Are Modern Philosophical Accounts of Well-Being Excessively ‘Individualistic’?

Qizilbash, Mozaffar (2014). 'Are Modern Philosophical Accounts of Well-Being Excessively 'Individualistic'?' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Do modern accounts of well-being encourage 'excessive' individualism? I suggest that this question can be answered by considering two objections to modern views of welfare: (1) that they involve an impoverished view of persons; and (2) that they decompose all goods into goods for individuals and do not give intrinsic value to collective goods. I argue that two influential views of well-being – the informed desire view and the capability approach – can convincingly respond to these objections. Both views allow for our distinct social roles and identities; the ways in which social norms and institutions shape values; and a concern for others. Neither view sees goods as goods only of specific individuals. Nor do they require us to separate out neatly the realisation of values in the lives of various individuals. But that does not imply that goods such as friendship are collective rather than individual goods or that collective goods have intrinsic value. Nonetheless, accounts of well-being may need to be more explicit than they have been in incorporating the social dimension.

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