The Good Life (Spring 2010)
This class will focus on one of the most fundamental questions in moral philosophy: What makes a life good for the one who lives it? To answer this question is to provide a theory of well-being. We will study four different types of answers: Hedonism (pleasure), Preferentism (desire-satisfaction), Perfectionism (perfecting human nature), and Objective List theories. The readings will come from a mix of classical and contemporary sources. In addition to philosophy, we will read some work from psychology and economics. We'll be thinking about experience machines, deceived business men, porky pig, sadistic killers of children, ascetic hermits, evil universes, grass counters, strangers on trains, drug addicts, and James Dean. Along the way we explore several related issues. Is there anything common to the experiences that we call "pleasures"? Is death bad for the one who dies? Can you can be harmed after your death? Can one have a good but meaningless life? What is the meaning of life? Is it better to die in the prime of life than after a period of moderate decline?