Pulling Apart Well-Being at a Time and the Goodness of a Life

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This article argues that a person’s well-being at a time and the goodness of her life are two distinct values. It is commonly accepted as platitudinous that well-being is what makes a life good for the person who lives it. Even philosophers who distinguish between well-being at a time and the goodness of a life still typically assume that increasing a person’s well-being at some particular moment, all else equal, necessarily improves her life on the whole. I develop a precise statement of this standard assumption, and then show that it is subject to counterexamples. The possibility of such counterexamples depends only on premises similar to those sometimes invoked to argue that a person’s well-being over a long period is not simply the aggregate well-being of the shorter periods that compose the long period. The refutation of the standard assumption linking well-being and life-goodness entails that these are distinct and sometimes divergent values. As an alternative to the standard assumption, it is proposed that well-being is best understood as an ingredient in a good life.
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Archival date: 2018-06-05
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