About this topic
Summary While much of the philosophical literature on well-being is concerned with debating substantive theories or accounts of what the good life consists in (e.g. desire-fulfillment, hedonist, perfectionist, objective list theories), philosophers have also sought to get clarity on the very concept of well-being. Some have proposed analyses of well-being and the related notion of harm. Others have tried to get clear on the relationship between synchronic well-being (well-being at a time) and diachronic well-being (well-being over time). Still others have raised doubts about the coherence of the well-being concept or rejected the idea that there is a single concept or property of well-being.
Key works The most widely discussed analysis of well-being is Stephen Darwall's rational care analysis, which is presented and defended in his book Welfare and Rational Care. Other analyses of well-being are found in Rosati 2006Kraut 2007Zimmerman 2009Tenenbaum 2010, Fletcher 2012, and Campbell 2013. Hanser 2008 provides a helpful survey of leading accounts of harm. Bigelow et al 1990 and Velleman 1991 explore the relationship between synchronic and diachronic well-being. Moore 1903 and Regan 2004 challenge the intelligibility of the well-being concept. Kagan 1993, Scanlon 1998 (Ch. 3), and Campbell 2016 challenge the presumption that there is a single concept or property of well-being under discussion in the philosophical literature. Alexandrova 2013 challenges the unity of well-being across various disciplines.
Introductions For an introduction to the philosophical concept of well-being, see Rodogno 2015, Campbell 2016, Sumner 1996 (Ch. 1), Darwall 2002 (Ch. 1-2), and Feldman 2004 (Ch. 1). For an introduction to well-being in the sciences, see Alexandrova 2015
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  1. added 2018-11-23
    David Sobel, From Valuing to Value: A Defense of Subjectivism , Pp. Vii + 312.Owen C. King - forthcoming - Utilitas:1-5.
  2. added 2018-09-11
    The Concept of Quality of Life.Greg Bognar - 2005 - Social Theory and Practice 31 (4):561-580.
    Quality of life research aims to develop and apply indices for the measurement of human welfare. It is an increasingly important field within the social sciences and its results are an important resource for policy making and evaluation. This paper explores the conceptual background of quality of life research. It focuses on its single most important issue: the controversy between the use of ``objective social indicators'' and the use of people's ``subjective evaluations'' as proxies for welfare. Most quality of life (...)
  3. added 2018-07-24
    Well-Being, Disability, and Choosing Children.Matthew J. Barker & Robert A. Wilson - forthcoming - Mind:fzy039.
    The view that it is better for life to be created free of disability is pervasive in both common sense and philosophy. We cast doubt on this view by focusing on an influential line of thinking that manifests it. That thinking begins with a widely-discussed principle, Procreative Beneficence, and draws conclusions about parental choice and disability. After reconstructing two versions of this argument, we critique the first by exploring the relationship between different understandings of well-being and disability, and the second (...)
  4. added 2018-07-07
    Ways to Be Worse Off.Ian Stoner - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (4):921-949.
    Does disability make a person worse off? I argue that the best answer is yes and no, because we can be worse off in two conceptually distinct ways. Disabilities usually make us worse off in one way (typified by facing hassles) but not in the other (typified by facing loneliness). Acknowledging two conceptually distinct ways to be worse off has fundamental implications for philosophical theories of well-being.
  5. added 2018-06-05
    Pulling Apart Well-Being at a Time and the Goodness of a Life.Owen C. King - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5:349-370.
    This article argues that a person’s well-being at a time and the goodness of her life are two distinct values. It is commonly accepted as platitudinous that well-being is what makes a life good for the person who lives it. Even philosophers who distinguish between well-being at a time and the goodness of a life still typically assume that increasing a person’s well-being at some particular moment, all else equal, necessarily improves her life on the whole. I develop a precise (...)
  6. added 2018-02-17
    On For Someone’s Sake Attitudes.Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen - 2009 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (4):397-411.
