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FILA9 Theories of Well-being 5 ECTS
Implementation is also a part of open university teaching
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Type or level of studies
Intermediate studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
Degree Programme in Philosophy
Faculty of Social Sciences

Learning outcomes

Many things, such as money or exercise or insurance, seem to be good for us and worth pursuing, because they are a means to something else. But what is ultimately good for us? What is worth pursuing for its own sake, insofar as we're looking to make our own lives as good as possible? This is the question that theories of well-being (or prudential value or self-interest, to use a couple of common synonyms) try to answer.
Some hold that it is only pleasure or happiness that is ultimately good for us, while others think it is getting what we want or leading the kind of life that meets our own standards. Yet others argue that the best things in life are independent of our opinions concerning them, so that we can be benefited by something we don't appreciate.
The answer we give to the question concerning the nature of well-being makes a difference in many contexts. If I have to make a big self-interested life choice - say, who to spend the rest of my life with, or what to study - what it makes sense for me to focus on depends on what really matters. If I have children, I will at least implicitly rely on some conception of wellbeing in trying to steer them in a direction that is best for them. If I'm a social scientist trying to figure out how well people of a certain group do in a society, or a politician trying to improve the lot of citizens, or an official trying to assess the human costs and benefits of a policy intervention, I need to make use of the right kind of criteria and measures, or I'll get it wrong.
Philosophers are thus far from the only people who think about well-being, but they do so in a systematic and argumentative manner. The aim of this course is to examine and evaluate the answers they have offered. Our focus will be on the contemporary debate, but we will also make reference to historical views.

All readings are made available on the course website (Moodle). The main readings on each topic come with a list of questions. Please try to find answers to them before each meeting, so that we can have a good conversation. There is a lot to read, and the course is intensive, so it is best to get started right away. Read at least the starred texts in advance. The additional readings may also be discussed in class to some extent, but I don?t expect
students to have read them. They are good additional starting points for those who want to write an essay on one of the topics.

General description

On this intensive course, we examine the leading contemporary philosophical theories of well-being, and consider their implications for empirical research and public policy. Students are expected to read several articles in advance for each meeting of the class to enable discussion.

The texts are now available in moodle - the self-enrolment key is "Well". Self-enrolment in moodle, and reading the main texts in advance, is strongly encouraged!


Enrolment for University Studies

Enrolment time has expired


Antti Kauppinen, Teacher responsible


2-Oct-2017 – 5-Oct-2017
Lectures 16 hours
Mon 2-Oct-2017 at 12-16, Päätalo D14
Tue 3-Oct-2017 at 12-16, Linna K112
Wed 4-Oct-2017 at 12-16, Pinni B3117
Thu 5-Oct-2017 at 12-16, Päätalo D12

Study materials

Syllabus (see the pdf in Moodle!)

Note: several readings are from Guy Fletcher (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Well-Being(London: Routledge, 2016).

0. The Concept of Well-Being

Stephen M. Campbell, ‘The Concept of Well-Being’. In Fletcher (ed.) 2016.

Additional readings:

Stephen Darwall (1997), ‘Self-Interest and Self-Concern’. Social Philosophy and Policy 14 (1).

Connie Rosati (1996), ‘Internalism and the Good for a Person’. Ethics 106, 297–326.

Guy Fletcher (2012), ‘The Locative Analysis of ‘Good For’ Formulated and Defended’. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 6 (1), 1–26.

1. Hedonism

Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (excerpt).

John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (excerpt).

Robert Nozick, ‘The Experience Machine’ (excerpts from Anarchy, State and Utopia and The Examined Life).

• Ben Bramble, ‘A New Defense of Hedonism About Well-Being’. Ergo 3 (4), 2016.

• Fred Feldman (2002), ‘The Good Life: A Defense of Attitudinal Hedonism’. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65, 604–628.

Additional readings:

Roger Crisp (2006), ‘Hedonism Reconsided’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (3): 619–645.

Bennett Helm (2002), ‘Felt Evaluations: A Theory of Pleasure and Pain’. American Philosophical Quarterly 39 (1), 13–30.

Guy Kahane, ‘Pain, Dislike, and Experience’. Utilitas 21 (3), 327–336.

2. Subjectivism: Desires, Values, and Authentic Happiness

•Chris Heathwood (2005), ‘The Problem of Defective Desires’. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4), 487–504.

•Jason Raibley (2013), ‘Values, Agency, and Welfare’. Philosophical Topics 41 (1), 187–214.

•Wayne Sumner (1996), ‘Welfare and Happiness’, from Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press), 138–183.

Additional readings:

Peter Railton (1986), ‘Facts and Values’. Philosophical Topics 14 (2), 5–31.

David Sobel (1994), ‘Full Information Accounts of Well-Being’. Ethics 104 (4), 784–810.

Valerie Tiberius and Alexandra Plakias (2010), ‘Well-Being’. In John Doris (ed.), The Moral Psychology Handbook (New York: Oxford University Press), 402–432.

Fred Feldman (2008), ‘Whole Life Satisfaction Concepts of Happiness’. Theoria 74 (3), 219–238.

Eden Lin (2017), ‘Against Welfare Subjectivism’. Noûs 51 (2), 354–377.

3. Perfectionism and Eudaimonism

• Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (excerpts).

• Gwen Bradford, ‘The Value of Achievements’. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94 (2), 204–224.

• Dan Haybron (2008), ‘Happiness, the Self, and Human Flourishing’. Utilitas 20 (1), 21–49.

Additional readings:

Richard Kraut (2007), ‘Prolegomenon to Flourishing’. Excerpt from What Is Good and Why: The Ethics of Well-Being (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Elizabeth Barnes (2014), ‘Valuing Disability, Causing Disability’. Ethics 125 (1), 88–113.

Mauro Rossi and Christine Tappolet (2016), ‘Virtue, Happiness, and Well-Being’. The Monist 99 (2), 112–127.

Richard Kim (2016), ‘Well-Being and Confucianism’. In Fletcher (ed.) 2016.

4. Pluralist Objectivism

•Richard Arneson (1999), ‘Human Flourishing Versus Desire Satisfaction’. Social Philosophy and Policy 16 (1), 113–142.

• Guy Fletcher (2013), ‘A Fresh Start for an Objective List Theory of Well-Being’. Utilitas 25 (2), 206–220.

• Susan Wolf (1997), ‘Happiness and Meaning: Two Aspects of the Good Life’. Social Philosophy and Policy 14 (1), 207–225.

Additional readings:

Robert Adams (2006), ‘Well-Being and Excellence’. From A Theory of Virtue: Excellence in Being for the Good (New York: Oxford University Press).

Antti Kauppinen (2012), ‘Meaningfulness and Time’. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2), 345–377.

5. Well-Being Over a Lifetime

•Thomas Hurka, ‘The Well-Rounded Life’. Journal of Philosophy 84 (12), 7