Contemporary Moral Theory: Well-Being
Spring 2014
Prof. Chris Heathwood
University of Colorado Boulder

What We Did Each Day

(or plan to do)


M 1/13: Introductions (especially concerning stuttering), roll, name game, syllabus.

W 1/15: Syllabus again. The many idioms of well-being. Whether there is an evaluative sense of 'happy' that means something like 'well off'.

F 1/17: Four uses of 'good'. Sample sentences from you. Value Simpliciter vs. Welfare.

For next time: think about the methods we might use to determine whether something is good in itself for someone.



M 1/20: No class -- MLK holiday.

W 1/22: Review of value simpliciter / welfare distinction. Instrumental value vs. intrinsic value. Some ways of putting the philosophical question of welfare. Homework Assignment.

F 1/24: Four questions that a complete theory of welfare answer. Is health intrinsically good for us? Is being alive intrinsically good for us? Bare-difference arguments. Isolation tests.



M 1/27: Summary of Hurka's introduction. Digression on bare-difference cases to test whether knowledge is intrinsically good for us. Intrinsic value vs. basic intrinsic value. Objection to Hurka's claim that the philosophical question of welfare "concerns the general standards that should guide any choice in any situation" (1).

W 1/29: Two kinds of mental entity: sensations and attitudes. The Distinctive Feeling View of the nature of pleasure. The Heterogeneity Problem. The Unisolatability Problem. The Hedonic Tone Theory (Hurka's view). An Argument from Disagreement against the Hedonic Tone Theory.

F 1/31: Assuming that pleasure is intrinsically good for us, Does anything other than intensity and duration determine the intrinsic value of a pleasure? Comparing pleasures of different kinds. Incomparability vs. Incommensurability vs. Lexical Priority.



M 2/3: Three theories of the nature of sensory pleasure: distinctive feelings theory, hedonic tone theory, attitudinal theory. And how they fare with respect to three phenomena: heterogeneity, unisolatability, and disagreement. An argument against the attitudinal theory: the sensation of stepping barefoot on a tack.

W 2/5: Hurka's thesis about the relative value of pleasure and pain. The Two-Words Argument for Hurka's thesis. The Second Argument for Hurka's thesis. Homework Assignment.

F 2/7: Topic: Doug Portmore's paper, "Acts, Attitudes, and Rational Choice." Moral ought's, prudential oughts, and all-things-considered-ought's. Rational evaluation of attitudes. Relation between evaluation of acts and evaluation of attitudes. Portmore's Attitudism.



M 2/10: Hurka's argument from malicious pleasure against Simple Hedonism. Welfare value vs. Value simpliciter again. Two possible premises: (P2w) the malicious pleasure does not in itself benefit the person experiencing it; (P2vs) that the person is experiencing the malicious pleasure does not in itself make the world better. Refining the case to correct for distorting factors.

W 2/12: Hurka's argument for the claim that false belief about one's place in the world is a positive bad, as opposed to a merely neutral state. Hurka's argument for the claim that knowledge is intrinsically good.

F 2/14: Is the notion of a life being made intrinsically better (in a way that gives special reasons to the person living the life) that doesn't benefit the person living it coherent? If coherent, are there in fact such values (values that improve a life without improving it for the person living it)?



M 2/17: Hurka on Virtue and Its Value. An argument against the intrinsic goodness for us of virtue.

W 2/19: The Value of Love. The Nature of Love. The Instrumental Value of Love. Is Love Intrinsically Good in Any Way? Is Love Basically Intrinsically Good?

F 2/21: How to determine the value of a whole life. Uphill life vs. downhill life. Ali's career vs. a lesser boxer's career.





M 3/3: Discussion of my paper, "Which Desires are Relevant to Well-Being?"

W 3/5: Parfit's Tripartite Distinction. Objectivism vs. Subjectivism about Well-Being. Tiberius' List of Theories of Well-Being. The Objective List Theory. Attitudes vs. Pro-Attitudes. Pro-Attitudes vs. "Subjective States." Blue-ism about welfare. The internalist/sensationalist vs. the externalist/attitudinal theory of pleasure and its relevance to the question of whether hedonism is an objective or a subjective theory.

F 3/7: Tiberius' List of Theories of Well-Being. The difference between Objective List Theories and Perfectionism. More on Nussbaum and Kraut. Hybrid Theories. The Desire Theories. An argument from idealizing desires.



M 3/10: Tiberius' List of Theories of Well-Being. Happiness Theory, and its relation to hedonism. Value Realization Theory. Desiring vs. Valuing. Aim Achievement Theory. Desire Satisfactionism. Economists' attraction to desire theories. If a theory makes welfare easier to measure, is that any reason to think that the theory is more likely to be true?

W 3/12: Two Related Arguments for Subjectivism. The Resonance Intuition. Henry and the entymology textbook. The bearing of the objectivity of other values to the question of the objectivity or subjectivity of welfare.

F 3/14: An argument from the necessity of pro-attitudes for welfare to the sufficiency as well.



M 3/17: Discussion of papers. Finish an argument from the necessity of pro-attitudes for welfare to the sufficiency as well.

W 3/19: Sidgwick on the desire theory of welfare. Intrinsic desire. Desiring something "for oneself."

F 3/21: Sidgwick on the desire theory of welfare. DT1 (simple intrinsic desire theory). DT2 (counterfactual desire theory involving foreknowledge and fore-feeling). Value on the whole.





M 3/31: Sidgwick's Dead Sea Apple objection to a simple desire theory of welfare.

W 4/2: The Problem of Remote Desires. Cases. Poll about Parfit's and Kagan's cases. Poll about posthumous harm and benefit. Two possible replies: restricting the theory; biting the bullet.

F 4/4: Two Solutions to the Problem of Remote Desires: the restriction to self-regarding desires; the appeal to aims. Objections to these solutions.



M 4/7: Another solution to the problem of remote desires: the appeal to awareness. The intuitions that what you don't know can't hurt you. The experience requirement. Understanding the experience requirement.

W 4/9: Arranged commentators for graduate student presentations. Discussion of Campbell paper.

F 4/11: Guest speaker: Stephen Campbell.


After this: graduate student presentations ... (see syllabus for schedule)