Please do not cite without permission
Eudaimonism, Ancient and Modern. Draft
Discusses a divide between "internalist" and "externalist" theories of well-being--that is, between views that ground well-being in the particulars of the individual's makeup, and those that do not. Both approaches have strong arguments in their favor, but also face grave objections, and it is not clear how to resolve the debate. The debate takes its most compelling form in the debate over "nature-fulfillment" or eudaimonistic theories of well-being, with Mill and Aristotle as representatives of internalist and externalist eudaimonism, respectively. A second aim of the paper is to defend eudaimonism as an attractive approach to well-being.
The What of Well-Being Policy (with Valerie Tiberius). Draft
This paper discusses the goals of well-being policy--specifically, what conception of well-being should guide policies aimed at promoting happiness or, more broadly, well-being. An earlier and more expansive version of this paper, "Normative Foundations for Well-Being Policy," is posted at EconPapers. Antti Kauppinen has a critical response to that paper at PEA Soup. A revised version has been conditionally accepted at the Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
Biophilia and Human Flourishing. Earlyish draft--do not cite without permission
Examines the idea that human beings have a need for contact with nature. What does this claim mean, how can we assess it, and what are its prospects? I do not endorse the view in this paper, but do suggest that the idea is worth taking seriously.
The Folk Concept(s) of Happiness: Preliminary Notes
A brief summary of survey results on folk intuitions about happiness and well-being.
The Pursuit of Unhappiness
People tend systematically to make serious errors of prediction and choice in matters of well-being. These errors are probably serious enough to cast doubt on our ability to profit, via our choices, from having arbitrarily high levels of freedom to shape our lives as we wish, contrary to the liberal optimism characteristic of much modern thought. An early and somewhat rough version of material in Chapters 11 and 12 of the book.
Selected papers. Published material provided for viewing according to “fair use” laws.
Mental State Approaches to Well-Being. Penultimate draft
Discusses the importance of various mental states, and implications for measurement, for well-being in a policy context. Forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Well-Being and Public Policy, eds. Matthew D. Adler and Marc Fleurbaey.
Extends the situationist critique of virtue ethics to well-being. Assembles new evidence for the extent of situational influence in shaping human action, and explores two upshots for thinking about well-being. First, classical Aristotelian accounts of well-being seem more vulnerable to situationist critique than such theories of virtue. Second, the dependence of well-being on situational influences offers support for contextualist, versus individualistic, approaches to the promotion of well-being. To a great extent, human welfare may depend living in contexts that constrain and nudge our choices in certain ways. Forthcoming in Snow and Trivigno, The Philosophy and Psychology of Character and Happiness, Routledge.
The Value of Positive Emotion: Philosophical Doubts and Reassurances. Penultimate draft
A discussion of the value of a positive emotional condition, including its limits. Discusses the function of mood-related affect and its distinctive significance.
The Desirability of Sustainable Happiness as a Goal for Policy (with Neil Thin, Robert Biswas-Diener, Aaron Ahuvia, and Jean Timsit).
A chapter for the Report on Wellbeing and Happiness of the International Expert Working Group, sponsored by Bhutan, for the United Nations (2013).
The Proper Pursuit of Happiness. Penultimate draft
Discusses the norms governing the pursuit of happiness
Paternalism in Economics (with Anna Alexandrova). Penultimate draft
Contrary to widespread belief, standard methods of policy analysis in economics actually license widespread, deeply objectionable forms of paternalism. Also contrary to widespread belief, happiness/well-being policy actually offers an important means to avoid paternalism. In a collection of papers on paternalism from Cambridge, edited by Christian Coons and Michael Weber.
The Nature and Significance of Happiness. Penultimate draft
What happiness is and why it matters, in brief. Probably the best quick overview of my views about happiness. Extends earlier defense of emotional state versus life satisfaction theories of happiness. For the Oxford Handbook of Happiness (eds. Ilona Bonwell and Susan David).
High Fidelity Economics (with Anna Alexandrova). Penultimate draft
How research on happiness and behavioral economics is improving economic methodology. Less precise, but higher fidelity. In Hands and Davis, The Elgar Companion to Recent Economic Methodology.
