Structuring Ends

Philosophia 38 (4):691-713 (2010)
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There is disagreement among contemporary theorists regarding human well-being. On one hand there are “substantive good” views, according to which the most important elements of a person’s well-being result from her nature as a human, rational, and/or sentient being. On the other hand there are “agent-constituted” views, which contend that a person’s well-being is constituted by her particular aims, desires, and/or preferences. Each approach captures important features of human well-being, but neither can provide a complete account: agent-constituted theories have difficulty accounting for the normativity of their claims, and substantive good theories have difficulty accounting for how a person’s actually adopted aims shape what is good for her and hence what she has reason to do. I articulate and defend a hybrid view that equals these approaches in systematicity and completeness of explanation yet seeks to surpass them in coherence with our ordinary judgments about what human well-being consists in. This hybrid view maintains, with agent-constituted theories, that a person’s well-being is (1) significantly constituted by her actually adopted aims; (2) deeply contingent; (3) agent-relative; (4) significantly dependent on spatially and temporally remote events; and (5) significantly independent of her experiences. The hybrid view also maintains, with substantive good theories, that a person’s well-being is (6) in part determined by facts independent of her aims, desires, and preferences; (7) such that all her aims are subject to critical evaluation and revision; and (8) constituted by her aims only if these aims are choiceworthy



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Jon Garthoff
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Citations of this work

Meriting Concern and Meriting Respect.Jon Garthoff - 2010 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 5 (2):1-29.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The View From Nowhere.Thomas Nagel - 1986 - New York: Oxford University Press.
A treatise of human nature.David Hume & D. G. C. Macnabb (eds.) - 1951 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications.

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