Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Griffin. How the concept of well-being is introduced.

A. There must be a connection between well-being evaluations and deliberation:


“our job is not to describe an idea already in existence independently of our search. Before we properly explain well-being, we have to know the context in which it is to appear and and the work it needs to do there. [...] One proper ground for choosing between conceptions of well-being would be that one lends itself to the deliberation that we must do and another does not.” (1)

The assumption that the concept of well-being can be connected to deliberative notions is reflected also in the choice of characterizing well-being and utility as prudential value. Being prudent, in fact, is an attribute of people taken as agents.

“The way to submit [a moral theory] to the test of correctness is harder to decide. [...] A good place to start on the search for standard of correctness in prudential and moral judgment is with developing as rich a substantive account of prudence and morality as one can. (I am using 'prudence' here in the philosopher's especially broad sense, in which it has to do not just with a due concern for one's future but with everything that bears on one's self-interest.)” (4)

He connects his discussion of well-being to the context of the utilitarian tradition:


“How are we to understand 'well-being'? As 'utility', say the utilitarians, aware that this technical term itself needs explaining.” (7)

So the idea is not clear. But as I shall show in the next posts, the concept of well-being is defined negatively, often by explaining the difference between moral good and prudential value:

B. Griffin recognizes there is no particular folk usage of the word "well-being" that stands for the concepts he (and utilitarians philosophy) were trying to characterize:


“Utilitarians use our rough, everyday notion of 'well-being', our notion of what it is for a single life to go well, in which morality may have a place but not the dominant one. This does not mean that our ob is merely to describe the everyday use. It is too shadowy and incomplete for that; we still have to be ready for stipulation.” (7)

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