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  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).


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Haybron, D.M. Comments on Badhwar, Well-Being: Happiness in a Worthwhile Life . J Value Inquiry 50, 195–207 (2016).

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