Well-being in action

Berry, Donald (2023) Well-being in action. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis consists of a critique of two influential accounts of what is good for a human being: that which satisfies their desires, and that which gives them pleasure. Both accounts are therefore ‘subjectivist’ in that they are centred on the personal values of the agent in question. In contrast to the conventional philosophical approach, the study will evaluate these two theories in the context of their suitability for guiding our deliberations about what to do and how best to live. It offers an argument against both theories when they are thus put to work as a basis for making our choices. The argument proceeds by considering what is required in order for us to develop and maintain certain practical and intellectual powers that are essential to our forming an adequate conception of our own good and effectively pursuing this ideal in practice. I will claim that gaining and maintaining these powers requires a certain kind of supportive social context – and, in particular, engagement in certain kinds of formative relationships with others. However, participating in these relationships in the required way necessitates our having an openness to learning from and being influenced by these others that is not possible for an agent who fully commits to either of our two subjectivist views.

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