Enumerative and explanatory theories of welfare

One kind of philosophical question about welfare is about the nature of the concept itself. We seek elucidation of the concept, perhaps by relating it to the concept of goodness or the concept of rationality. We do not seek to determine which lives have the property of a high degree of welfare, or why; we seek only to clarify what it means to ascribe this property to a life. Call this sort of question formal. There are also substantive questions about welfare. These too are abstract questions, but they seek a description or explanation of some sort—a description of the features of lives which constitute a high degree of welfare, or an explanation of why lives with those features have that property. These questions are logically downstream of the formal question: they presuppose some understanding of the nature of the concept, and pursue matters of its extension. This paper focuses on substantive questions, but I had better provide some answer, even if stipulative, to the formal question. I shall understand a person’s welfare as consisting of those things that are final goods for her. This formula combines two ideas: the idea that some things are ‘final goods’, and the idea that some things are ‘good for’ someone. Something is a final good just in case it is good for its own sake.1 Not everything that is good is a final good; some things are good merely as means. I assume that we should count only final goods as constituents of a person’s welfare—so that, for example, wealth is not properly a constituent of welfare. Second, I shall take the orthodox view that welfare is what is ‘good for’ a person. This expresses an admittedly imprecise and elusive idea, to the effect that welfare is goodness relative to each subject.2 What’s good for me may not be good for you. Turn now to substantive questions. Roger Crisp has drawn a helpful distinction between two such questions about welfare. On one hand is the enumerative question. This asks for a list of the constituents of a life with a high degree of welfare (‘constituents of welfare’ hereafter, for short)..
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