How should you live? Should you devote yourself to perfecting a single talent or try to live a balanced life? Should you lighten up and have more fun, or buckle down and try to achieve greatness? Should you try to be a better friend? Should you be self-critical or self-accepting? And how should you decide among the possibilities open to you? Should you consult experts, listen to your parents, or should you do lots of research? Should you make lists of (...) pros and cons, or go with your gut? These are not questions that can be answered in general or in the abstract. Rather, these questions are addressed to the first person point of view, to the perspective each of us occupies when we reflect on how to live without knowing exactly what we're aiming for. To answer them, this book focuses on the process of living one's life from the inside, rather than on defining goals from the outside. Drawing on traditional philosophical sources as well as literature and recent work in social psychology, this book argues that to live well, we need to develop reflective wisdom: to care about things that will sustain us and give us good experiences, to have perspective on our successes and failures, and to be moderately self-aware and cautiously optimistic about human nature. Further, we need to know when to think about our values, character, and choices, and when not to. A crucial part of wisdom, the book maintains, is being able to shift perspectives: to be self-critical; to be realistic; to examine life when reflection is appropriate, but not when we should lose ourselves in experience. (shrink)
The lack of gender parity in philosophy has garnered serious attention recently. Previous empirical work that aims to quantify what has come to be called “the gender gap” in philosophy focuses mainly on the absence of women in philosophy faculty and graduate programs. Our study looks at gender representation in philosophy among undergraduate students, undergraduate majors, graduate students, and faculty. Our findings are consistent with what other studies have found about women faculty in philosophy, but we were able to add (...) two pieces of new information. First, the biggest drop in the proportion of women in philosophy occurs between students enrolled in introductory philosophy classes and philosophy majors. Second, this drop is mitigated by the presence of more women philosophy faculty. (shrink)
What is well-being? This is one of humanity's oldest and deepest questions; Valerie Tiberius offers a fresh answer. She argues that our lives go well to the extent that we succeed in what matters to us emotionally, reflectively, and over the long term. So when we want to help others achieve well-being, we should pay attention to their values.
This is the first philosophy textbook in moral psychology, introducing students to a range of philosophical topics and debates such as: What is moral motivation? Do reasons for action always depend on desires? Is emotion or reason at the heart of moral judgment? Under what conditions are people morally responsible? Are there self-interested reasons for people to be moral? Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction presents research by philosophers and psychologists on these topics, and addresses the overarching question of how empirical (...) research is relevant to philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
ABSTRACT:This paper examines the norms that should guide policies aimed at promoting happiness or, more broadly, well-being. In particular, we take up the question of which conception of well-being should govern well-being policy, assuming some such policies to be legitimate. In answer, we lay out a case for ‘pragmatic subjectivism’: given widely accepted principles of respect for persons, well-being policy may not assume any view of well-being, subjectivist or objectivist. Rather, it should promote what its intended beneficiaries see as good (...) for them: pleasure for hedonists, excellence for Aristotelians, etc. Specifically, well-being policy should promote citizens’ ‘personal welfare values’: those values—and not mere preferences—that individuals see as bearing on their well-being. Finally, we briefly consider how pragmatic subjectivism works in practice. While our discussion takes for granted the legitimacy of well-being policy, we suggest that pragmatic subjectivism strengthens the case for such policy. (shrink)
Whether it is to be maximized or promoted as the object of a duty of beneficence, well-being is a vitally important notion in ethical theory. Well-being is a value, but to play the role it has often been assigned by ethical theory it must also be something we can measure and compare. It is a normative concept, then, but it also seems to have empirical content. Historically, philosophical conceptions of well-being have been responsive to the paired demands for normative and (...) empirical adequacy. However, recent work has yet to pay serious attention to the burgeoning field of well-being research in empirical psychology. This might be because the research is new and unknown, or it might be due to uncertainty about how a philosophical investigation would take such research into account. This chapter offers solutions to both of these problems. It provides an overview of well-being research in empirical psychology. It then uses this overview as part of an argument for an empirical informed account of well-being that we call the Value-Based Life Satisfaction Account. (shrink)
