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Res Philosophica

Volume 90, Issue 3, July 2013

Happiness and Well-Being

Erik Angner
Pages 365-385

Is Empirical Research Relevant to Philosophical Conclusions?

Much recent philosophical literature on happiness and satisfaction is based on the belief that empirical research is relevant to philosophical conclusions. In his 2010 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 the general knowledge.