Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Anthony Skelton, Samantha Brennan


Theories of well-being give an account of what it is for persons to fare well or to live prudentially valuable lives. I divide the theoretical landscape based on the position that theories accord to schedules of concerns. A schedule of concerns is the loose program that specifies the objects that engage the subject’s active interest, attention, and care. Objective theories hold that the objects of one’s concerns alone determine one’s well-being. Subjective theories hold that one’s concerns alone determine one’s well-being. I assess each set of theories for descriptive adequacy and find that each runs into difficulty.

Subjective theories confront the problem of worth. They imply that one can fare well despite the fact that the objects of one’s concerns are not objectively valuable. Critics object that the latter claim does not cohere well with some pre-analytic beliefs about well-being. Not all the objects in one’s schedule of concerns are on equal axiological footing. Meanwhile, objective theories confront the problem of authority. They imply that, provided the objects to which one relates are independently valuable, one can fare well despite the fact that one does not endorse the conditions of one’s life. This alienates welfare subjects from their well-being. Finally, each set of theories imply that objective goods and schedules of concerns on their own do not contribute to well-being. I argue that this claim is counter-intuitive. I call this the double bind problem.

My research shows that we can address the problem of authority, the problem of worth, and the double bind problem by defending an accommodating view of well-being as endorsing worthy goods. This is a hybrid account of well-being that tries to take seriously the intuition that well-being has both a subjective and an objective part. The endorsement condition captures the subjective part of well-being; the worth condition captures the objective part of well-being. My considered view is that, in central cases, one fares well at a time when one endorses worthy goods.