Well-Being: What Matters Beyond the Mental?

In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol 4. Oxford, UK: pp. 210-235 (2015)
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Most philosophers these days assume that more matters for well-being than simply mental states. However, there is an important distinction that is routinely overlooked. When it is said that more matters than mental states, this could mean either that certain mind-independent events count when it comes to assessing the prudential value of a life (the mind-independent events thesis or MIE), or it could mean that it is prudentially important for individuals to have the right kind of epistemic relation to life events (the positive value of knowledge thesis or PVK). This chapter first aims to convince theorists of the importance of the distinction between MIE and PVK, or, more precisely, the importance of distinguishing questions about which non-mental objects (or events or facts) have intrinsic welfare value (if any do) and questions about which epistemic relations (knowledge, justified true belief, true belief) have intrinsic welfare value (if any do). This chapter also raises serious doubts about the way in which contemporary desire theories handle the extra-mental components of welfare, and offers some tentative answers to the question: what should a theorist of welfare say about these matters?

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Jennifer Hawkins
Duke University


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