    Personal value, i.e., what is valuable for us, has recently been analysed in terms of so- called for-someone's-sake attitudes. This paper is an attempt to add flesh to the bone of these attitudes that have not yet been properly analysed in the philosophical literature. By employing a distinction between justifiers and identifiers, which corresponds to two roles a property may play in the intentional content of an attitude, two different kinds of for-someone's-sake attitudes can be identified. Moreover, it is argued (...)
  7. added 2018-01-06
    A New Argument for the Multiplicity of the Good-for Relation.Jeff Behrends - 2011 - Journal of Value Inquiry 45 (2):121-133.
  8. added 2017-11-29
    Does Moral Virtue Constitute a Benefit to the Agent?Brad Hooker - 1996 - In Roger Crisp (ed.), How Should one Live? Oxford University Press.
    Theories of individual well‐being fall into three main categories: hedonism, the desire‐fulfilment theory, and the list theory (which maintains that there are some things that can benefit a person without increasing the person's pleasure or desire‐fulfilment). The paper briefly explains the answers that hedonism and the desire‐fulfilment theory give to the question of whether being virtuous constitutes a benefit to the agent. Most of the paper is about the list theory's answer.
  9. added 2017-09-03
    Desire Satisfaction, Death, and Time.Duncan Purves - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (6):799-819.
    Desire satisfaction theories of well-being and deprivationism about the badness of death face similar problems: desire satisfaction theories have trouble locating the time when the satisfaction of a future or past-directed desire benefits a person; deprivationism has trouble locating a time when death is bad for a person. I argue that desire satisfaction theorists and deprivation theorists can address their respective timing problems by accepting fusionism, the view that some events benefit or harm individuals only at fusions of moments in (...)
  10. added 2017-05-01
    A Working Test for Well-Being.Tobias A. Fuchs - 2018 - Utilitas 30 (2):129-142.
    In order to make progress in the welfare debate, we need a way to decide whether certain cases depict changes in well-being or not. I argue that an intuitive idea by Nagel has received insufficient attention in the literature and can be developed into a test to that purpose. I discuss a version of such a test proposed by Brad Hooker, and argue that it is unsuccessful. I then present my own test, which relies on the claim that if compassion (...)
  11. added 2017-01-23
    Welfare, Meaning, and Worth.Aaron Smuts - 2017 - Routledge.
    _Welfare, Meaning, and Worth_ argues that there is more to what makes a life worth living than welfare, and that a good life does not consist of what is merely good for the one who lives it. Smuts defends an objective list theory that states that the notion of worth captures matters of importance for which no plausible theory of welfare can account. He puts forth that lives worth living are net high in various objective goods, including pleasure, meaning, knowledge, (...)
  12. added 2017-01-23
    Self-Interest and Self-Concern.Stephen Darwall - 1997 - Social Philosophy and Policy 14 (1):158.
    In what follows I consider whether the idea of a person's interest or good might be better understood through that of care or concern for that person for her sake, rather than conversely, as is ordinarily assumed. Contrary to desire-satisfaction theories of interest, such an account can explain why not everything a person rationally desires is part of her good, since what a person sensibly wants is not necessarily what we would sensibly want, insofar as we care about her. First, (...)
  13. added 2017-01-15
    Darwall on Welfare and Rational Care.Connie S. Rosati - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (3):619-635.
  14. added 2017-01-13
    Welfare and Rational Care.Stephen Darwall - 2002 - Princeton University Press.
    What kind of life best ensures human welfare? Since the ancient Greeks, this question has been as central to ethical philosophy as to ordinary reflection. But what exactly is welfare? This question has suffered from relative neglect. And, as Stephen Darwall shows, it has done so at a price. Presenting a provocative new "rational care theory of welfare," Darwall proves that a proper understanding of welfare fundamentally changes how we think about what is best for people.Most philosophers have assumed that (...)
  15. added 2016-12-12
    What is the Rational Care Theory of Welfare?Fred Feldman - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (3):585-601.
  16. added 2016-12-08
    Fitting Attitudes, Welfare, and Time.Jens Johansson - 2009 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (3):247-256.
