What Does the Shape of a Life Tell Us About Its Value?
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In a recent article in Ethics, Dale Dorsey examines the “shape of a life hypothesis” to see what it implies about the prudential value of a life. As Dorsey defines the shape of a life hypothesis, “lives are better when they have an upward, rather than downward, slope in terms of momentary well-being.”1 Although Dorsey’s primary aim is to show the only plausible reading of the shape of a life hypothesis does not undermine temporal neutrality or intralife aggregation, he also concludes that the shape of one’s life does tell us something significant about a person’s well-being.
The literature on the shape of a life hypothesis is divided over the question of why shape matters. Hedonists provide the most simple, straightforward answer: upward sloping lives are better, because we care about the trajectory of our lives, and are made happier (or experience more pleasure) when our lives get better rather than worse.2The hedonist’s response, however, implies that uphill and downhill lives are...