The Folk Theory of Well-Being

forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 5

U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 795

18 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2022 Last revised: 6 Aug 2022

See all articles by John Bronsteen

John Bronsteen

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Brian Leiter

University of Chicago

Jonathan S. Masur

University of Chicago - Law School

Kevin Tobia

Georgetown University Law Center; Georgetown University - Department of Philosophy

Date Written: July 1, 2022

Abstract

What constitutes a “good” life—not necessarily a morally good life, but a life that is good for the person who lived it? In response to this question of “well-being," philosophers have offered three significant answers: A good life is one in which a person can satisfy their desires (“Desire-Satisfaction” or “Preferentism”), one that includes certain good features (“Objectivism”), or one in which pleasurable states dominate or outweigh painful ones (“Hedonism”). To adjudicate among these competing theories, moral philosophers traditionally gather data from thought experiments and intuition. In this chapter, we supplement that traditional approach with a pair of experimental studies that examine whether the three theories reflect laypeople’s intuitions about well-being. The empirical studies yield two primary findings. First, they provide evidence for lay "well-being pluralism": laypeople treat desire satisfaction, positive objective conditions, and happiness as all constitutive of well-being. Second, the studies provide evidence of "hedonic dominance": laypeople evaluate an individual’s happiness as more important to an individual’s overall well-being than desire satisfaction or objective conditions.

Keywords: well-being, happiness, hedonism, preferentism, good life

Suggested Citation

Bronsteen, John and Leiter, Brian and Masur, Jonathan S. and Tobia, Kevin, The Folk Theory of Well-Being (July 1, 2022). forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 5, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 795, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4146762 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4146762

John Bronsteen

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-654-1511 (Phone)
312-915-7201 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.luc.edu/law/fulltime/bronsteen.shtml

Brian Leiter

University of Chicago ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jonathan S. Masur

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773.702.5188 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/masur/

Kevin Tobia (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/kevin-tobia/

Georgetown University - Department of Philosophy

37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
United States

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