    Chris Heathwood has recently put forward a novel and ingenious argument against the view that intrinsic value is analyzable in terms of fitting attitudes. According to Heathwood, this view holds water only if the related but distinct concept of welfare—intrinsic value for a person —can be analyzed in terms of fitting attitudes too. Moreover, he argues against such an analysis of welfare by appealing to the rationality of our bias towards the future. In this paper, I argue that so long (...)
  17. added 2016-12-08
    Analysing Personal Value.Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen - 2007 - The Journal of Ethics 11 (4):405-435.
    It is argued that the so-called fitting attitude- or buck-passing pattern of analysis may be applied to personal values too if the analysans is fine-tuned in the following way: An object has personal value for a person a, if and only if there is reason to favour it for a’s sake. One benefit with it is its wide range: different kinds of values are analysable by the same general formula. Moreover, by situating the distinguishing quality in the attitude rather than (...)
  18. added 2016-12-08
    Précis of Welfare and Rational Care.S. Darwall - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (3):579-584.
  19. added 2016-09-19
    Intrinsic and Extrinsic Value.Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen - 2015 - In Iwao Hirose & Jonas Olson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Value Theory. Oxford University Press USA.
    Section 2.1 identifies three notions of intrinsic value: the finality sense understands it as value for its own sake, the supervenience sense identifies it with value that depends exclusively on the bearer’s internal properties, and the nonderivative sense describes intrinsic value as value that provides justification for other values and is not justified by any other value. A distinction between final intrinsic and final extrinsic value in terms of supervenience is subsequently introduced. Section 2.2 contains a discussion of the debate (...)
  20. added 2016-07-11
    What Is Goodness Good For?Christian Piller - 2015 - In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies Normative Ethics: Volume 4. pp. 179-209.
  21. added 2016-05-09
    Toni Rønnow‐Rasmussen, Personal Value, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011, 185 Pp., US$ 75 , ISBN 9780199603787. [REVIEW]Olivier Massin - 2015 - Dialectica 69 (2):221-231.
    Personal Values is a delightful and enlightening read. It is teeming with novel insights, ground-breaking distinctions, rich examples, new delineations of the field, refreshing historical reminders, inventive arguments, unprecedented connections, identifications of neglected difficulties, and pioneering proposals. I shall focus here on three of these insights, which are illustrative of the pervasive scrupulousness and inventiveness of the book. The first is that there is a distinction between the supervenience base of values and their constitutive grounds. The second is that FA (...)
  22. added 2015-11-20
    The Concept of Well-Being.Stephen M. Campbell - 2016 - In Guy Fletcher (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being. Routledge.
  23. added 2015-10-27
    An Introduction to Ill-Being.Shelly Kagan - 2015 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 4:261-88.
    Typically, discussions of well-being focus almost exclusively on the positive aspects of well-being, those elements which directly contribute to a life going well, or better. It is generally assumed, without comment, that there is no need to explicitly discuss ill-being as well—that is, the part of the theory of well-being that specifies the elements which directly contribute to a life going badly, or less well—since (or so it is thought) this raises no special difficulties or problems. But this common assumption (...)
  24. added 2015-10-09
    The Science of Well-Being.Anna Alexandrova - 2015 - In Guy Fletcher (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being. Routledge. pp. 389-401.
  25. added 2015-10-08
    Prudential Value or Well-Being.Raffaele Rodogno - 2015 - In David Sander & Tobias Brosch (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Value: The Affective Sciences of Values and Valuation. Oxford University Press.
  26. added 2015-08-31
    The Elements of Well-Being.Brad Hooker - 2015 - Journal of Practical Ethics 3 (1):15-35.
    This essay contends that the constitutive elements of well-being are plural, partly objective, and separable. The essay argues that these elements are pleasure, friendship, significant achievement, important knowledge, and autonomy, but not either the appreciation of beauty or the living of a morally good life. The essay goes on to attack the view that elements of well-being must be combined in order for well-being to be enhanced. The final section argues against the view that, because anything important to say about (...)
