Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 787-803

First online:

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Classifying theories of welfare

  • Christopher WoodardAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Nottingham Email author 


This paper argues that we should replace the common classification of theories of welfare into the categories of hedonism, desire theories, and objective list theories. The tripartite classification is objectionable because it is unduly narrow and it is confusing: it excludes theories of welfare that are worthy of discussion, and it obscures important distinctions. In its place, the paper proposes two independent classifications corresponding to a distinction emphasised by Roger Crisp: a four-category classification of enumerative theories (about which items constitute welfare), and a four-category classification of explanatory theories (about why these items constitute welfare).


Welfare Typology Explanatory question Enumerative question