Life satisfaction, ethical reflection, and the science of happiness

Dan Haybron
Saint Louis University
Life satisfaction is widely considered to be a central aspect of human welfare. Many have identified happiness with it, and some maintain that well-being consists largely or wholly in being satisfied with one’s life. Empirical research on well-being relies heavily on life satisfaction studies. The paper contends that life satisfaction attitudes are less important, and matter for different reasons, than is widely believed. For such attitudes are appropriately governed by ethical norms and are perspectival in ways that make the relationship between life satisfaction and welfare far more convoluted than we tend to expect. And the common identification of life satisfaction with happiness, as well as widespread views about the centrality of life satisfaction for well-being, are problematical at best. The argument also reveals an unexpected way in which philosophical ethics can inform scientific psychology: specifically, ethical reflection can help explain empirical results insofar as they depend on people’s values.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,039
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Are Measures of Well-Being Philosophically Adequate?Willem van der Deijl - 2017 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 47 (3):209-234.
Can We Measure Practical Wisdom?Jason Swartwood - 2020 - Journal of Moral Education 49 (1):71-97.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
163 ( #71,754 of 2,505,765 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes