Article

Who Is the Happy Warrior? Philosophy Poses Questions to Psychology

The Journal of Legal Studies (Impact Factor: 1.35). 06/2008; 37(S2):81-81. DOI: 10.1086/587438
Source: RePEc

ABSTRACT Psychology has recently focused attention on subjective states of pleasure, satisfaction, and what is called "happiness." The suggestion has been made in some quarters that a study of these subjective states has important implications for public policy. Sometimes, as in the case of Martin Seligman's "positive psychology" movement, attempts are made to link the empirical findings and the related normative judgments directly to the descriptive and normative insights of ancient Greek ethics and modern virtue ethics. At other times, as with Daniel Kahneman's work, the connection to Aristotle and other ancient Greek thinkers is only indirect, and the connection to British Utilitarianism is paramount; nonetheless, judgments are made that could be illuminated by an examination of the rich philosophical tradition that runs from Aristotle through to John Stuart Mill's criticisms of Bentham. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..

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    • "Several other researchers support the concept of Gross National Happiness such as Diener (2000), Kahneman et al. (2004) and Layard (2005) while others have expressed doubts whether life satisfaction is comparable across individuals and countries (Burchardt, 2006; Frey and Stutzer, 2007; Nussbaum, 2009). Different cultural norms might hinder comparisons and the scaling of life satisfaction might vary according to personality traits, current moods, adaptation to certain situations and the phenomenon that individuals might mostly remember peaks and the last moments of a certain time period. "
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    • "This is evident, among other things, from the fact that welfare economists traditionally have defended their measures by showing that they are utility functions, that is, that they are indices of preference satisfaction. It has also been noted that measures inspired by the capability approach are based on objective list accounts of well-being (Nussbaum, 2008; Sen, 1987). This is clear, among other things, from the assumption that certain things – in particular, having a large capability set – are thought to be good for a person regardless of whether those things would make the person happier, and of whether the person desires them. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper we examine whether, and how, welfare economics should incorporate the insights from happiness and satisfaction studies. Our main point is that measuring well-being by reported satisfaction levels can come in conáict with individualsíjudgments about their own lives and that these individual judgments should be respected. We propose an alternative measure of welfare in terms of equivalent incomes that does respect individual preferences. Satisfaction surveys are useful, however, to derive information about preferences. We illustrate our approach with panel data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS) for the period 1995-2003 and we compare the results for equivalent incomes with the results for sub jective satisfaction.

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