  27. added 2015-06-29
    Welfare, Meaning, and Worth.Aaron Smuts - manuscript
    The central thesis of this book is that there is more to what makes a life worth living than welfare. I argue that the notion of worth captures matters of importance that no plausible theory of welfare can account for. Worth is best thought of as a higher-level kind of value. I defend an objective list theory (OLT) of worth¬—lives worth living are net high in various objective goods. Not only do I defend an list of some of the goods, (...)
  28. added 2015-06-29
    Harm and Causation.Robert Northcott - 2015 - Utilitas 27 (2):147-164.
    I propose an analysis of harm in terms of causation: harm is when a subject is caused to be worse off. The pay-off from this lies in the details. In particular, importing influential recent work from the causation literature yields a contrastive-counterfactual account. This enables us to incorporate harm's multiple senses into a unified scheme, and to provide that scheme with theoretical ballast. It also enables us to respond effectively to previous criticisms of counterfactual accounts, as well as to sharpen (...)
  29. added 2015-06-29
    Good, Conation, and Pleasure.Richard Kraut - 2007 - In What is Good and Why: The Ethics of Well-Being. Harvard University Press. pp. 66-130.
  30. added 2015-06-13
    Medicine & Well-Being.Daniel Groll - 2015 - In Guy Fletcher (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being. Routledge.
    The connections between medicine and well-being are myriad. This paper focuses on the place of well-being in clinical medicine. It is here that different views of well-being, and their connection to concepts like “autonomy” and “authenticity”, both illuminate and are illuminated by looking closely at the kinds of interactions that routinely take place between clinicians, patients, and family members. -/- In the first part of the paper, I explore the place of well-being in a paradigmatic clinical encounter, one where a (...)
  31. added 2015-05-23
    The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being.Guy Fletcher (ed.) - 2015 - Routledge.
    The concept of well-being is one of the oldest and most important topics in philosophy and ethics, going back to ancient Greek philosophy and Aristotle. Following the boom in happiness studies in the last few years it has moved to centre stage, grabbing media headlines and the attention of scientists, psychologists and economists. Yet little is actually known about well-being and it is an idea often poorly articulated. The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being provides a comprehensive, outstanding guide and (...)
  32. added 2015-05-12
    When the Shape of a Life Matters.Stephen M. Campbell - 2015 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (3): 565-75.
    It seems better to have a life that begins poorly and ends well than a life that begins well and ends poorly. One possible explanation is that the very shape of a life can be good or bad for us. If so, this raises a tough question: when can the shape of our lives be good or bad for us? In this essay, I present and critique an argument that the shape of a life is a non-synchronic prudential value—that is, (...)
  33. added 2015-04-20
    Well‐Being, Self‐Regarding Reasons, and Morality.Howard L. M. Nye - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (4):332-341.
    It seems that we should want to avoid becoming intellectually disabled. It is common for philosophers to infer from this that those of us without intellectual disabilities are intrinsically better off than individuals with intellectual disabilities, and that there are consequently stronger moral reasons for others to preserve our lives than to preserve the lives of intellectually disabled individuals. In this article, I argue against this inference from what states we should prefer for ourselves to how much moral reason others (...)
  34. added 2015-04-07
    The Concept of Welfare in Economics.W. D. Lamont, Honor Brotman & J. P. Corbett - 1953 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 27:159-230.
  35. added 2015-03-23
    Stephen Darwall, Welfare and Rational Care.A. E. Wengraf - 2004 - Philosophical Inquiry 26 (4):145-148.
  36. added 2015-03-22
    "Review of" Welfare and Rational Care". [REVIEW]H. Benjamin Shaeffer - 2006 - Essays in Philosophy 7 (2):14.
  37. added 2015-03-20
    Review: What Is the Rational Care Theory of Welfare? [REVIEW]Fred Feldman - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (3):585 - 601.
  38. added 2015-03-20
    Symposium: The Concept of Welfare in Economics.W. D. Lamont, Honor Brotman & J. P. Corbett - 1953 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 27 (1):159 - 230.
