The Good Life (Spring 2009) - Paper #3

Write a paper on one of the topics below. Alternatively, you can write on any topic of your choosing as long as it is related to the content of the course. If you have any doubt about the relevance of your topic, you should run it by me first. In general, it's a good idea to let me know what you plan to write on.

Please do not answer any option on the final exam that is closely related to the topic of this paper.

You have 1,500 words.

Suggested Topics

1. Mental Statism

Defend or attack mental statism. If you choose to defend mental statism, you need to consider the strongest objections you can think of. Many think that the most damning objection is the Deceived Businessman. If you choose to attack mental statism, then you need to present the strongest objections you can think of and consider possible replies. You should also probably have an objection to Kagan's defense of mental statism.

2. Subjective Desire Satisfactionism

Evaluate Heathwood's formulation of Subjective Desire Satisfactionism. You might want to consider whether the reference to desire is superfluous, as Sumner might argue. Alternatively you might take issue with the formulation: "the value for the subject of [. . .] a subjective desire satisfaction is equal to the amount of the desire satisfied" (p.548). If you choose to defend the theory, you should respond to the problem that the intensity of desire frequently does not equal the intensity of satisfaction. If it is the satisfaction that counts, why isn't it the intensity of the satisfaction. If it's the intensity of the satisfaction, then why bring in desire at all? If it is the desire that counts, then why do we need the satisfaction?

3. Posthumous Harms

Evaluate Pitchers's argument for the possibility of posthumous harm. You might want to give him the assumption of desire-satisfactionism. But you could still question whether his version is restricted enough. What's the difference between desires that we no longer have, desires that we do have, and desires that we don't have because we are dead? Is Pitcher's account plausible? Why or why not?

4. Welfare and the Meaning of Life

Wolf argues that meaning is a non-derivative aspect of well-being. Evaluate her argument. This requires that you explain her theory of meaning. But that should not be the focus of your answer. I want you to evaluate her argument for the claim that meaning is constitutive of well-being. Does she offer an argument? Why shouldn't we think that meaning, or rather the perception of meaning, is merely derivatively good?

5. Stranger on the Train

Evaluate Parfit's suggestion for how desire-satisfactionism should restrict the desires that count in order to get around the problem of the "Stranger on the Train." Parfit says that the stranger's recovery is a mere "Cambridge Change." What might this mean? In "The Limits of Well-Being", Kagan considers a few ways in which one might be more specific about the changes that count. His conclusion is radically at odds with Parfit's. Can the effect of one's parenting on the live of one's children make a difference to our well-being after we are dead and gone?

6. Authentic Happiness

Evaluate Sumner's theory of well-being.

Note: In order to evaluate a theory, you must first explain the theory. When explaining a counter-example to a definition, you need to specify whether the example shows that a proposed condition is not necessary, not sufficient, or neither. If you are evaluating an argument, you need to build up the argument and then show where it might go wrong. To build up an argument, you must do more than merely offer a formalization. You must explain the argument. Typically, showing where an argument goes wrong will require arguing that one of the premises is false. Be sure to consider obvious, compelling replies to your objections. If you think an argument is good, then you will need to defend it against the strongest objections that you can think of.

Due Date

5/11/2009 (Monday)


The exam should be in total no more than 1,500 words. This is approximately 5 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font.


The paper must be typed. It should be double spaced. It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font. I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read. Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "course documents / writing" section on Blackboard.


I do not need a hard copy. You must submit the paper through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool. It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, Temple, and from all other universities that use the software.

Note: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment.


Your paper should be clearly written, well-structured, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. It is practically impossible to get higher than a C if you start writing the night before the paper is due. The grading scale is as follows:

A = excellent

B = good

C = meets minimal expectations

D = bad

F = awful