Positive Psychology and Philosophy-as-Usual: An Unhappy Match?

Philosophies 7 (3):52 (2022)
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The present article critiques standard attempts to make philosophy appear relevant to the scientific study of well-being, drawing examples in particular from works that argue for fundamental differences between different forms of wellbeing, and claims concerning the supposedly inherent normativity of wellbeing research. Specifically, it is argued that philosophers in at least some relevant cases fail to apply what is often claimed to be among their core competences: conceptual rigor—not only in dealing with the psychological construct of flow, but also in relation to apparently philosophical concepts such as normativity, objectivity, or eudaimonia. Furthermore, the uncritical use of so-called thought experiments in philosophy is shown to be inappropriate for the scientific study of wellbeing. As an alternative to such philosophy-as-usual, proper attention to other philosophical traditions is argued to be promising. In particular, the philosophy of ZhuangZi appears to concord well with today’s psychological knowledge, and to contain valuable ideas for the future development of positive psychology.

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