Taking the Satisfaction (and the Life) Out of Life Satisfaction. Penultimate draft
Life satisfaction measures are well-motivated, but deeply problematic. This paper discusses some of the problems facing such measures and suggested that they largely be replaced with different instruments for determining what people think about the quality of their lives. In Philosophical Explorations, 14:3 (2011), 249-262.
Central Park: Nature, Context and Human Well-Being.
A relatively accessible discussion of the importance of social and physical context to the pursuit of happiness, with a special emphasis on the benefits of contact with natural environments. Written for a collection of papers by the Project Plus working group on "felicitators."
Happiness. Entry for Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Mood Propensity as a Constituent of Happiness: A Rejoinder to Hill. Penultimate draft.
Extends the argument for counting non-conscious emotional states ("mood propensities") as constituents of happiness, noting that life satisfaction theories likewise conceive of happiness in dispositional terms. I also discuss the possibility that these might be best understood as unconscious moods. In The Journal of Happiness Studies, 11 (2010), pp. 19-31.
Happiness, the Self, and Human Flourishing
Well-being consists partly in happiness. Published in Utilitas
Philosophy and the Science of Subjective Well-Being
A survey of philosophical work relating to empirical work on subjective well-being. Draft 1/8/07; a revised version appears in Eid and Larsen, The Science of Subjective Well-Being.
Well-Being and Virtue
A critique of perfectionist accounts of well-being, focusing on Aristotelian theories. While such views have more going for them than most critics have realized, virtue or excellence still forms no fundamental part of well-being. Seeing why illuminates interesting points about the nature of well-being.
Do We Know How Happy We Are?
We are worse than we think at introspecting and recalling affect. Draft 6/28/06; published in Nous.
Life Satisfaction, Ethical Reflection, and the Science of Happiness
Life satisfaction is overrated, with implications for empirical research. Draft 7/7/05; published in The Journal of Happiness Studies
On Being Happy or Unhappy
My “theory of happiness” paper, defending an emotional state view. Draft 6/10/05. Published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LXXI:2 (September 2005), pp. 287-317.
What Do We Want from a Theory of Happiness?
Defends a methodology for philosophical work on happiness, rejecting conceptual analysis and scientific naturalism. An adequate account of happiness should be intuitively credible and answer to our practical interests in the notion. Published in Metaphilosophy, 34:3 (2003), pp. 305-329.
Moral Monsters and Saints
Argues that the notion of evil character is morally significant, with genuine theoretical interest. Also indicates limitations in other approaches to evil, and suggests that our intuitions about extremes of character are a problem for consequentialist ethics. Published in The Monist, 85:2 (2002), pp. 260-284.
Consistency of Character and the Character of Evil
Extends the previous discussion by arguing that evil character involves a certain kind of consistency, roughly marked by (at least) a near-complete absence of moral concern or motivation. Published in Haybron, ed. Earth’s Abominations: Philosophical Studies of Evil. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.
Happiness and Pleasure
Hedonistic conceptions of happiness are implausible. Published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 62:3 (2001), pp. 501-528.
The Causal and Explanatory Role of Information Stored in Connectionist Networks
Connectionist processing is less holistic than many think. Network behavior is explicable in terms of selected data stored therein, contra Ramsey, Stich and Garon’s argument for the incompatibility of connectionism with folk psychology. Minds and Machines, 10:3 (2000), pp. 361-380.
Two Philosophical Problems in the Study of Happiness
Discusses different senses of ‘happiness’, relation to empirical research, and the role of philosophy in determining the nature of happiness. Aimed mainly at empirical researchers. Published in The Journal of Happiness Studies 1:2 (2000), pp. 207-225.
Explores the evaluation of character by examining the worst extremes. Discusses the aspects of character that matter for assessing evil characters and argues for an affective-motivational approach. Published in American Philosophical Quarterly, 36:2 (April 1999), pp. 131-148.
My PhD Dissertation: Happiness and Ethical Inquiry: An Essay in the Psychology of Well-Being
Contains a fair amount of material not in the other papers, though some of my views have changed since.