Chapter

Welfare and Subjectivity

L. W. Sumner

in Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics

Published in print February 1999 | ISBN: 9780198238782
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679773 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198238782.003.0002
Welfare and Subjectivity

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Models of the good life (for human beings) are as old as philosophy itself. In the western tradition extending from the Greeks to the present day, ideals which have attracted support have invoked a wide variety of concepts: pleasure, happiness, the satisfaction of desires or preferences, the fulfilment of needs, the achievement of aims or objectives, the development of capacities or potentialities, the maintenance of normal functioning, living a form of life appropriate to one's nature, and doubtless many others besides. This chapter aims to locate the account which works best specifically as a theory of prudential value, the one which is most faithful to our ordinary concept of welfare and our ordinary experience. Accounts are sorted into two mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive categories: the subjective and the objective. It argues that there is an interpretation of the subjective/objective distinction such that subjectivity turns out to be a necessary condition of success in a theory of welfare. If proven right, then objective theories can be ruled out of consideration as a category, all of them inadequate precisely because they are objective.

Keywords: theory of welfare; subjective theory; objective theory; value; objectivism

Chapter.  7986 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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