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« Wellbeing, Happiness, and the Good Life »

The Centre de Recherche en Éthique (CRÉ) is delighted to announce a conference entitled Wellbeing, Happiness, and the Good Life, to be held in Montreal from May 15-17, 2019.

Organising committee:

Mauro Rossi (UQAM)
Christine Tappolet (University of Montreal)
Willem van der Deijl (University of Tilburg)

Affiche (.pdf)

Confirmed speakers:

Anne Baril (Washington University in St. Louis)
Gwen Bradford (Rice University)
Gordon Cooper (Florida State University)
Jennifer Hawkins (Duke University)
Dan Haybron (Saint Louis University)
Thomas Hurka (University of Toronto)
Antti Kauppinen (University of Tampere)
Eric Mathison (Baylor College of Medecine)
Jason Raibley (University of Kansas)
Raffaele Rodogno (Aarhus U)
Connie Rosati (University of Arizona)
Mauro Rossi (UQÀM)
Christine Tappolet (U de Montréal)
Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota)
Willem van der Deijl (Tilburg U)


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

09:20-09:30    Opening address

09:30-10:50    Tom Hurka (U of Toronto), Against ‘Good For’, against ‘Well-being’ + Commentary by Sarah Stroud (U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

10:50-11:00    Break

11:00-12:20    Connie Rosati (Arizona), On Reasons of Personal Good + Commentary by Stephanie Leary (McGill)

12:20-01:30    Lunch

01:30-02:50    Raffaele Rodogno (Aarhus U), Beyond Subjectivism and Objectivism + Commentary by Arash Abizadeh (McGill)

02:50-03:00    Break

03:00-04:20    Anne Baril (Washington U in Saint Louis), How epistemic virtue can benefit its possessor + Commentary by Charles Côté-Bouchard (GRIN)

04:20-04:30    Break

04:30-05:50    Antti Kauppinen (U of Helsinki), Two Kinds of Perfectionism + Commentary by Samuel Dishaw (Harvard U)

06:30-08:00    Cocktail at Librairie Olivieri
Table ronde sur le thème « Bonheur et littérature » Martin Gibert (IVADO/CRÉ), Najat Rahman (U de Montréal) et Daniel Weinstock (McGill U)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

09:30-10:50    Gwen Bradford (Rice U), Perfectionist Bads + Commentary by Martina Orlandi (McGill U)

10:50-11:00    Break

11:00-12:20    Valerie Tiberius (U of Minnesota), Fulfillment and Failure + Commentary by Natalie Stoljar (McGill)

12:20-01:30    Lunch

01:30-02:50    Eric Mathison (Baylor College of Medecine), Missed Connections: Ill-being for Hybrid Theories + Commentary by Joseph van der Weelden (Ahmedadad U)

02:50-03:00    Break

03:00-04:20    Jennifer Hawkins (Duke U), Understanding Well-Being through Ill-Being + Commentary by François Jaquet (CRÉ)

04:20-04:30    Break

04:30-05:50    Mauro Rossi (UQAM) & Christine Tappolet (U de Montréal), Happiness as an Affective Evaluation + Commentary by Chris Howard (U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Friday, May 17, 2019

09:30-10:50    Willem van der Deijl (Tilburg U), The Sentience Argument for Experientialism about Welfare + Commentary by François Letourneux (U de Montréal)

10:50-11:00    Break

11:00-12:20   Gordon Cooper (Florida State U), The Philosophy of Swine Objection is Here to Stay + Commentary by Guillaume Soucy (UQAM)

12:20-01:30    Lunch

01:30-02:50   Jason Raibley (U of Kansas), Pleasure’s Place in Well-being + Commentary by Matthew Scarfone (McGill U)

02:50-03:00    Break

03:00-04:20    Daniel Haybron (Saint Louis U), The Concept of a Good Life + Commentary by Ian Gold (McGill U)

Avec les précieuses contributions de la FAS (Université de Montréal); du GRIN, du GRIPP, de la Chaire de recherche du Canada en épistémologie pratique (Université de Sherbrooke); du Département de philosophie de l’UQÀM; du Département de philosophie de l’Université de Montréal; du Département de philosophie de McGill University; de la revue Philosophiques; le Social Justice Centre de Concordia; la SPQ; le IHSP.


