Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement, and Moral Importance

Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement, and Moral Importance

Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement, and Moral Importance

Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement, and Moral Importance


"Well-being," "welfare," "utility," and "quality of life," all closely related concepts, are at the center of morality, politics, law, and economics. Griffin's book, while primarily a volume of moral philosophy, is relevant to all of these subjects. Griffin offers answers to three central questions about well-being: what is the best way to understand it, can it be measured, and where should it fit in moral and political thought. With its breadth of investigation and depth of insight, this work holds significance for philosophers as well as for those interested in political and economic theory and jurisprudence.


Some years ago I gave a series of seminars with two colleagues, Jonathan Glover and Derek Parfit. For me those seminars were the occasion for first trying out the ideas that I present here. I learned a great deal from Glover and Parfit, much of it at so early a stage in the development of my ideas that sometimes I cannot now disentangle my thoughts from theirs. Recently I gave another series of seminars with Parfit, from which I also benefited greatly. But I have benefited most of all from Parfit's penetrating and stimulating criticisms of drafts of these chapters. He has been exceptionally generous.

We were lucky to have Richard Hare drop in occasionally on both series of seminars. My discussions with him then, and since, have helped me a lot; he has not always agreed with what I have to say but he has been an important stimulus to it. I owe him much.

Richard Brandt, John Broome, Amartya Sen, and Wayne Sumner read large parts of early drafts, and spent hours, for which I thank them deeply, writing or talking to me about them. I have also had much helpful advice from Kurt Baier, Timothy Besley, Roger Crisp, Ray Frey, Allan Gibbard, John Harsanyi, Brad Hooker, Joel Kupperman, Jeff McMahan, Joseph Raz, Donald Regan, Tim Scanlon, Larry Temkin, and Henry West.

Some of my chapters are revisions of material I have published already. I took a preliminary canter across the terrain in a survey article 'Modern Utilitarianism', Revue Internationale de Philosophie 141 (1982), and sentences from that article crop up here and there throughout this book. A very early version of chapter VII saw life as 'Intersubiektywne porównania użyteczności', in Etyka 19 (1981) and was resurrected, much changed, as 'Well-Being and Its Interpersonal Comparability' in a not yet titled collection of essays on R. M. Hare edited by N. Fotion and D. Seanor, forthcoming from the Clarendon Press; chapter VII is much the same in . . .

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