Practical wisdom (hereafter simply ‘wisdom’), which is the understanding required to make reliably good decisions about how we ought to live, is something we all have reason to care about. The importance of wisdom gives rise to questions about its nature: what kind of state is wisdom, how can we develop it, and what is a wise person like? These questions about the nature of wisdom give rise to further questions about proper methods for studying wisdom. Is the study of (...) wisdom the proper subject of philosophy or psychology? How, exactly, can we determine what wisdom is and how we can get it? In this chapter, we give an overview of some prominent philosophical answers to these questions. We begin by distinguishing practical wisdom from theoretical wisdom and wisdom as epistemic humility. Once we have a clearer sense of the target, we address questions of method and argue that producing a plausible and complete account of wisdom will require the tools of both philosophy and empirical psychology. We also discuss the implications this has for prominent wisdom research methods in empirical psychology. We then survey prominent philosophical accounts of the nature of wisdom and end with reflections on the prospects for further interdisciplinary research. (shrink)
Well-being in the broadest sense is what we have when we are living lives that are not necessarily morally good, but good for us. In philosophy, well-being has been an important topic of inquiry for millennia. In psychology, well-being as a topic has been gathering steam very recently and this research is now at a stage that warrants the attention of philosophers. The most popular theories of well-being in the two fields are similar enough to suggest the possibility of interdisciplinary (...) collaboration. In this essay I provide an overview of three of the main questions that arise from psychologists’ work on well-being, and highlight areas that invite philosophical input. Those questions center on the nature, measurement, and moral significance of well-being. I also argue that the life-satisfaction theory is particularly well suited to meet the various demands on a theory of well-being. (shrink)
Extensive discussions of practical wisdom are relatively rare in the philosophical literature these days. This is strange given the theoretical and practical importance of wisdom and, indeed, the etymology of the word "philosophy." In this paper, we remedy this inattention by proposing a methodology for developing a theory of wisdom and using this methodology to outline a viable theory. The methodology we favor is a version of wide reflective equilibrium. We begin with psychological research on folk intuitions about wisdom, which (...) helps us to avoid problems caused by reliance on the possibly idiosyncratic intuitions of professional philosophers. The folk theory is then elaborated in light of theoretical desiderata and further empirical research on human cognitive capacities. The resulting view emphasizes policies that the wise person adopts in order to cope with the many obstacles to making good choices. (shrink)
Some theories of well-being in philosophy and in psychology define people’s well-being in psychological terms. According to these theories, living well is getting what you want, feeling satisfied, experiencing pleasure, or the like. Other theories take well-being to be something that is not defined by our psychology: for example, they define well-being in terms of objective values or the perfection of our human nature. These two approaches present us with a trade-off: The more we define well-being in terms of people’s (...) psychology, the less ideal it seems and the less it looks like something of real value that could be an important aim of human life. On the other hand, the more we define well-being in terms of objective features of the world that do not have to do with people’s psychological states, the less it looks like something that each of us has a reason to promote. In this paper I argue that we can take a middle path between these two approaches if we hold that well-being is an ideal but an ideal that is rooted in our psychology. The middle path that I propose is one that puts what people value at the center of the theory of well-being. In the second half of the paper I consider how the value-based theory I describe should be applied to real life situations. (shrink)
In this paper I introduce a version of constructivism that relies on a theory of practical wisdom. Wise judgment constructivism is a type of constructivism because it takes correct judgments about what we have “all-in” reason to do to be the result of a process we can follow, where our interest in the results of this process stems from our practical concerns. To fully defend the theory would require a comprehensive account of wisdom, which is not available. Instead, I describe (...) a constructivist methodology for defending an account of wisdom and outline its main features. This gives us enough to see what wise judgment constructivism would look like, why it might be an attractive theory, and how it is different from other versions of constructivism. (shrink)
Robert Johnson argues that virtue ethical accounts of right action fail because they cannot take account of the fact that there are things we ought to do precisely because we do not possess virtuous character traits. Self-improving actions are his paradigm case and it would indeed be a problem if virtue ethics could not make sense of the propriety of self-improvement. To solve this serious problem, I propose that virtue ethics ought to define right action in terms of the virtuous (...) agent's reasons for action instead of defining right action in terms of the actions that the virtuous agent performs. I argue that this revised definition of right action makes sense of the rightness of self-improving actions and that it can be given a genuinely virtue ethical interpretation. (shrink)
