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What makes a persons life go well? Is a well being dependant by a person-person base? Is it judged at the end of someones’s life? Everyone wants their life to go well, and people have separate definition for what their particular “well” is. Finding a few dollars, getting promotion or having healthy relationship are often seen as signs that a persons life is going well. All of these things for the most part, make one happy. Shafer-Landau describes these things as instrumental goods, that pave the way for a better life (Shafer-Landau, page 23).
But yet, often people find themselves wondering what can make their life even better —what can increase their well-being. A person’s well-being typically refers to a good or satisfactory condition of health, happiness and prosperity. For the most part we find ourselves measure a persons well being by how much pleasure and pain they’ve encountered throughout their life.The happier they are, the better life they are leading, the only thing that directly reduces the quality of life is unhappiness — this is the hedonistic view. In this paper I will first discuss Hedonism, but due to its several faults, I will then explain why the informed desire satisfaction theory is better as a theory of well being.
According to hedonism, the best activity for human beings is one that brings the greatest happiness. If you’re constantly thinking about how to gain the maximum amount of pleasure, you fail to take into account at what costs you’re receiving that said pleasure. Consider Chris — a known serial killer — Chris gets the most pleasure from killing innocent people. Clearly what Chris is doing is causing those around significant harm. But to a hedonist, his choice to kill giving him happiness and therefore he is living his best life. If he continues to do so, at the end of his life he would have lived a good life. If hedonism is true, then Chris’s happiness fro evil, and morally lacking deeds are those equivalent to happiness gained from decent actions (Shafer-Landau, page 34). According to Critics in Shafer-Landau’s argument, if happiness is coming from an immoral source then it makes us less well off than otherwise. We know that the two are far from equal in terms of being ethically correct, but hedonism lacks in taking this into account. On the other hand, if Chris wasn’t doing what brings him please a hedonist wouldn’t see it as a life worth living.
Sometimes to get the thing you so desperately want, you must experience non-pleasurable things along the way. Personally for myself, I want to obtain a bachelors is Psychology — this would bring me the greatest amount of happiness I’ve experienced to date. But in order for me to complete my undergrad, I need to take multiple exams and write long papers on somethings that I don’t necessarily care about and those that would bring days of stress. Despite the fact doing so would not bring me pleasure, its compulsory for me to get through this to get to my ultimate pleasure. According to hedonism I’m clearly not living a good life because I’m not satisfied.
While hedonism is surely appealing, it has many faults. As it implies that a person’s well-being relies solely on the amount of pleasure they’ve received. But many people live meaningful, barely pleasurable lives and consider those as a life lived well. For this reason, I believe that the informed desire satisfaction theory — based on reality — is a better theory of feel being. As maybe, a well lived life is that which has satisfied our desires and not only one that measures how much pleasure we received.
A desire account allows for a plurality of the good life. People’s desires are variant, while hedonism only allows for one thing —happiness — to be the factor of a good life, this theory allows for a variety. Say maybe the only thing Jane wants from her life is to be unhappy. A Hedonist would say her life is not worth living. But for a desire account theorist, if Jane desires to be unhappy and her desire is being fulfilled — by possibly working at her boring job — she is living her best life.
It differs from hedonism as that hedonism simply says that your life is better by knowing that your goals is being achieved, despite it not being achieved by yourself. On the other hand, the desire satisfaction theory requires to actually get the thing you desire. For example if you were hooked up to a experience machine, and you really wanted to sky dive, for a hedonist just you experiencing the dive is enough for your happiness. But for a desire satisfaction theorist, a persons life will not be going well because they themselves did not do the dive.
Despite its several advantages, this theory too has flaws. But they aren’t impossible to overcome. One challenge to this theory is that: sometimes a person is benefitted without the desire to gain that benefit. These are called pleasant surprises (Shafer-Landau, page 52) Consider this, one day you go to check your mail and see that you received a tax refund of one hundred thousand dollars, clearly you did not desire it but you still revived it. A smile response to the obstacle of the pleasant surprise is, had you known about the tax refund you would’ve wanted it. In your head you might want money as a desire of yours, and receiving the tax refund allowed for the desire to be fulfilled.
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