Skip to main content

Comments on Badhwar, Well-Being: Happiness in a Worthwhile Life

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. I use ‘perfectionist’ for what is often called ‘eudaimonist’, because some eudaimonists were rank hedonists, namely Epicureans, and did not view well-being as consisting in virtue. Elsewhere I use ‘welfare eudaimonism’ to denote nature-fulfillment views of well-being, as the ideal of nature-fulfillment seems to be the most salient commonality among views of well-being for those who founded their ethical theories on eudaimonia (ethical eudaimonists). Nothing of substance hangs on the terminology, however (Haybron 2006, 2008a).

  2. For further discussion of the present notion of a good life, see (Haybron 2006, 2008a, 2013).

  3. The discussion that follows extends arguments in (Haybron 2006, 2008a).

  4. It would not be hard, certainly, to cook up a plausible-sounding story about how it would have been adaptive for our hominin ancestors to have quite selective capacities for empathy and sympathy, depending on whether they are dealing with others who need loving or killing.

  5. Or, looking to a different part of the world, Papua New Guinea, Jared Diamond reports on tribesmen delighting in extremely sadistic treatment of animals, and cites “a game in which an unarmed prisoner was placed in the center of a wide circle of his captors armed with axes. One captor after another in turn would enter the circle with his axe and take a swing at the captive, who tried to dodge. Eventually, one of the axemen succeeded in landing a blow on the leg of the captive, knocking him down screaming. The man’s leg was then chopped off with the axe, then his other limbs in turn” (Diamond 1993).

  6. (Fehrenbach 7).

  7. And, moreover, fare far better than if they refused to take part in the violence. In case the warrior bit causes trouble, we could focus instead on the women, who in some tribes appeared to be the chief torturers of those captured. In fact the philosophical point doesn’t hang on the factual details of these tribes; we could instead run the argument as a thought experiment regarding fictional tribes, as the real question is what someone’s well-being would be like if they were a certain way.

  8. Elsewhere I’ve suggested a low threshold for the well-being element in what we could deem a good life, namely that it be a life well worth living—well short of actually doing well (Haybron 2013). The difference doesn’t matter here, and it’s possible that we’d want a slightly different good life concept, with a higher well-being threshold, when thinking about a person’s highest good—tied to what I’ve called “justified aspiration,” rather than justified affirmation.

  9. Badhwar has challenged my title to the authenticity mantle, but I will set that aside here.

  10. This sketch draws on earlier work (Haybron 2008a, 2008b); the “value fulfillment” component builds on suggestions made there, but is new, and remains tentative. I am inclined to view this account as incomplete, needing at least the addition of pleasure. But we need not sort out such details here.

  11. For convenience I focus on moral virtues, though nonmoral virtues like wit and fortitude clearly play an important role in how we evaluate lives. I also leave open whether there might be values beyond well-being and virtue that contribute to a good life.

  12. Badhwar rejects this suggestion on the grounds that subjectivism lacks the resources to make sense of such a robust notion of authenticity. I won’t fully address her interesting critique of this approach, save to note that I partly agree regarding subjectivism—but also don’t think my view is relevantly subjectivist. It is true, however, that my formal notion of richness cannot guarantee that well-being must involve anything like a normal human life: one might achieve variety and complexity, it seems, in ways that have very little to do with what we normally expect from a human life. I’m not certain this is a problem for me, but it might be.

  13. (Zerjal et al. 2003).

References

  • Annas, Julia. 1993. The Morality of Happiness. New York: Oxford.

  • Badhwar, Neera Kapur. 2014. Well-Being: Happiness in a Worthwhile Life. Happiness in a Worthwhile Life: Oxford University Press.

  • Diamond, Jared. 1993. “New Guineans and Their Natural World.” In The Biophilia Hypothesis, ed. Stephen R. Kellert, and Edward O. Wilson, 251–74. Washington, DC: Island Press.

  • Diamond, Jared. 2012. The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies? New York: Penguin.

  • Doris, John M. 2002. Lack of Character. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  • Doris, John M. 2015. Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Skepticism, and Agency. New York: Oxford.

  • Fehrenbach, T R. 2011. Comanches: The History of a People. New York: Random House.

  • Haybron, Daniel M. 2006. “Well-Being and Virtue.” J. Ethics & Soc. Phil. 2 (January).

  • Haybron, Daniel M. 2008a. The Pursuit of Unhappiness: The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Haybron, Daniel M. 2008b. “Happiness, the Self and Human Flourishing.” Utilitas 20 (01).

  • Haybron, Daniel M. 2011. “Central Park: Nature, Context, and Human Wellbeing.” International Journal of Wellbeing 1 (2).

  • Haybron, Daniel M. 2013. Happiness: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Haybron, Daniel M. 2014. “Adventures in Assisted Living: Well-Being and Situationist Psychology.” In The Philosophy and Psychology of Character and Happiness, edited by Nancy E Snow and Franco V Trivigno, 241–65. New York: Routledge.

  • Kesebir, Pelin, and Ed Diener. 2014. “A Virtuous Cycle: The Relationship Between Happiness and Virtue.” In The Philosophy and Psychology of Character and Happiness, edited by Nancy E Snow and Franco V Trivigno, 287–306. New York: Routledge.

  • Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature. Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Penguin.

  • Raibley, Jason R. 2013. “Values, Agency, and Welfare.” Philosophical Topics 41 (1): 187–214. doi:10.5840/philtopics20134119.

  • Tiberius, Valerie. 2008. The Reflective Life: Living Wisely with Our Limits. New York: Oxford.

  • Tiberius, Valerie. 2015. “Well-Being, Values and Improving Lives.” In Performance and Progress Essays on Capitalism, Business and Society, edited by Subramanian Rangan, 339–57. New York: Oxford.

  • Zerjal, Tatiana, Yali Xue, Giorgio Bertorelle, R Spencer Wells, Weidong Bao, Suling Zhu, Raheel Qamar, et al. 2003. “The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols.” The American Journal of Human Genetics 72 (3): 717–721. doi:10.1086/367774.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel M. Haybron.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Haybron, D.M. Comments on Badhwar, Well-Being: Happiness in a Worthwhile Life . J Value Inquiry 50, 195–207 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-016-9543-z

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-016-9543-z

Keywords

  • Good Life
  • Moral Virtue
  • Empirical Adequacy
  • Welfare Eudaimonism
  • Human Excellence