This paper is a contribution to the debate about eudaimonism started by Kashdan, Biswas-Diener, King, and Waterman in a previous issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology. We point out that one thing that is missing from this debate is an understanding of the problems with subjective theories of well-being that motivate a turn to objective theories. A better understanding of the rationale for objective theories helps us to see what is needed from a theory of well-being. We then argue (...) that a suitably modified subjective theory can provide what is needed and that this is the theory that ought to be favored by psychologists. Keywords: well-being; happiness; hedonism; eudaimonia; subjective well-being; theory; values.. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the debate between subjective and objective theories of prudential value obscures the way in which elements of both are needed for a comprehensive theory of prudential value. I suggest that we characterize these two types of theory in terms of their different aims: procedural (or subjective) theories give an account of the necessary conditions for something to count as good for a person, while substantive (or objective) theories give an account of what is good (...) for a person, given some set of necessary conditions. Characterizing the theories in this way allows us to see their mutual compatibility. To make this case, I assume that a theory of prudential value ought to be descriptively and normatively adequate. The criterion of descriptive adequacy requires that our theory explain the subject relativity of prudential value. I characterize subject relativity in terms of justifiability to subjects and I argue that certain procedural theories are well suited to meet this criterion. The criterion of normative adequacy requires that our theory be capable of guiding action and I argue that a certain kind of substantive theory is needed to meet this requirement. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question "In virtue of what do practical reasons have normative force or justificatory power?" There seems to be good reason to doubt that desires are the source of normativity. However, I argue that the reasons to be suspicious of desire-based accounts of normativity can be overcome by a sufficiently sophisticated account. The position I defend in this paper is one according to which desires, or more generally, proattitudes, do constitute values and provide rational justifications of actions (...) when they are organized in the right way. (shrink)
In cross-cultural studies of well-being psychologists have shown ways in which well-being or its constituents are tailored by culture (Arrindell et. al. 1997, Diener and Diener 1995, Kitayama et. al. 2000, Oishi & Diener 2001, Oishi et. al. 1999). Some psychologists have taken the fact of cultural variance to imply that there is no universal notion of well-being (Ryan and Deci, 2001, Christopher 1999). Most philosophers, on the other hand, have assumed that there is a notion of well-being that has (...) universal application. Given the facts about cultural variance, is this a mistake? What are the implications for philosophers of the existence of cultural differences in well-being? In answer to these questions I distinguish two different philosophical projects in the area of well-being. One of these projects seeks to provide a formal analysis of well-being. I argue that this project is not undermined by the kinds of cultural differences that have been discovered and that, therefore, there might be a universal notion of well-being. The other project seeks to provide a substantive account of well-being. Cultural differences are relevant here, but not always as directly relevant as one might have assumed. The main goal of this paper, then, is to argue that the implications of cultural differences for the philosophical project are limited and to clear the ground for a universal notion of well-being. In service of this main goal, the paper takes on three subsidiary tasks. First, I clarify the basic question or questions that philosophers are trying to answer when they talk about well-being. Second, I provide a.. (shrink)
In Plato’s dialogue the Republic, Glaucon challenges Socrates to prove that the just (or moral) life is better or more advantageous than the unjust one. Socrates’s answer to the challenge is notoriously unsatisfying. Could new research on well-being in philosophy and psychology allow us to do better? After distinguishing two different approaches to the question “why be moral?” I argue that while new research on well-being does not provide an answer that would satisfy Glaucon, it does shed light on the (...) topic. Empirical research has different implications for our prudential reasons to be moral depending on which philosophical theory of well-being is accepted. Some well-being theories sustain stronger links to morality than others, but any theory of well-being can make use of empirical research to narrow the gap between prudence and morality to some extent. (shrink)
The question of how to reason well is an important normative question,one which ultimately motivates some of our interest in the more abstracttopic of the principles of practical reason. It is this normative questionthat I propose to address by arguing that given the goal of an importantkind of deliberation, we will deliberate better if we develop certainvirtues. I give an account of the virtue of stability and I argue thatstability makes reasoners reason better. Further,I suggest at the end of the (...) paper that an account of virtues thatconduce to good reasoning might go a long way toward answering someof the traditional questions about the principles ofpractical reason. (shrink)
