Happiness is not Well-being

Journal of Happiness Studies 13 (6):1105-1129 (2012)
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This paper attempts to explain the conceptual connections between happiness and well-being. It first distinguishes episodic happiness from happiness in the personal attribute sense. It then evaluates two recent proposals about the connection between happiness and well-being: (1) the idea that episodic happiness and well-being both have the same fundamental determinants, so that a person is well-off to a particular degree in virtue of the fact that they are happy to that degree, and (2) the idea that happiness in the personal attribute sense can serve as a ‘‘proxy’’ for well-being, i.e., that a person’s degree of deep or robust happiness approximates their degree of well-being. It is argued that happiness in both these senses is conceptually, metaphysically, and empirically distinct from well- being. A new analysis of welfare, well-being as agential flourishing, can explain welfare’s real connection to happiness in both the episodic and personal attribute senses. It predicts that such happiness is only directly beneficial when it is valued, when it is a form of valuing, or when it underwrites (i.e., serves as the causal basis for) the disposition to realize one’s values. It is therefore a necessary—but not sufficient—condition for especially high levels of well-being. This analysis of welfare integrates many insights from the eudaimonic tradition of welfare and happiness research in psychology, and also addresses common criticisms of these eudaimonic models.

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Jason R. Raibley
University of Kansas


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