, 127–145. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                      Taylor argues that in several respects goods are irreducibly social, and that welfarist, atomist, and other methodologically individualist views cannot adequate account for these social features of goods.

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                                                                                                      • Walzer, Michael. “Objectivity and Social Meaning.” In The Quality of Life. Edited by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, 165–177. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/0198287976.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        As its title suggests, Walzer’s paper examines the roles of objectivity and of social meaning in the nature and basis of quality-of-life considerations.

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                                                                                                        Other Well-being Topics

                                                                                                        Much of the contemporary philosophical debate about the prudential goods and bads in or of life is oriented to life’s beginning; however, the end and afterglow also receive scrutiny. So also do the multiple connections between well-being and such wider matters as the meaning of life, practical reason, morality, and politics. Consider first the good, bad, or indifference of one’s birth, death, and posthumous legacy. Kagan 2012 is an engaging, accessible, and appropriately wide-ranging examination of the nature of death, and of its goodness, badness, or indifference for individual well-being. On the goodness or badness of being born at all, see the striking account in Benetar 2008. Next, we may turn to examinations of links between well-being and meaning of life, morality, reasons for action, and politics. Wolf 2010 astutely examines relations among life’s meaning, well-being, and moral character. Keller 2009 is an excellent critical overview of the welfarist idea that morality is most basically a matter of well-being. Raz 2004 is a distilled summation of the author’s fine work on the nature of well-being and its place in morality, reason, and politics. Among its many other themes, Parfit 2013 examines relations among well-being, reasons for action, and moral theory.

                                                                                                        • Benetar, David. Better Never to Have Been. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                          Benetar argues that for any conscious being, it would have been better never to have existed, because coming to exist is always an overall harm for such a being and thus makes for a life that is worse for such a being than nonexistence.

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                                                                                                          • Kagan, Shelly. Death. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                            This is an engaging and accessible examination of the nature of death, and of its good, bad, or indifferent significance for individual well-being. Kagan also adeptly surveys many wider issues in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and epistemology that touch on its core issue.

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                                                                                                            • Keller, Simon. “Welfarism.” Philosophy Compass 4.1 (2009): 82–95.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00196.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              This paper examines, alongside its major rivals, the welfarist view that morality is centrally a matter of individual well-being or welfare. This includes an appraisal of the main strengths and weaknesses of the welfarist option.

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                                                                                                              • Parfit, Derek. On What Matters. 2 vols. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                This two-volume tour de force does not have well-being as its primary theme, but the relations in which well-being stands to reasons for action and to moral theory are nevertheless significant themes here.

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                                                                                                                • Raz, Joseph. “The Role of Well-Being.” Philosophical Perspectives 18 (2004): 269–294.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1520-8583.2004.00029.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  This is a distilled summation of Raz’s important work, since his acclaimed book The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), on the nature of well-being and its place in morality, reason, and politics.

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                                                                                                                  • Wolf, Susan. Meaning in Life and Why It Matters. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                    The central focus of this book is on relations among life’s meaning, well-being, and moral character. The reader also benefits from commentary by John Koethe, Robert Adams, Nomi Arpaly, and Jonathan Haidt, together with Wolf’s thoughtful replies.

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