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Reasoning about well-being: between psychometrics and philosophy

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Well-being is nowadays an object of science. It has various formal properties: precise definitions, measurement procedures, causal maps. But along with that, it remains an object of social policy and personal deliberation, and this requires normativity – well-being must be something worth pursuing and promoting. That is, a scientific construct of well-being must refer to something that a normative argument identifies as reasonably close to well-being. What sort of argument and how can we secure it? Philosophers think such an argument must come from a theory of prudential value (traditionally eudaimonism, hedonism and desire fulfillment). Scientists, on the other hand, validate their constructs and measures using psychometric tests. I argue that neither option is right and outline a better way.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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