Happiness and Ethical Inquiry: An Essay in the Psychology of Well-Being

Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick (2001)

Dan Haybron
Saint Louis University
Ethical theorists often refer to the psychological condition of happiness as a crucial part, if not the whole, of human well-being. Yet few have made a serious effort to determine just what this condition is. For the most part theorists have either assumed or stipulated a particular conception of happiness, or simply taken happiness to be whatever their preferred axiology deems important. This dissertation aims to shed light on the nature of human well-being by taking seriously the psychological states that are widely thought to be important for welfare, happiness in particular. ;The inquiry proceeds in three stages. The first part of the dissertation addresses a badly neglected question: what is a theory of happiness supposed to do? Existing methods have failed badly, with the result that there has been little discussion of the principled merits of various proposals. Worse, there is no coherent body of literature on happiness: philosophical work under the rubric of 'happiness' actually concerns at least three quite distinct subject matters that are often confused. Our project focuses on happiness understood as a psychological condition. There are seven desiderata that accounts of happiness should satisfy. In a nutshell, the best conception will be both intuitively acceptable and enable us to satisfy our practical and theoretical interests in happiness. There are three basic views of note: the life satisfaction theory, hedonism, and the affective state theory. The second part of the dissertation argues against the first two and defends a version of the third. According to this view, happiness consists in a person's overall mood state---what we might call a person's "thymic state." This includes moods, mood-related emotions, and a variable disposition to experience moods. ;The final part of the dissertation considers the normative import of happiness, arguing that happiness is important both hedonically and through its relation to matters of identity. Happiness appears to be an objective good. Though not sufficient for well-being, happiness is central to it, and sometimes serves as a proxy for well-being. Happiness is a major concern for ethical theory
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On Being Happy or Unhappy.Daniel M. Haybron - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (2):287–317.

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