The role of well-being in ethics
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In this thesis I assess the role of well-being in ethics. In order to do so I reply to a threefold charge against the importance of well-being in ethics. In What We Owe to Each Other Scanlon argues (1) that the concept of well-being plays very little role in the thinking of an agent; (2) that no unified theory of well-being can be found; (3) that welfarism is false. In Part I, I argue that the concept of well-being does play an explanatorily and justificatorily important role in the thinking of a rational agent. I arrive at this conclusion by distinguishing levels of thinking activity as well as by considering the implicit rather than explicit role well-being plays in our deliberation. I conclude this part of the thesis by illustrating the relation between the idea of well-being, its parts and its sources. In Part II, I put forward a unified theory of well-being and I do so by taking on board with a slight modification Scanlon's own buck-passing account of value. I argue that something is a part of a person's good if, and only if, there is reason for this person to desire it. I claim that this account does not fall prey to the 'scope problem'. I also discuss a number of different though connected issues such as the defence of the claim that well-being is itself a normative notion and issues concerning the various parts of well-being. In Part III, I begin to sketch the normative role of well-being both first-personally and impartially. With Scanlon, I agree that welfarism is false. Yet, I argue in favour of a moderate form of welfarism, a view that takes a positive function of each individual's well-being to afford the ultimate criterion of practical reason.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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