About this topic
Summary The topic of well-being (welfare, self-interest, the good life) concerns how well an individual is doing or faring and, more broadly, how well one's life goes for her. Things that positively impact your well-being are good for you, benefit you, are in your self-interest, or have prudential value for you; things that negatively impact your well-being are bad for you, harm you, or have prudential disvalue for you. The philosophical literature on well-being is primarily devoted to assessing theories of well-being, which purport to identify what ultimately makes us better or worse off. The distinction between subjective and objective theories marks a notable divide in the literature. Proponents of subjective theories--e.g. desire-fulfillment and, arguably, hedonistic theories--maintain that something is good (or bad) for you only if you have, or under idealized conditions would have, some specified favorable (or unfavorable) attitude toward it. Proponents of objective theories, such as "objective list" and perfectionist theories, deny this.
Key works Influential early works in the contemporary well-being literature include Parfit 1984, Appendix I; Griffin 1986; and Sumner 1996. The most popular subjective theories are hedonistic theories (Feldman 2004, Crisp 2006, Bramble 2016), desire-fulfillment theories (Railton 1986, Heathwood 2005), and "hybrid" theories that include a subjective and objective component (Adams 1999, Ch. 3; Kagan 2009). The most popular objective theories are "objective list" theories that posit a plurality of basic goods (see Finnis 1979, Nussbaum 2000, and Hurka 2010) and perfectionist theories that identify well-being with the "perfection" or development of one's nature (Kraut 2007; cf. Hurka 1993).
Introductions For a general introduction to the well-being literature, see Parfit 1984, Appendix I; Sumner 1996, Ch. 1; Heathwood 2010; and Crisp 2013Velleman 1991 is an influential treatment of the relationship between synchronic and diachronic well-being. Hanser 2008 provides a helpful survey of competing theories of harm. 
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The Concept of Well-Being
  1. The Science of Well-Being.Anna Alexandrova - 2015 - In Guy Fletcher (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being. Routledge. pp. 389-401.
  2. 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 (...)
  3. 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.
  4. 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 (...)
  5. Stephen Darwall, Welfare and Rational Care:Welfare and Rational Care.Richard J. Arneson - 2004 - Ethics 114 (4):815-819.
  6. 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 (...)
  7. A New Argument for the Multiplicity of the Good-for Relation.Jeff Behrends - 2011 - Journal of Value Inquiry 45 (2):121-133.
  8. Death and Well-Being.John Bigelow, John Campbell & Robert Pargetter - 1990 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 71 (2):119-40.
  9. 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 (...)
  10. `Good' and `Good For': A Reply to Hurka.E. J. Bond - 1988 - Mind 97 (386):279-280.
  11. Is Welfare an Independent Good?Talbot Brewer - 2009 - Social Philosophy and Policy 26 (1):96-125.
    In recent years, philosophical inquiry into individual welfare has blossomed into something of a cottage industry, and this literature has provided the conceptual foundations for an equally voluminous literature on aggregate social welfare. In this essay, I argue that substantial portions of both bodies of literature ought to be viewed as philosophical manifestations of a characteristically modern illusion—the illusion, in particular, that there is a special kind of goodness that is irreducibly person-relative. Theories that are built upon this idea suffer (...)
  12. The Retrieval of Ethics.Talbot Brewer - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
    Talbot Brewer offers a new approach to ethical theory, founded on a far-reaching reconsideration of the nature and sources of human agency.
  13. The Concept of Well-Being.Stephen M. Campbell - 2016 - In Guy Fletcher (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being. Routledge.
  14. 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, (...)
  15. An Analysis of Prudential Value.Stephen M. Campbell - 2013 - Utilitas 25 (3):334-54.
    This essay introduces and defends a new analysis of prudential value. According to this analysis, what it is for something to be good for you is for that thing to contribute to the appeal or desirability of being in your position. I argue that this proposal fits well with our ways of talking about prudential value and well-being; enables promising analyses of the related concepts of luck, selfishness, self-sacrifice, and paternalism; preserves the relationship between prudential value and the attitudes of (...)
