Do the new sciences of well-being provide knowledge that respects the nature of well-being? This book written from the perspective of philosophy of science articulates how this field can speak to well-being proper and can do so in a way that respects the demands of objectivity and measurement.
Well–being, health and freedom are some of the many phenomena of interest to science whose definitions rely on a normative standard. Empirical generalizations about them thus present a special case of value-ladenness. I propose the notion of a ‘mixed claim’ to denote such generalizations. Against the prevailing wisdom, I argue that we should not seek to eliminate them from science. Rather, we need to develop principles for their legitimate use. Philosophers of science have already reconciled values with objectivity in several (...) ways, but none of the existing proposals are suitable for mixed claims. Using the example of the science of well-being, I articulate a conception of objectivity for this science and for mixed claims in general. _1_ Introduction _2_ What Are Mixed Claims? _3_ Mixed Claims Are Different _3.1_ Values as reasons to pursue science _3.2_ Values as agenda-setters _3.3_ Values as ethical constraints on research protocols _3.4_ Values as arbiters between underdetermined theories _3.5_ Values as determinants of standards of confirmation _3.6_ Values as sources of wishful thinking and fraud _4_ Mixed Claims Should Stay _4.1_ Against Nagel _5_ The Dangers of Mixed Claims _6_ The Existing Accounts of Objectivity _6.1_ The perils of impartiality _7_ Objectivity for Mixed Claims _8_ Three Rules _8.1_ Unearth the value presuppositions in methods and measures _8.2_ Check if value presuppositions are invariant to disagreements _8.3_ Consult the relevant parties _9_ Conclusion. (shrink)
Thick concepts, namely those concepts that describe and evaluate simultaneously, present a challenge to science. Since science does not have a monopoly on value judgments, what is responsible research involving such concepts? Using measurement of wellbeing as an example, we first present the options open to researchers wishing to study phenomena denoted by such concepts. We argue that while it is possible to treat these concepts as technical terms, or to make the relevant value judgment in-house, the responsible thing to (...) do, especially in the context of public policy, is to make this value judgment through a legitimate political process that includes all the stakeholders of this research. We then develop a participatory model of measurement based on the ideal of co-production. To show that this model is feasible and realistic, we illustrate it with a case study of co-production of a concept of thriving conducted by the authors in collaboration with a UK anti-poverty charity Turn2us. (shrink)
Theoretical biology and economics are remarkably similar in their reliance on mathematical models, which attempt to represent real world systems using many idealized assumptions. They are also similar in placing a great emphasis on derivational robustness of modeling results. Recently philosophers of biology and economics have argued that robustness analysis can be a method for confirmation of claims about causal mechanisms, despite the significant reliance of these models on patently false assumptions. We argue that the power of robustness analysis has (...) been greatly exaggerated. It is best regarded as a method of discovery rather than confirmation. (shrink)
What sort of claims do scientific models make and how do these claims then underwrite empirical successes such as explanations and reliable policy interventions? In this paper I propose answers to these questions for the class of models used throughout the social and biological sciences, namely idealized deductive ones with a causal interpretation. I argue that the two main existing accounts misrepresent how these models are actually used, and propose a new account. *Received July 2006; revised August 2008. †To contact (...) the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri, St. Louis, 599 Lucas Hall (MC 73), One University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121-4400; e-mail: [email protected] (shrink)
It is a commonly expressed sentiment that the science and philosophy of well-being would do well to learn from each other. Typically such calls identify mistakes and bad practices on both sides that would be remedied if scientists picked the right bit of philosophy and philosophers picked the right bit of science. We argue that the differences between philosophers and scientists thinking about well-being are more difficult to reconcile than such calls suggest, and that pluralism is central to this task. (...) Pluralism is a stance that explicitly drives towards accommodating and nurturing the richness and diversity of well-being, both as a concept and as an object of inquiry. We show that well-being science manifests a contingent pluralism at the level of methodology, whereas philosophy of well-being has largely rejected pluralism at the conceptual level. Recently, things have begun to change. Within philosophy, conceptual monism is under attack. But so is methodological pluralism within science. We welcome the first development, and bemoan the second. We argue that a joined-up philosophy and science of well-being should recognise the virtues of both conceptual and methodological pluralism. Philosophers should embrace the methodological justification of pluralism that can be found in the well-being sciences, and scientists should embrace the conceptual reasons to be pluralist that can be found in philosophical debate. (shrink)
What makes a measure of well-being valid? The dominant approach today, construct validation, uses psychometrics to ensure that questionnaires behave in accordance with background knowledge. Our first claim is interpretive—construct validation obeys a coherentist logic that seeks to balance diverse sources of evidence about the construct in question. Our second claim is critical—while in theory this logic is defensible, in practice it does not secure valid measures. We argue that the practice of construct validation in well-being research is theory avoidant, (...) favoring a narrow focus on statistical tests while largely ignoring relevant philosophical considerations. (shrink)
We make the case that the Prisoner’s Dilemma, notwithstanding its fame and the quantity of intellectual resources devoted to it, has largely failed to explain any phenomena of social scientific or biological interest. In the heart of the paper we examine in detail a famous purported example of Prisoner’s Dilemma empirical success, namely Axelrod’s analysis of WWI trench warfare, and argue that this success is greatly overstated. Further, we explain why this negative verdict is likely true generally and not just (...) in our case study. We also address some possible defenses of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. (shrink)
The 1994 US spectrum auction is now a paradigmatic case of the successful use of microeconomic theory for policy-making. We use a detailed analysis of it to review standard accounts in philosophy of science of how idealized models are connected to messy reality. We show that in order to understand what made the design of the spectrum auction successful, a new such account is required, and we present it here. Of especial interest is the light this sheds on the issue (...) of progress in economics. In particular, it enables us to get clear on exactly what has been progressing, and on exactly what theory has – and has not – contributed to that. This in turn has important implications for just what it is about economic theory that we should value. (shrink)
In Valuing Health, Dan Hausman argues that well-being is not measurable, at least not in the way that science and policy would require. His argument depends on a demanding conception of well-being and on a pessimistic verdict upon the existing measures of subjective well-being. Neither of these reasons, I argue, warrant as much skepticism as Hausman professes.
