The Missing-Desires Objection to Hybrid Theories of Well-Being

Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (2):270-295 (2013)
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Many philosophers have claimed that we might do well to adopt a hybrid theory of well-being: a theory that incorporates both an objective-value constraint and a pro-attitude constraint. Hybrid theories are attractive for two main reasons. First, unlike desire theories of well-being, hybrid theories need not worry about the problem of defective desires. This is so because, unlike desire theories, hybrid theories place an objective-value constraint on well-being. Second, unlike objectivist theories of well-being, hybrid theories need not worry about being overly alienating. This is so because, unlike objectivist theories, hybrid theories place a pro-attitude constraint on well-being. However, from the point of view of objectivists, hybrid theories are not objectivist enough, and this can be seen clearly in missing-desires cases. For instance, hybrid theories entail that, if someone lacks the desire for health, then health is not a component of her well-being. This, objectivists say, is implausible. It is obvious, objectivists say, that someone’s life goes better for herself inasmuch as she is healthy, and hence that health is a component of her welfare. This paper focuses on the missing-desires objection (as leveled by objectivists) to hybrid theories of well-being. My argument is that the missing-desires objection can be answered in a way that is generally convincing and, in particular, in a way that pays a good deal of respect to objectivist intuitions about well-being. My hope, then, is that this paper will help to persuade objectivists about well-being to become hybrid theorists.

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William Lauinger
Chestnut Hill College


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