  16. Welfare and Rational Care.Jean Chambers - 2004 - Philosophy Now 45:44-45.
  17. Love, Poetry, and the Good Life: Mill's Autobiography and Perfectionist Ethics.Samuel Clark - 2010 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 53 (6):565-578.
    I argue for a perfectionist reading of Mill’s account of the good life, by using the failures of development recorded in his Autobiography as a way to understand his official account of happiness in Utilitarianism. This work offers both a new perspective on Mill’s thought, and a distinctive account of the role of aesthetic and emotional capacities in the most choiceworthy human life. I consider the philosophical purposes of autobiography, Mill’s disagreements with Bentham, and the nature of competent judges and (...)
  18. Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen, Personal Value. [REVIEW]Christian Coons - 2012 - Ethics 123 (1):183-188.
  19. Welfare and Rational Care. By Stephen Darwall.G. Cullity - unknown
  20. Précis of Welfare and Rational Care.S. Darwall - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (3):579-584.
  21. Reply to Griffin, Raz, and Wolf.Stephen Darwall - 2006 - Utilitas 18 (4):434-444.
    I am honored that Jim Griffin, Joseph Raz, and Susan Wolf, all of whose work I greatly admire, have thought my ideas on welfare and care worth engaging, and I am very grateful to them for doing so. Each has raised searching and difficult questions. Rather than attempting to respond to them seriatim, I propose to discuss the issues under three broad headings: questions about the concept of welfare, questions about care or sympathetic concern, and the question of whether welfare (...)
  22. 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 (...)
  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, (...)
  24. Interpersonal Comparisons of Well-Being.Jon Elster & John E. Roemer (eds.) - 1991 - Cambridge University Press.
    In this volume a diverse group of economists, philosophers, political scientists, and psychologists address the problems, principles, and practices involved in comparing the well-being of different individuals. A series of questions lie at the heart of this investigation: What is the relevant concept of well-being for the purposes of comparison? How could the comparisons be carried out for policy purposes? How are such comparisons made now? How do the difficulties involved in these comparisons affect the status of utilitarian theories? This (...)
  25. What is This Thing Called Happiness?Fred Feldman - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    Some puzzles about happiness -- Pt. I. Some things that happiness isn't. Sensory hedonism about happiness -- Kahneman's "objective happiness" -- Subjective local preferentism about happiness -- Whole life satisfaction concepts of happiness -- Pt. II. What happiness is. What is this thing called happiness? -- Attitudinal hedonism about happiness -- Eudaimonism -- The problem of inauthentic happiness -- Disgusting happiness -- Our authority over our own happiness -- Pt. III. Implications for the empirical study of happiness. Measuring happiness -- (...)
  26. Review: What Is the Rational Care Theory of Welfare? [REVIEW]Fred Feldman - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (3):585 - 601.
  27. What is the Rational Care Theory of Welfare? A Comment on Stephen Darwall's Welfare and Rational Care.Fred Feldman - manuscript
    When we speak of a “good life” there are several different things we might mean. We might mean a morally good life. We might mean a life good for others, or good for the world in general. We might mean a life good in itself for the one who lives it. This last may also be described as the life high in individual welfare.
  28. What is the Rational Care Theory of Welfare?Fred Feldman - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (3):585-601.
  29. 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 (...)
  30. Resisting Buck-Passing Accounts of Prudential Value.Guy Fletcher - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (1):77-91.
    This paper aims to cast doubt upon a certain way of analysing prudential value (or good for ), namely in the manner of a ‘buck-passing’ analysis. It begins by explaining why we should be interested in analyses of good for and the nature of buck-passing analyses generally (§I). It moves on to considering and rejecting two sets of buck-passing analyses. The first are analyses that are likely to be suggested by those attracted to the idea of analysing good for in (...)
  31. The Locative Analysis of Good For Formulated and Defended.Guy Fletcher - 2012 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (JESP) 6 (1):1-27.
