Some experimental philosophy on Happiness

May 5, 2008

Hey you all,

here’s a link to a blog post of mine on the Experimental Philosophy blog that describes experiments that I think suggest that the folk concept of happiness is a normative one:

Moral Judgments and Happiness

According to the hypothesis I am testing in my experiments, if the folk thinks that somebody is living a bad life—perhaps by being a morally bad person—then they are unlikely to, or will not, attribute happiness to this person even if they believe that she is in the kinds of mental states which we usually associate with happiness.

Most psychological research on happiness uses definitions of happiness that are wholly non-evaluative. This means that, when some psychologist judges that somebody is happy, the folk might not. That, I think, is an interesting result. Why? Because it means, I think, that when we give a philosophical account of happiness, then this will be a normative project at least in the following respect: we will have to give reasons for favoring either the normative concept of happiness used by the folk or the non-normative one used by psychologists and many philosophers. (That is, if, as I think, the kinds of experiments that I’ve been running show that the folk are using a partly normative concept of happiness. Again, see the link for descriptions of these experiments.)

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What’s the subject of justice? pt. 2

May 5, 2008

[Read part 1]

In my last post, I presented some concerns about the institutional/interactional distinction with regards to the subject of justice and sketched a potentially new way to distinguish between the claims labeled (1) and (2) in that post. Some further thought has led me to be less confident that the worries I presented should lead us to question the adequacy of the institutional/interactional distinction. Nevertheless, I still think there’s at least one reason to shift from an institutional/interactional distinction to a structural/interactional distinction. So this post will attempt two things. First, I’ll sketch out a reason to think that institutions and structures aren’t coextensive (by arguing that institutions are instances of structure). Second, I’ll offer a reason for thinking that the important distinction is between structuralism and interactionism rather than institutionalism and interactionism. (Note: in the last post, I suggested that we ought to dump the institutional/interactional distinction wholesale in favour of a structural/non-structural distinction. For now, I’ve changed my mind; I think we should turn in the institutional/interactional distinction for the structural/interactional distinction.)

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