An Opinionated Guide to “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best”

In Andrea Sauchelli (ed.), Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons: An Introduction and Critical Inquiry. Routledge. pp. 94-113 (2020)
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Derek Parfit's monumental 1984 book Reasons and Persons contains a little appendix called "What Makes Someone's Life Go Best," a mini-essay on well-being that has taken on a life of its own apart from the body to which it is attached. This paper serves as a critical guide to that appendix. Topics include: the nature of pleasure and pain and its relation to theories of well-being; the unrestricted desire-fulfillment theory and the problem of remote desires; whether a person's actual preferences should determine their counterfactual well-being; summative vs. global desire-fulfillment theories; the single-life repugnant conclusion; and objective vs. subjective vs. hybrid theories of well-being. Opinions being defended include: that Parfit's solution to the problem of remote desires fails; that his view on actual preferences and counterfactual well-being is right; that his arguments for global over summative desire-fulfilment theories fail; and that the single-life repugnant conclusion should be accepted.



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Chris Heathwood
University of Colorado, Boulder

Citations of this work

Making desires satisfied, making satisfied desires.Alexander Dietz - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):979-999.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Principia ethica.George Edward Moore - 1903 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Thomas Baldwin.

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