Philosophy Ph.D. Dissertations


Beyond Subjective Well-Being

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Philosophy, Applied

First Advisor

Fred Miller


The concept of well-being is relevant to a multitude of issues in the domains of ethics, law, medicine, mental health, and everyday decisionmaking. And yet while there seem to be some shared pre-theoretical intuitions about the nature of well-being, there is no widely accepted comprehensive account within the philosophical community. This essay takes up one strand of the discussion concerning well-being, namely what is the relationship between an individual's subjective stances, such as desiring, enjoying, or preferring, and his well-being. Subjectivism posits a dependency of well-being on the subjective stances of the individual, while objectivism denies this dependency. This essay takes Aristotle's eudaimonism as its point of departure. Aristotle's view is typically regarded as a paradigmatically objective account of well-being. Nonetheless, subjective stances do evidently play some role in well-being even according to Aristotle. This fact serves as impetus to consider accounts offered by current subjectivists as well as objections that are raised against them in the course of the debate. It is concluded that no existing objective account seems able to survive the counterexamples now standardly launched against them. Furthermore, subjectivism faces an additional problem that none of the considerations that are thought to motivate it in the first instance uniquely point to some version of subjectivism as the best available account. Thus, it is argued that subjectivism as a category of account is ill-founded. The account of well-being that satisfies the intuitions of both objective and subjective accounts while avoiding the major drawbacks of each is a hybrid view with elements of both the subjective and the objective. This view defines well-being as the development of our natural strengths as individuals and human beings plus endorsement in the form of autonomous choice to develop these strengths.