Anne Baril, How epistemic virtue can benefit its possessor

Folk wisdom holds that ignorance can be bliss.  We’re happier not knowing how many germs are on our toothbrushes, how many calories were in that cupcake, or where our burgers came from.  Familiar phrases like ‘he’s too smart for his own good’, and ‘curiosity killed the cat’ warn us that caring about the truth can come at the cost of our own well-being.  Even philosophers, self-professed lovers of truth, have largely left this assumption unchallenged.  In this paper, I argue that, contrary to popular opinion, there is good reason to think that the qualities that make people good reasoners also make them better off.  I will focus specifically on epistemic virtue:  the kind of character in virtue of which one is well-oriented towards epistemic goods.  I propose that epistemic virtue is importantly implicated in the realization of some of the goods that are widely believed to be instrumental to, or even constitutive of, well-being.  Here I focus on one such good: friendship.


Gwen Bradford, Perfectionist Bads

Pain, failure, and friendlessness, all make a life intrinsically worse. In spite of the obviousness of their badness, it is difficult to explain. There are many theories of wellbeing that give accounts of our good, but it is a challenge not just to name what is bad, but also to explain why it is bad and how it is related to what is good. Perfectionism has particular difficulty in accounting for bads. Otherwise, it is a theory that has quite a lot in its favour. This paper explores some ways that perfectionism can potentially account for bads. Ultimately, a new framework for perfectionism is proposed: tripartite perfectionism. In the end, perfectionism has more resource than previously acknowledged, and can explain bads in its own terms.


Gordon Cooper, The Philosophy of Swine Objection is Here to Stay

According to quantitative hedonism, the greater the balance of pleasure over pain in a life, the better the life. Proponents of the ‘swine objection’ demur, arguing that lives filled with bodily pleasure are not necessarily better than lives featuring less pleasure. Ben Bramble’s unconventional brand of hedonism promises to explain why this is correct, but no threat to hedonism. On Bramble’s view, only qualitatively unique pleasures increase lifetime well-being. Thus, an abundance of pleasurable experiences is irrelevant to well-being if most of one’s pleasures are ‘pure repeats,’ as is the case with lives restricted to bodily pleasure. Meanwhile, normal humans experience a wider variety of novel pleasures, resulting in more frequent (and often weightier) contributions to well-being. In this paper, I spoil Bramble’s rejoinder. I argue that the claim that only qualitatively unique pleasures increase lifetime well-being has absurd implications. I also criticize Bramble’s account of pleasure intensity.


Willem van der Deijl, The Sentience Argument for Experientialism about Welfare

Can a person’s degree of wellbeing be affected by things that do not enter her experience? Experientialists deny this claim, extra-experientialists affirm it. The debate between these two positions has focused on an argument against experientialism – the experience machine objection – but few arguments exist for it. I present an argument for experientialism. It builds on the claim that theories of wellbeing should not only state what constitutes wellbeing, but also which entities are welfare subjects. Moreover, the claims it makes about these two issues should have a certain coherence with each other. I argue that if we accept a particular plausible answer to the second question – namely that all and only sentient beings have welfare – extra-experientialist theories face a problem of coherence.