  39. added 2015-03-18
    Welfare and Rational Care.Emer O'Hagan - 2005 - Dialogue 44 (3):620-622.
  40. added 2015-03-18
    Welfare and Rational Care.N. Shah - 2004 - Philosophical Review 113 (4):577-582.
  41. added 2015-03-18
    Welfare and Rational Care.Jean Chambers - 2004 - Philosophy Now 45:44-45.
  42. added 2015-02-24
    Happiness is Not Well-Being.Jason R. Raibley - 2012 - Journal of Happiness Studies 13 (6):1105-1129.
    This paper attempts to explain the conceptual connections between happiness and well-being. It first distinguishes episodic happiness from happiness in the personal attribute sense. It then evaluates two recent proposals about the connection between happiness and well-being: (1) the idea that episodic happiness and well-being both have the same fundamental determinants, so that a person is well-off to a particular degree in virtue of the fact that they are happy to that degree, and (2) the idea that happiness in the (...)
  43. added 2015-01-19
    Harm.Michael Rabenberg - 2014 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 8 (3):1-32.
    In recent years, philosophers have proposed a variety of accounts of the nature of harm. In this paper, I consider several of these accounts and argue that they are unsuccessful. I then make a modest case for a different view.
  44. added 2014-11-03
    Well-Being as an Object of Science.Anna Alexandrova - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (5):678-689.
    The burgeoning science of well-being makes no secret of being value laden: improvement of well-being is its explicit goal. But in order to achieve this goal its concepts and claims need to be value adequate; that is, they need, among other things, to adequately capture well-being. In this article I consider two ways of securing this adequacy—first, by relying on philosophical theory of prudential value and, second, by the psychometric approach. I argue that neither is fully adequate and explore an (...)
  45. added 2014-11-03
    Values and the Science of Well-Being : A Recipe for Mixing.Anna Alexandrova - 2012 - In Harold Kincaid (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science. Oxford University Press.
  46. added 2014-08-18
    Chekov and the Egalitarian.John O'Neill - 2001 - Ratio 14 (2):165–170.
    What is it for a situation to be worse or better for someone? This paper considers an answer to that question which draws on a distinction implicit in a work of Chekhov between a happy and a worthwhile life. It examines the implications of that answer for recent debates about equality, outlining the virtues of a virtues-based egalitarianism.
  47. added 2014-06-24
    Doing Well in the Circumstances.Anna Alexandrova - 2013 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 10 (3):307-328.
    Judgments of well-being across different circumstances and spheres of life exhibit a staggering diversity. Depending on the situation, we use different standards of well-being and even treat it as being constituted by different things. This is true of scientific studies as well as of everyday life. How should we interpret this diversity? I consider three ways of doing so: first, denying the legitimacy of this diversity, second, treating well-being as semantically invariant but differentially realizable, and, third, adopting contextualist semantics for (...)
  48. added 2014-06-23
    Meaning as a Distinct and Fundamental Value: Reply to Kershnar.Thaddeus Metz - 2014 - Science, Religion and Culture 1 (2):101-106.
    In this article, I reply to a critical notice of my book, Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study, that Stephen Kershnar has published elsewhere in this issue of Science, Religion & Culture. Beyond expounding the central conclusions of the book, Kershnar advances two major criticisms of it, namely, first, that I did not provide enough evidence that meaning in life is a genuine value-theoretic category as something distinct from and competing with, say, objective well-being, and, second, that, even if there (...)
  49. added 2014-04-02
    Persons, Perspectives, and Full Information Accounts of the Good.Connie S. Rosati - 1995 - Ethics 105 (2):296-325.
  50. added 2014-04-01
    Internalism and the Good for a Person.Connie S. Rosati - 1996 - Ethics 106 (2):297-326.
    Proponents of numerous recent theories of a person's good hold that a plausible account of the good for a person must satisfy existence internalism. Yet little direct defense has been given for this position. I argue that the principal intuition behind internalism supports a stronger version of the thesis than it might appear--one that effects a "double link" to motivation. I then identify and develop the main arguments that have been or might be given in support of internalism about a (...)
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