Well-Being Policy: What Standard of Well-Being?

Daniel M. Haybron, Valerie Tiberius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This paper examines the norms that should guide policies aimed at promoting happiness or, more broadly, well-being. In particular, we take up the question of which conception of well-being should govern well-being policy (WBP), assuming some such policies to be legitimate. In answer, we lay out a case for 'pragmatic subjectivism': given widely accepted principles of respect for persons, well-being policy may not assume any view of well-being, subjectivist or objectivist. Rather, it should promote what its intended beneficiaries see as good for them: pleasure for hedonists, excellence for Aristotelians, etc. Specifically, well-being policy should promote citizens' 'personal welfare values': those values - and not mere preferences - that individuals see as bearing on their well-being. Finally, we briefly consider how pragmatic subjectivism works in practice. While our discussion takes for granted the legitimacy of well-being policy, we suggest that pragmatic subjectivism strengthens the case for such policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-733
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the American Philosophical Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • ethics
  • happiness
  • normative ethics
  • philosophy of economics
  • philosophy of science
  • philosophy of social science
  • political philosophy
  • well-being


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