Graham Oddie, Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder
Happiness and well-being have both played a rich role in the history of value theory and of ethics, but they also feature prominently in popular culture and in psychology. Both have been held to be of fundamental intrinsic value. According to prominent versions of utilitarianism happiness and/or well-being is that which we have a moral obligation to maximize. Despite the crucial role that these two concepts play there is no general consensus about what either happiness or well-being consists in, or what exactly the relationship between them is. I take my cue from a broadly Meinongian theory of emotions as mental states that involve presentations of value. This theory yields a rather natural account of the nature of happiness and of its relation to well-being. The account of the nature of happiness that I will sketch also yields an answer the question that is the title of this talk. However, the answer might come as something of a surprise to some. Happiness is not itself an intrinsically good thing and, even if consequentialism is correct, we have no moral obligation to pusue it or promote it, let alone to maximize it.
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