Achievement, welfare and consequentialism

Analysis 61 (2):156–162 (2001)
significant role for accomplishment thereby admits a ‘Trojan Horse’ (267).1 To abandon hedonism in favour of a conception of well-being that incorporates achievement is to take the first step down a slippery slope toward the collapse of the other two pillars of utilitarian morality: welfarism and consequentialism. We shall argue that Crisp’s arguments do not support these conclusions. We begin with welfarism. Crisp defines it thus: ‘Well-being is the only value. Everything good must be good for some being or beings’ (264). The first part of this definition is potentially misleading, since it makes it sound as if welfarism adopts a monistic account of value, in which well-being is the only good thing. But well-being, as Crisp notes, when discussing hedonism, is best understood as consisting in a balance of good things over bad in one’s life. So understood, welfarism is silent on the issue of what things are good; it places a structural restriction on what kinds of things can be good: they must be things that are good for beings. It is a separate task to supply the content to fit this structure by determining what things are good, and welfarists differ in their answers: hedonists traditionally assert that pleasure alone is good; others add further items such as knowledge and virtue. Why is the thought that a person’s well-being depends importantly on what they accomplish a threat to welfarism? An accomplishment is judged both by its outcome or product and by the manner of the performance itself. But an activity or outcome is only an achievement if it is worthwhile, and whether it is worthwhile will depend on whether it exhibits what Crisp asserts to be ‘non-welfarist values’ (266), such as beauty, grace, importance, or style - excellences which welfarism, in Crisp’s view, cannot accommodate because they cannot be ‘cashed out in welfarist terms’, or ‘reduced to the value of well-being’ (266). Here Crisp rests his case, but it is worth trying to get clearer about the difficulties in order to see if the welfarist can meet them..
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DOI 10.1111/1467-8284.00288
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Raffaele Rodogno (2008). On the Importance of Well-Being. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (2):197-212.

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