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Res Philosophica

Volume 90, Issue 3, July 2013
Happiness and Well-Being

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1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 90 > Issue: 3
Richard Kraut Human Diversity and the Nature of Well-Being: Reflections on Sumner’s Methodology
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In Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics, L. W. Sumner argues that theories of well-being must not pick out some kinds of human lives as richer in prudential valuethan others. I argue that we should reject this methodological stricture, but should embrace his insight that many kinds of lives are good for people to live. I also reject his claim that a theory of well-being would fail if it took the form of a list of things that are good for us. Nonetheless, I argue, if we construct such a list in a way that caters to the diversity of good human lives, we will be led to the conclusion that they are united by their relationship to the flourishing of our natural capacities. I distinguish between bottom-up and top-down strategies for defending this Aristotelian conception of well-being, and argue in favor of a bottom-up approach.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 90 > Issue: 3
Tobias Hoffmann The Pleasure of Life and the Desire for Non-Existence: Some Medieval Theories
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Are there subjective or objective conditions under which human life is not worth living? Or does human life itself contain the conditions that make it worth living?To find answers to these questions, this paper explores Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Richard of Mediavilla, and John Duns Scotus, who discuss whether the damned in hell can, should, and do prefer non-existence over their existence in pain and moral evil. In light of Aristotle’s teaching that there is a certain pleasure inherent to life itself, I shall argue that even a life that is in important respects painful and unpleasant is still worth living.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 90 > Issue: 3
Valerie Tiberius Why Be Moral? Can the Psychological Literature on Well-Being Shed any Light?
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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.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 90 > Issue: 3
Erik Angner Is Empirical Research Relevant to Philosophical Conclusions?
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Much recent philosophical literature on happiness and satisfaction is based on the belief that empirical research is relevant to philosophical conclusions. In his2010 book What is This Thing Called Happiness? Fred Feldman begs to differ. He suggests (a) that there is no evidence that empirical research is relevant to long-standing philosophical questions; consequently, (b) that philosophers have little reason to pay attention to the work of psychologists or economists; and (c) that philosophers need not fear embarrassing themselves by being ignorant of important scientific findings that bear directly on their work. Relying on an example invoked by Feldman himself, this paper makes the case that all three theses are false. The argument suggests a picture according to which science and philosophy stand in a symbiotic relationship, with scientists and philosophers engaging in a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas for the advancement of thegeneral knowledge.
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 90 > Issue: 3
Daniel M. Haybron The Proper Pursuit of Happiness
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What are the norms governing the pursuit of happiness? Presumably not just anything goes. But are the rules any more interesting than platitudes like “do whatworks, as long as you don’t hurt anyone”? Such questions have become especially salient in light of the development of positive psychology. Yet so far these matters have received relatively little attention, most of it from skeptics who doubt that the pursuit of happiness is an important, or even legitimate, enterprise. This paper examines the normative issues in this realm, arguing that the pursuit of happiness is indeed a legitimate and important endeavor, contra recent criticisms by Aristotelian and other skeptics. Yet it is also subject to strong, nonobvious normative constraints that extend well beyond those typically posited by commonsense and consequentialist thought.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 90 > Issue: 3
Nicole Hassoun Human Rights and the Minimally Good Life
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All people have human rights and, intuitively, there is a close connection between human rights, needs, and autonomy. The two main theories about the natureand value of human rights often fail to account for this connection. Interest theories, on which rights protect individuals’ important interests, usually fail to capturethe close relationship between human rights and autonomy; autonomy is not constitutive of the interests human rights protect. Will theories, on which human rights protect individuals’ autonomy, cannot explain why the nonautonomous have a human right to meet their needs. This paper argues that it is possible to account for the close connection between human rights, needs, and autonomy if human rights at least protect individuals’ ability to live minimally good lives. It argues that people need whatever will enable them to live such lives and autonomy is partly constitutive of such a life. This argument also has importantimplications for some other key debates in the human rights literature.