Thursday, February 08, 2007

Scanlon: Well-being as an inclusive and transparent good.

Scanlon argues the concept of well-being is that of a transparent and inclusive good. Well-being is an inclusive good because it

“is made up of other things that are good in their own right, not made good by their contribution to it” (1998: 127),

Well-being is made up, for example, by things that can be abstractly described as forms of enjoyments and accomplishments. Such things are valuable in their own right:

“If you ask me why I listen to music, I may reply that I do so because I enjoy it. [...] [In order to explain why I strive to succeed in philosophy] it would make [...] sense to say that I work hard at philosophy because I believe it is worthwhile, or because I enjoy it, or even because I long for the thrill of success.” (1998: 126-127)

(Notice that what is in question here is the notion of a reason, taken as the sort of thing that can make sense of a choice, an action, or a desire. A reason can make sense of an action by showing it to be called for; for some actions this can be done by showing that the action brings about a desirable consequence. The reason for an action is not a desire, unless the latter is supported by a correct “evaluation of the desired object as good – as, for example, pleasant, interesting, advantageous, stature-enhancing, decent, and the like” as Quinn (1998: 200) writes. The justification of an action or a choice requires facts belonging to the latter category, that is, facts such as that something is pleasant or interesting, not the facts about what a person desires. According to Scanlon, whenever a desire can be said to provide a reason, it does only as a further consequence of these other class of facts See this post.)

According to Scanlon, the concept of well-being is also evaluatively transparent, meaning that “the things that contribute to it are valued primarily for other reasons” (1998: 129). What Scanlon means is that, even if a valuable accomplishment (i.e. climbing the Himalaya) increases our well-being, that fact that it does cannot be the reason for which I took it up to do it.

Summing up. well-being is not only an inclusive good – meaning constituted by things that are good or choiceworthy in their own right – but also transparent, because, for agent p, knowing that some choiceworthy things constitute his or her own well-being does not make them more valuable in p's eyes.

In other words the transparency of well-being derives from the fact that facts.

A. “A life that includes enjoyment is a better life”


B. “My life will be more successful if I am successful in my main aims, insofar they are rational”

do not give the agent any further reason to play tennis or strive to succeed in philosophy;(in addition, that is, to the fact that playing tennis is enjoyable and that a job as a philosopher is prestigious, or that philosophy is intrinsically rewarding).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good post. I think you have gotten at a very specific part of what Scanlon is attempting to do in attacking well-being. I think it is also important in your analysis to consider exactly what his agenda is in doing this. Is it just to cut Utilitarianism down at the knees? And why is it that he is on the one hand saying how unimportant well-being is, yet is spending so much time defining it and spelling it out to us as though he has a grand intuition about it that most other people might not have? Thanks for the post. It helped me with my paper. In boca al lupo con la tua vita...