Welfare over Time and the Case for Holism

Philosophical Papers 41 (2):239 - 265 (2012)
Abstract
Abstract Theories of personal well-being are typically developed so that they render verdicts on (a) how well-off a person is at a moment, (b) how well-off a person is over an interval of time, and (c) how good a whole life is for the person who lives it. Conative theories of welfare posit welfare-atoms that consist, e.g., in episodes of desire-satisfaction, aim-achievement, or values-realisation. Most extant conative theories are additive: they compute well-being over time?up to and including the value of a whole life?by adding up the values of these welfare atoms. Here, it is shown that such atomistic, additive conative theories do not always generate plausible verdicts on (b) and (c) above. They imply that lives featuring incoherent plans and rapidly changing projects go surprisingly well for those who lived them. Holistic theories of well-being are often thought to provide a solution to problems like these. However, one of the best-known versions of welfare holism within the conative family, Rawls? rational life-preferentism, is based on the problematic assumption that there is one ideal life plan for each person. This paper presents a new form of paradigm-resemblance based conative holism that does not make this assumption and that explains the limits of additivity
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