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Du Châtelet, Emilie, , . Discourse on Happiness
2009, Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings, ed. with an Introduction by Judith P. Zinsser, transl. by Isabelle Bour, Judith P. Zinsser, Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 349–365.
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by:

Abstract: It is commonly believed that it is difficult to be happy, and there is much reason for such a belief; but it would be much easier for men to be happy if reflecting on and planning conduct preceded action. One is carried along by circumstances and indulges in hopes that never yield half of what one expects. Finally, one clearly perceives the means to be happy only when age and self- imposed fetters put obstacles in one’s way.

Comment: This accessible 18th century text lays out a hedonistic theory of happiness with interesting parallels to Epicureanism.

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Foot, Philippa, , . Natural Goodness
2001, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Philippa Foot has for many years been one of the most distinctive and influential thinkers in moral philosophy. Long dissatisfied with the moral theories of her contemporaries, she has gradually evolved a theory of her own that is radically opposed not only to emotivism and prescriptivism but also to the whole subjectivist, anti-naturalist movement deriving from David Hume. Dissatisfied with both Kantian and utilitarian ethics, she claims to have isolated a special form of evaluation that predicates goodness and defect only to living things considered as such; she finds this form of evaluation in moral judgements. Her vivid discussion covers topics such as practical rationality, erring conscience, and the relation between virtue and happiness, ending with a critique of Nietzsche’s immoralism. This long-awaited book exposes a highly original approach to moral philosophy and represents a fundamental break from the assumptions of recent debates. Foot challenges many prominent philosophical arguments and attitudes; but hers is a work full of life and feeling, written for anyone intrigued by the deepest questions about goodness and human.

Comment: This is an intermediate text which outlines and argues for the primary methodological differences between Foot’s account of the relationship between reason and morality, and the standard (broadly Humean) approach against which she is arguing. Some understanding of this standard approach is required to get the most out of this text. The text is clear throughout and would make a good compliment to courses which deal with the Humean account of Action or 20th century discussions concerning meta-ethics.

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Hawkins, Jennifer, , . The subjective intuition
2010, Philosophical Studies 148 (1):61 - 68
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Theories of well-being are typically divided into subjective and objective. Subjective theories are those which make facts about a person’s welfare depend on facts about her actual or hypothetical mental states. I am interested in what motivates this approach to the theory of welfare. The contemporary view is that subjectivism is devoted to honoring the evaluative perspective of the individual, but this is both a misleading account of the motivations behind subjectivism, and a vision that dooms subjective theories to failure. I suggest that we need to revisit and reinstate certain features of traditional hedonism, in particular the idea that felt experience plays a role that no theory of welfare can afford to ignore. I then offer a sketch of a theory that is subjective in my preferred sense and avoids the worst sins of hedonism as well as the problems generated by the contemporary constraints of subjective theorists.

Comment: I use this text whenever I'm teaching on well-being, including to introductory first year classes. Hawkins gives a nuanced account of what it means for theories of well-being to be objective vs subjective, and gives a range of helpful examples. She offers objections to a number of views and offers her own theory that avoids these objections.

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