    THE STRUCTURE OF THIS PAPER IS AS FOLLOWS. I begin §1 by dealing with preliminary issues such as the different relations expressed by the “good for” locution. I then (§2) outline the Locative Analysis of good for and explain its main elements before moving on to (§3) outlining and discussing the positive features of the view. In the subsequent sections I show how the Locative Analysis can respond to objections from, or inspired by, Sumner (§4-5), Regan (§6), and Schroeder and (...)
  32. Rejecting Well-Being Invariabilism.Guy Fletcher - 2009 - Philosophical Papers 38 (1):21-34.
    This paper is an attempt to undermine a basic assumption of theories of well-being, one that I call well-being invariabilism. I argue that much of what makes existing theories of well-being inadequate stems from the invariabilist assumption. After distinguishing and explaining well-being invariabilism and well-being variabilism, I show that the most widely-held theories of well-being—hedonism, desire-satisfaction, and pluralist objective-list theories—presuppose invariabilism and that a large class of the objections to them arise because of it. My aim is to show that (...)
  33. 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 (...)
  34. Darwall on Welfare as Rational Care.James Griffin - 2006 - Utilitas 18 (4):427-433.
    Darwall's subject is a person's welfare – or to use his synonyms, a person's ‘good’, ‘interest’, ‘well-being’, ‘benefit’, or ‘eudaimonia’. Darwall is satisfied that there is a univocal notion here. I am unsure and shall come back to that question at the end.
  35. 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 (...)
  36. Still More on the Metaphysics of Harm.Matthew Hanser - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (2):459-469.
  37. The Metaphysics of Harm.Matthew Hanser - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (2):421-450.
  38. Fitting Attitudes and Welfare.Chris Heathwood - 2008 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 3:47-73.
    The purpose of this paper is to present a new argument against so-called fitting attitude analyses of intrinsic value, according to which, roughly, for something to be intrinsically good is for there to be reasons to want it for its own sake. The argument is indirect. First, I submit that advocates of a fitting-attitude analysis of value should, for the sake of theoretical unity, also endorse a fitting-attitude analysis of a closely related but distinct concept: the concept of intrinsic value (...)
  39. Review of Stephen Darwall, Welfare and Rational Care. [REVIEW]Chris Heathwood - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):615-617.
  40. Why 'Nonexistent People' Do Not Have Zero Wellbeing but No Wellbeing at All.Ori J. Herstein - 2013 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (2):136-145.
    Some believe that the harm or benefit of existence is assessed by comparing a person's actual state of wellbeing with the level of wellbeing they would have had had they never existed. This approach relies on ascribing a state or level of wellbeing to ‘nonexistent people’, which seems a peculiar practice: how can we attribute wellbeing to a ‘nonexistent person'? To explain away this oddity, some have argued that because no properties of wellbeing can be attributed to ‘nonexistent people’ such (...)
  41. Review: Welfare and Rational Care. [REVIEW]B. Hooker - 2005 - Mind 114 (454):409-413.
  42. 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 (...)
  43. 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.
  44. `Good' and `Good For'.Thomas Hurka - 1987 - Mind 96 (381):71-73.
  45. Wipe That Smile Off Your Face.Aaron Jarden & Dan Weijers - 2011 - The Philosophers' Magazine 52 (52):53-58.
    There are enigmas of defining happiness and of discerning what it is that really makes a life go well for someone – topics that positive psychologists have not adequately addressed to date. And this is despite the fact that Ed Diener sees positive psychology as “the endeavour by scientists to answer the classic question posed by philosophers: What is the good life?” What is rarely mentioned by positive psychologists is that, depending on how the specific happiness questions are worded, they (...)
  46. 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 (...)
  47. 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 (...)
  48. Working Hard and Kicking Back: The Case for Diachronic Perfectionism.Antti Kauppinen - 2008 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (1):1-10.
    Dan Haybron has argued by counterexample that perfectionism fails as a theory of well-being. I respond by articulating two different versions of diachronic perfectionism, which takes into account the level of development and exercise of essential human capacities over the course of an entire lifetime.
  49. What Is This Thing Called Well-Being.Richard Kim - manuscript
  50. David Sobel, From Valuing to Value: A Defense of Subjectivism , Pp. Vii + 312.Owen C. King - forthcoming - Utilitas:1-5.
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