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Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 99–138 | Cite as

Life satisfaction, ethical reflection, and the science of happiness

  • Dan HaybronEmail author
Article

Abstract

Life satisfaction is widely considered to be a central aspect of human welfare. Many have identified happiness with it, and some maintain that well-being consists largely or wholly in being satisfied with one’s life. Empirical research on well-being relies heavily on life satisfaction studies. The paper contends that life satisfaction attitudes are less important, and matter for different reasons, than is widely believed.] For such attitudes are appropriately governed by ethical norms and are perspectival in ways that make the relationship between life satisfaction and welfare far more convoluted than we tend to expect. And the common identification of life satisfaction with happiness, as well as widespread views about the centrality of life satisfaction for well-being, are problematical at best. The argument also reveals an unexpected way in which philosophical ethics can inform scientific psychology: specifically, ethical reflection can help explain empirical results insofar as they depend on people’s values.

Keywords

ethics flourishing happiness life satisfaction philosophy self-reports subjective well-being utility welfare well-being 

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Notes

Acknowledgements

Material for this paper was presented for the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program at Washington University. I want to thank the audience for helpful commentary. For their invaluable comments on earlier versions of my central arguments regarding life satisfaction, I wish to thank Bengt Brülde, Ruth Chang, Richard Dean, Jerry Fodor, Douglas Husak, Colin McGinn, Stephen Stich, L. W. Sumner, Larry Temkin, Valerie Tiberius, and Robert Woolfolk, as well as audiences at the University of Arizona, Augustana College and the New Jersey Regional Philosophical Association’s Fall 2000 conference.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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