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Barnes, Elizabeth. Valuing Disability, Causing Disability
2014, Ethics, 125 (1): 88-113.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord

Abstract: Disability rights activists often claim that disability is not – by itself – something that makes disabled people worse off. A popular objection to such a view of disability is this: were it correct, it would make it permissible to cause disability and impermissible to cause nondisability (or impermissible to ‘cure’ disability, to use the value-laden term). The aim of this article is to show that these twin objections don’t succeed.

Comment: This text intervenes in the debate over whether disability, itself, makes someone worse off (the mere-disability/bad-disability debate). It could serve as a clear introduction to the sorts of arguments that support the view that disability is a bad-making feature of someone's life, and contains easily understood counter-examples to that view. It has a place in a course covering disability, impairment, bioethics, autonomy, and social minorities.

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Cartwright, Nancy, Montuschi, Eleonora. Philosophy of Social Science. A New Introduction
2014, Oxford University Press, Oxford
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Added by: Björn Freter

Publisher’s Note: This is a much-needed new introduction to a field that has been transformed in recent years by exciting new subjects, ideas, and methods. It is designed for students in both philosophy and the social sciences. Topics include ontology, objectivity, method, measurement, and causal inference, and such issues as well-being and climate change.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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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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Hewitt, Sharon. What do our intuitions about the experience machine really tell us about hedonism?
2010, Philosophical Studies 151 (3):331 - 349
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Robert Nozick’s experience machine thought experiment is often considered a decisive refutation of hedonism. I argue that the conclusions we draw from Nozick’s thought experiment ought to be informed by considerations concerning the operation of our intuitions about value. First, I argue that, in order to show that practical hedonistic reasons are not causing our negative reaction to the experience machine, we must not merely stipulate their irrelevance (since our intuitions are not always responsive to stipulation) but fill in the concrete details that would make them irrelevant. If we do this, we may see our feelings about the experience machine becoming less negative. Second, I argue that, even if our feelings about the experience machine do not perfectly track hedonistic reasons, there are various reasons to doubt the reliability of our anti-hedonistic intuitions. And finally, I argue that, since in the actual world seeing certain things besides pleasure as ends in themselves may best serve hedonistic ends, hedonism may justify our taking these other things to be intrinsically valuable, thus again making the existence of our seemingly anti-hedonistic intuitions far from straightforward evidence for the falsity of hedonism

Comment: I always use this alongside the original Nozick discussion of the experience machine, and always when I'm discussing hedonism or theories of well-being. Hewitt examines the experience machine thought experiments in a good level of detail and provides some interesting arguments as to whether we should take our intuitions about it sincerely.

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Jaworska, Agnieszka. Respecting the Margins of Agency: Alzheimer’s Patients and the Capacity to Value
1999, Philosophy and Public Affairs 28(2): 105–138.
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Added by: Simon Fokt

Introduction: Dworkin puts forth two main arguments to justify adhering to the wishes the patient expressed before becoming demented. As he sees it, this course of action both promotes the patient’s well-being and is required in order to respect the patient’s autonomy. In each argument, while I consider most of the ideas well-founded, I challenge the crucial premise. In the argument focused on the patient’s well-being, I dispute the claim that demented patients are no longer capable of generating what Dworkin calls “critical interests.” In the argument concerning autonomy, I question the premise that demented patients no longer possess the “capacity for autonomy.”7 In each case, I will trace how the problematic premise arises within Dworkin’s argument and then develop an alternative account of the relevant capacity.

Comment: Jaworska asks: 'Should we, in our efforts to best respect a patient with dementia, give priority to the preferences and attitudes this person held before becoming demented, or should we follow the person’s present preferences?' (p. 108). The article offers a useful critical overview of the views expressed by Rebecca Dresser and Ronald Dworkin. It is best used as a primary reading in ethics classes focusing directly on medical ethics or autonomy, or as further reading in general ethics teaching on autonomy.

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Masitera, Erasmus. Creating the Other in the Context of Land Redistributions. The Paradox of Decolonization and Common Good
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 525-544
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: In this chapter I argue for land redistribution that promotes common good and decolonisation for all humans. I achieve this by criticising land redistributions that are discriminatory, in that regard I particularise the issue to Zimbabwean land reform of 2000 onwards. I note that the particular land redistribution resulted in marginalisation, exclusion, thingification and disempowerment of certain groups of people based on their race, political, economic and social standing. Opposed to the discriminatory land redistribution, I argue (through the use of philosophical terms and systems) for land redistribution that aims at empowering and promotes well-being, common good and harmony among members of society.

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Tiberius, Valerie. Well-Being: Psychological Research for Philosophers
2006, Philosophy Compass 1(5): 493-505.
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Added by: Carl Fox

Abstract: Well-being in the broadest sense is what we have when we are living lives that are not necessarily morally good, but good for us. In philosophy, well-being has been an important topic of inquiry for millennia. In psychology, well-being as a topic has been gathering steam very recently and this research is now at a stage that warrants the attention of philosophers. The most popular theories of well-being in the two fields are similar enough to suggest the possibility of interdisciplinary collaboration. In this essay I provide an overview of three of the main questions that arise from psychologists’ work on well-being, and highlight areas that invite philosophical input. Those questions center on the nature, measurement, and moral significance of well-being. I also argue that the life-satisfaction theory is particularly well suited to meet the various demands on a theory of well-being.

Comment: Tiberius provides a nice exposition of the key approaches to well-being in the philosophical tradition and briefly argues for the 'life-satisfaction' account, but the main thrust of the paper is to introduce areas of overlap with research in psychology and to flag up ways in which philosophy could make a contribution. Some sections could certainly serve as introductory reading to either the philosophical or psychological literature, and the paper as a whole would work well in an applied or inter-disciplinary module.

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