Scanlon's arguments are such that, if you accept them, you will probably stop asking yourself questions as
- "can the quality of my life be affected by an even which I cannot experience ?"
- "is there such a things a posthumous harm?"
- "Shall I count an altruist act as something which increases my well-being?"
Reading ch.3 of Scanlon's book is therefore strongly recommended to anybody who has been hounted by such questions. He calls into question the idea that such questions are even meaningful!
For me, the fist step of Scanlon's argument, consists in some apparently innocent claims: the conceptual distinctions about different conceptions of the "quality of life" that he asks his readers to accepts. I have dealt with the meaning of Scanlon's "conceptual topology" in this post, (also this, and this). If you accept his distinctions, you are assuming that well-being can be characterized as:
"an idea of the quality of a life for the person who lives it that is broader than material and social conditions, at least potentially broader than experiential quality, different from worthiness or value, and narrower than choiceworthiness all things considered". (112-113)No philosophical distinction is trivial or evaluatively neutral. I have argued in the preceding posts that the cases in which it is less question-begging to say that picking up the most choiceworthy life entails “a sacrifice of well-being”” are those in which moral worth and moral reasons are called into question.
Let us now turn to a point in which there is more flesh.
His goal is to deny that well-being, conceived as a teleological value, is a “master” value, the ultimate moral value to which all other values can be reduced. In order to prove his point, Scanlon has to show that well-being is not a value, or that, if it is a value, it is either a non-teleological value or not a master value.
(We shall later see what Scanlon means by the concept of "teleological value".)
[See p. 108, op cit.]
Scanlon does not want to deny that that it is, in some sense, a valuable things that people have well-being. This is also because, in Scanlon's perspective, we can say that the well-being of an individual results from his or her achieving goals that he or she values. So he wants to leave room to our intuitions that the fact that people are well-off is valuable.
What Scanlon wants to do, is trying to show that, even if well-being is a value, in some sense, a conception of personal well-being does not appear as a source of reasons for the agent. In order to achieve this result, Scanlon offers an account of the concept of well-being as that of a transparent and inclusive good.
In the next post, I will explain Scanlon's idea that well-being is a transparent inclusive good.