Thursday, December 28, 2006

Griffin: The distinction between subjective and and objective elements of well-being


Some philosophers treat the distinction between objective and subjective as if it marked a crucial distinction between accounts of well-being. They do, because they attach great importance to whether or not well-being is made to depend upon an individual's desires, tastes, feelings, or attitudes. But, as we just saw in the last section, the dependence of prudential value on desires is much less simple, less a matter of all or nothing, than they assume. The best account of 'utility' makes it depend on some desires and no on others.” 33.

Griffin's idea is that different attitudes are appropriate to different sorts of objects, so that different ways of criticizing desires are appropriate with respect to different types of desires.

He quotes 4 different sorts of cases:

Case 1. involves personal tastes. E.g. “apples and pears

Case 2. involves “discovering a valuable thing”, which is based upon pre-existent motivations that are “features of human nature”. E.g. Company.

Case 3. “preference based upon understanding” involves “discovering a value” like in 2, but here understanding of the thing values plays a major role. E.g Freud preferring thinking clearly to pleasure.

Case 4. “discovering a value” such as “accomplishing something with one's life” when this involves a radical shift of perspective.

Case 1 and 2 involve what Scanlon calls “subjective conditions.” Griffin thinks that in 1. ( taste case) mere preferences or desires affect well-being directly.

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