Can social phenomena be understood by analyzing their parts? Contemporary economic theory often assumes that they can. The methodology of constructing models which trace the behavior of perfectly rational agents in idealized environments rests on the premise that such models, while restricted, help us isolate tendencies, that is, the stable separate effects of economic causes that can be used to explain and predict economic phenomena. In this paper, I question both the claim that models in economics supply claims about tendencies (...) and also the view that economics, when successful, necessarily follows this method. When economics licenses successful policy interventions, as it did in the case of the Federal Communications Commission spectrum auctions, its method is not to study tendencies but rather to study the phenomenon as a whole. Key Words: economic models tendencies economic experiments policy making John Stuart Mill. (shrink)
Julian Reiss correctly identified a trilemma about economic models: we cannot maintain that they are false, but nevertheless explain and that only true accounts explain. In this reply we give reasons to reject the second premise ? that economic models explain. Intuitions to the contrary should be distrusted.
What is it to be mentally healthy? In the ongoing movement to promote mental health, to reduce stigma, and to establish parity between mental and physical health, there is a clear enthusiasm about this concept and a recognition of its value in human life. However, it is often unclear what mental health means in all these efforts and whether there is a single concept underlying them. Sometimes, the initiatives for the sake of mental health are aimed just at reducing mental (...) illness, thus implicitly identifying mental health with the absence of diagnosable psychiatric disease. More ambitiously, there are high-profile proposals to adopt a positive definition, identifying mental health with psychic or even overall well-being. We argue against both: a definition of mental health as mere absence of mental illness is too thin, too undemanding, and too closely linked to psychiatric value judgments, while the definition in terms of well-being is too demanding and potentially oppressive. As a compromise, we sketch out a middle position. On this view, mental health is a primary good, that is, the psychological preconditions of pursuing any conception of the good life, including well-being, without being identical to well-being. (shrink)
The burgeoning science of well-being makes no secret of being value laden: improvement of well-being is its explicit goal. But in order to achieve this goal its concepts and claims need to be value adequate; that is, they need, among other things, to adequately capture well-being. In this article I consider two ways of securing this adequacy—first, by relying on philosophical theory of prudential value and, second, by the psychometric approach. I argue that neither is fully adequate and explore an (...) alternative. This alternative requires thorough changes in the way philosophers theorize about well-being. (shrink)
First-person reports are central to the study of subjective well-being in contemporary psychology, but there is much disagreement about exactly what sort of first-person reports should be used. This paper examines an influential proposal to replace all first-person reports of life satisfaction with introspective reports of affect. I argue against the reasoning behind this proposal, and propose instead a new strategy for deciding what measure is appropriate.
This article is a mutual introduction of the science of well-being to philosophy of science and an explanation of how the two disciplines can benefit each other. In the process, I argue that the science of well-being is not helpfully viewed as a social or a natural, but rather as a mixed, science. Hence, its methodology will have to attend to its specific features. I discuss two of its methodological problems: justifying the role of values, and validating measures. I suggest (...) that tackling them calls for developing mid-level rather than high theories of well-being. (shrink)
Judgments of well-being across different circumstances and spheres of life exhibit a staggering diversity. Depending on the situation, we use different standards of well-being and even treat it as being constituted by different things. This is true of scientific studies as well as of everyday life. How should we interpret this diversity? I consider three ways of doing so: first, denying the legitimacy of this diversity, second, treating well-being as semantically invariant but differentially realizable, and, third, adopting contextualist semantics for (...) well-being expressions. I reject the first option on the grounds that it is unable to make sense of much of everyday and scientific linguistic practices, and also because it makes the category of well-being insignificant or even otiose for practical purposes. We should thus pick between the second and the third options. I argue that contextualism about well-being is more plausible and faces fewer objections than the differential realization view. I conclude with a discussion of other features of contextualism: it does not imply that well-being is relative to individual taste, it need not result in eliminativism about well-being, nor in scepticism about a general theory of well-being. It does not commit us to an “anything goes” approach, nor does it threaten anarchy and miscommunication. (shrink)
Rational choice modeling originating in economics is sweeping across many areas of social science. This paper examines a popular methodological proposal for integrating formal models from game theory with more traditional narrative explanations of historical phenomena, known as “analytic narratives”. Under what conditions are we justified in thinking that an analytic narrative provides a good explanation? In this paper I criticize the existing criteria and provide a set of my own. Along the way, I address the critique of analytic narratives (...) by Jon Elster. (shrink)
When it originated in the late 19th century, psychometrics was a field with both a scientific and a social mission: psychometrics provided new methods for research into individual differences, and at the same time, these psychometric instruments were considered a means to create a new social order. In contrast, contemporary psychometrics - due to its highly technical nature and its limited involvement in substantive psychological research - has created the impression of being a value-free discipline. In this article, we develop (...) a contrasting characterization of contemporary psychometrics as a value-laden discipline. We expose four such values: that individual differences are quantitative (rather than qualitative), that measurement should be objective in a specific sense, that test items should be fair, and that utility of a model is more important than its truth. Our goal is not to criticize psychometrics for employing these values, but rather to bring them into the open and to show that these values are not inevitable and are in need of systematic evaluation. (shrink)