When we are confronted with choices we take to be important, choices that affect our more important ends or goals, we usually attempt to judge what would be best for us. We reflect on what is best for us when we have to decide such things as which college to attend, whether to go to graduate school or law school, whether to marry, or whether to take our parents in when they need care. When we make such decisions, we think (...) about what will contribute to the best life for us. In thinking about the best life for us, moral considerations matter, but they are not the only considerations we think are relevant. I will focus on aspects of these important choices that are not necessarily moral. The broad question that motivates this paper is this: what standards or principles govern good deliberation about choices of this kind? (shrink)
In this paper I argue that one of the standards that governs practical reasoning is the stability standard. The stability standard, I argue, is a norm that is constitutive of practical reasoning: insofar as we do not take violations of this norm to be relevant considerations, we do not count as engaged in reasoning at all. Furthermore, I argue that it is a standard we can explicitly employ in order to deliberate about our ends or desires themselves. Importantly, this standard (...) will not require that some ends are prescribed or determined by reason alone. (edited). (shrink)
The idea that what is intrinsically good for people must be something they want or care about is a compelling one. Goal-fulfillment theories of well-being, which make this idea their central tenet, have a lot going for them. They offer a good explanation of why we tend to be motivated to pursue what’s good for us, and they seem to best explain how well-being is especially related to individual subjects. Yet such theories have been under attack recently for not being (...) able to account for robust or basic bads, such as pain and nausea. This paper argues that a psychologically informed goal-fulfillment theory can accommodate intuitions about robust bads by relying on aversions. Attending to aversion highlights a different sort of problem for goal-fulfillment theories, which comes from the possibility of a person who is so depressed that they have no goals or desires at all. We end the paper with a discussion of how empirically informed goal-fulfillment theories can account for the badness of the most serious form of depression. (shrink)
According to critics such as Bernard Williams, traditional ethical theories render it impossible to lead good and meaningful lives because they emphasize moral duty or the promotion of external values at the expense of the personal commitments that make our lives worth living from our own perspective. Responses to this criticism have not addressed the fundamental question about the proper relationship between a person's commitments to moral values and her commitments to non-moral or personal values. In this article, I suggest (...) that we think about this relationship by reflecting on the way that a prudentially virtuous person who has commitments to both moral and non-moral values would regard these commitments. I argue that people with the virtue of balance do have reasons to act in accordance with their moral commitments, but that whether or not these reasons are overriding depends on the type of commitment in question. (shrink)
In the history of Western philosophy, questions of well-being and happiness have played a central role for some 2,500 years. Yet, when it comes to the systematic empirical study of happiness and satisfaction, philosophers are relative latecomers. Empirically-minded psychologists began studying systematically the determinants and distribution of happiness and satisfaction – understood as positive or desirable subjectively experienced mental states – during the 1920’s and 30’s, as personality psychology emerged as a bona fide subdiscipline of psychology shortly after World War (...) I (Angner, 2005a). The first philosopher to take this literature seriously, to my knowledge, was Nicholas Rescher (1972). The topic reappeared in the philosophical literature in the 90’s, as L. W. Sumner (1996) developed his account of well-being as life satisfaction in a manner that appears to have been inspired by the empirical literature, and again in the 00’s, when a number of younger philosophers, apparently independently, turned to this literature in order to examine how it can inform, and be informed by, moral philosophy and philosophy of science (Alexandrova, 2005; Angner, 2005b; Haybron, 2000; Tiberius, 2006). (shrink)
This work advances a theory of deliberation about the goals, projects and values that constitute a good or worthwhile life for a person. The central argument begins with the assumption that the concerns most people have in this kind of deliberation are to discover which goals are worth pursuing, or which ends worth valuing, given those features of ourselves that we find important on reflection, and choose our goals and values in such a way that our choices can bear our (...) reflective scrutiny. (shrink)
