Philosophical Studies

, Volume 162, Issue 3, pp 665–682 | Cite as

The shape of a life and the value of loss and gain



We ordinarily think that, keeping all else equal, a life that improves is better than one that declines. However, it has proven challenging to account for such value judgments: some, such as Fred Feldman and Daniel Kahneman, have simply denied that these judgments are rational, while others, such as Douglas Portmore, Michael Slote, and David Velleman, have proposed justifications for the judgments that appear to be incomplete or otherwise problematic. This article identifies problems with existing accounts and suggests a novel alternative theory: what best accounts for our preference for an uphill over a downhill life (and many other episodes) is that losses of momentary value are themselves bad and gains in momentary value are themselves good.


Feldman The good life Kahneman Portmore Shape-of-a-life phenomenon Slote Value Velleman Well-being 



I am grateful to Ben Bradley, Dale Dorsey, Antti Kauppinen, Doug Portmore, Dave Shoemaker, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful discussion of previous drafts of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sonoma State UniversityRohnert ParkUSA

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