Dissertation, University of Southampton (2023)
Desire theories of well-being claim that how well someone’s life goes for them is entirely determined by the fulfilment and frustration of their desires. This thesis considers the viability of theories of this sort. It examines a series of objections that threaten to undermine these views. These objections claim that desire theories of well-being are incorrect because they have implausible implications. I consider four main objections over the course of this thesis. The first claims that these theories are incorrect because they implausibly entail that self-sacrifice does not exist. The second claims that these theories are incorrect because they implausibly entail that severe depression does not diminish the well-being of those afflicted by this condition. The third claims that these theories are incorrect because they have implausible implications about the relative importance of fleeting desires, long-standing desires, and fluctuations in desire strength to well-being. The fourth claims that these theories are incorrect because they fail to capture the intuition that desire fulfilments which leave us disappointed and bereft of feelings of satisfaction do not improve well-being. In each of these cases, I find that desire theories of well-being have sufficient resources to refute these objections. The primary finding of this thesis is that many of the arguments against desire theories of well-being are unsuccessful. A secondary set of findings concern observations about the structure of human psychology.