In many areas of philosophy, it is becoming more and more mainstream to appeal or at least refer to social science research. For example, in moral psychology, the empirically informed approach is well established in the literature on moral judgment, moral emotions, and moral responsibility (Greene, 2013; Nichols, 2004; Prinz, 2007; Kelly, 2011; Doris, 2016; Roskies, 2006; Vargas, 2013). Does work in the social sciences have any bearing on philosophical questions about practical reason or reasoning? While there has been some (...) excellent work that explores this question (e.g., Stein, 1996 ; Bishop and Trout, 2004 ), the growing empirical wave is less noticeable here. But this may not be because empirical research is irrelevant to the philosophical questions in the area. In this chapter, we will consider three questions about practical reason or reasoning that might be illuminated by attention to research in the social sciences. First, we’ll consider whether research on the role of sentiments on moral judgment is relevant to the philosophical debate between moral rationalism and moral sentimentalism. Second, we’ll consider whether research on the unconscious causes of action undermines philosophical views about the relationship between reasons and actions. Third, we’ll consider whether research on implicit bias is relevant to the normative question of how we can reason better. Along the way, we’ll see that when philosophical arguments and theories about practical reason make empirical assumptions – which they often do – empirical research can help to test these assumptions. We’ll also see that philosophical theories don’t always make the assumptions they are accused of making by their critics. Finally, we’ll see that we can make better prescriptions for how to reason better if we have a better sense of what we’re doing wrong. (shrink)
I learned a lot from reading Jesse Prinz's ambitious and entertaining book, The Emotional Construction of Morals. I think he’d be pleased to know that I learned many interesting things that I would not ordinarily find in a book of academic philosophy. Also, even when I disagreed with him, almost all of my questions were anticipated and addressed as the book proceeded, which is a very satisfying experience as a reader and high praise in philosophy. I say ‘almost all’ of (...) my questions because there are a few that remain. These centre around a puzzle about Prinz's relativism, which is the focus of my comments.The puzzle is about why the kind of relativism we get from Prinz's meta-ethics matters to normative ethics or moral practice. I think it does not . Moreover, I think many things Prinz says – about the advantages of relativism, about practical moral questions, and about moral progress – should have led him also to conclude that relativism doesn’t matter. But he doesn’t draw this conclusion; hence I am puzzled rather than simply disagreeing.Before I get into the puzzle, it will be helpful to explain the kind of relativism Prinz defends. According to Prinz, the truth of judgements about wrongness depends on the values of the person who makes the judgement . So, when a person says ‘it is wrong to kick puppies’, this is true only if the speaker has moral values that proscribe kicking puppies. This is so, in part, because moral judgements are constituted by emotions that are caused by our sentiments, and sentiments represent the secondary quality of causing disapprobation in the person …. (shrink)
This book is concerned with how we should think and act in our work, leisure activities, and time utilization in order to achieve flourishing lives. The scope papers range from general theoretical considerations of the value, e.g. 'What is a balanced life?', to specific types of considerations, e.g. 'How should we cope with the effects of work on moral decision-making?'.
A short guide to living well by understanding better what you really value—and what to do when your goals conflict What do you want out of life? To make a lot of money—or work for justice? To run marathons—or sing in a choir? To have children—or travel the world? The things we care about in life—family, friendship, leisure activities, work, our moral ideals—often conflict, preventing us from doing what matters most to us. Even worse, we don’t always know what we (...) really want, or how to define success. Blending personal stories, philosophy, and psychology, this insightful and entertaining book offers invaluable advice about living well by understanding your values and resolving the conflicts that frustrate their fulfillment. Valerie Tiberius introduces you to a way of thinking about your goals that enables you to reflect on them effectively throughout your life. She illustrates her approach with vivid examples, many of which are drawn from her own life, ranging from the silly to the serious, from shopping to navigating prejudice. Throughout, the book emphasizes the importance of interconnectedness, reminding us of the profound influence other people have on our lives, our goals, and how we should pursue them. At the same time, the book offers strategies for coping with obstacles to realizing your goals, including gender bias and other kinds of discrimination. Whether you are changing jobs, rethinking your priorities, or reconsidering your whole life path, What Do You Want Out of Life? is an essential guide to helping you understand what really matters to you and how you can thoughtfully pursue it. (shrink)
Some claim that recent work in moral psychology both undermines Kantian moral theory and supports Humean approaches to morality. Does moral psychology undermine Kantian, rationalistic moral theory? After distinguishing various Kantian claims and the evidence against them, I argue that the empirical case against Kantianism as a viable moral theory is not conclusive.
Christine Swanton’s Virtue Ethics is a welcome addition to the newly flourishing field of virtue ethics. Swanton defends a rich and multifaceted virtue ethical theory that differs in interesting ways from the current paradigm, Aristotelian virtue ethics. The richness of her theory is, in part, dictated by her methodology: wide reflective equilibrium. Taking this methodology seriously, she draws on a wide range of scholarship not just in philosophy but also in psychiatry, psychology, sociology, and education.