What is it for a Life to go Well (or Badly)?: Some Critical Comment of Waynes Sumner's Theory of Welfare
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Happiness Studies 10:449-458 (2009)
In an effort to construct a plausible theory of experience-based welfare, Wayne Sumner imposes two requirements on the relevant kind of experience: the information requirement and the autonomy requirement. I argue that both requirements are problematic.First, I argue (very briefly) that a well-know case like ‘the deceived businessman’ need not support the information requirement as Sumner believes. Second, I introduce a case designed to cast further doubt on the information requirement. Third, I attend to a shortcoming in Sumner’s theory of welfare, namely that it is unclear which of later and informed assessments are to be treated as authoritative when it comes to the evaluation of a person’s welfare. Finally, I suggest that, in combination with ‘welfarism’ (to which Sumner subscribes, and which has it that welfare is all that matters from a moral viewpoint), the information requirement entail morally troublesome conclusions: e.g. the conclusion that, from a moral point of view, we should, other things being equal, only to be concerned with the alternative that makes one person slightly better off in respect of welfare instead of also being morally concerned with the alternative that makes one person very happy.
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