Jennifer Hawkins, Understanding Well-being through Ill-being: The Role of Affective Perspectives

Those who reject mental state theories of well-being have likewise tended to ignore or downplay the important role of psychological states in well-being. However, even though I am not a mental state theorist, I believe that mental states are incredibly important for well-being. In an attempt to get clearer on what aspects of positive experience really matter for well-being, I began looking at those states that constitute ill-being. I have subsequently developed a theory of emotional suffering. I explain suffering in terms of what I call « affective perspectives. » Suffering is constituted by negative affective perspectives, but perspectives do not have to be negative. They can be positive as well. I go on to argue that positive affective perspectives are the most important psychological feature of well-being.


Dan Haybron, The Concept of a Good Life

What does it mean to lead a good life, in the most expansive sense of this term? Our question concerns not merely a life that is good for you, or that is morally good, but a life that is good, period. A good life encompasses all the values that matter in human life, whatever those may be: well-being, morality, etc. Before giving a substantive account of what good lives entail, we need clarity on the concept in question, and whether it really differs from the more familiar notion of well-being. In this talk I argue that the concepts of a good life and of well-being are indeed distinct, and that there are good reasons to undertake explicit theorizing about the nature of a good life.


Thomas Hurka, Against ‘Good For’, against ‘Well-being’

This paper challenges the widespread view that « good for », « wellbeing », and related terms express an evaluative concept distinct from « simply good » and vital for ethics. It argues that there’s no useful understanding of « good for » that’s neither merely descriptive (equivalent e.g. to satisfies the desires of) nor reducible to « simply good » plus some addition (e.g. « in the life of » or « satisfies the desire of »). Its main argument asks what distinctive content « good for » has as against these alternatives. One possibility is that the good-for value that supervenes on its ground is distinctively relativized, or a value-for. But this idea, which good-for theorists have never explained, is mysterious, and it’s unclear what ethical significance the proposed relativized concept could have. If judgements using « simply good » can value exactly the same things on the same basis, why isn’t « good for » redundant?


Antti Kauppinen, Two Kinds of Perfectionism

I argue that we can distinguish explanatory and substantive aspects of perfectionism about wellbeing from each other, and make use of the former to provide a rationale for an objective list theory. Explanatory perfectionism holds that what explains the fit or kinship between a subject and a non-instrumental good thing is that the latter realizes the subject’s nature. Substantive perfectionism, in contrast, is a thesis about what realizes a human being’s nature: the development and exercise of their essential capacities. Traditional perfectionist theories endorse both theses. I argue that problems for traditional perfectionism stem from the substantive part. However, explanatory perfectionism, on its own, offers a more attractive explanation of the fit between a subject and basic goods than competing subjectivist theories. When it is combined with an alternative, independently motivated account of what is essential to us as persons, it yields an attractive rationale for a principled objective list theory.


Eric Mathison, Missed Connections: Ill-being for Hybrid Theories

I argue that the most common version of the subjective-objective hybrid theory of well-being is implausible as a theory of ill-being. I use two of Christopher Woodard’s definitions to divide hybrids into restrictivism, according to which the subjective attitude and the objective good are both necessary for any welfare, and permissivism, according to which either element on its own contributes some value, but the most good comes from an organic unity of the two. I show that restrictivism—which is by far the more popular version in the literature—produces unacceptable results when symmetrically applied to ill-being. I then consider permissivism, which, while more plausible than restrictivism, is not obviously better than a theory that merely adds the two elements that would make up the organic unity. Thus, the best account of ill-being for the hybrid theory is either asymmetrical to its well-being counterpart or isn’t a hybrid at all.


Jason Raibley, Pleasure’s Place in Wellbeing

The Greek philosopher Democritus may have been the first to hold that it is self evident that any episode of pleasure is intrinsically beneficial for the person who experiences it. Many contemporary philosophers also affirm this view. However, this view has unattractive consequences, and some defenses of it conflate welfare value with other forms of value. However, a different, holistic theory of wellbeing centered on agential functioning can explain why pleasure is in many, but not all, contexts intrinsically beneficial. This theory derives some support from how it fits with the three aspects of reward from a psychological or neurological point of view.


Raffaele Rodogno, Beyond Subjectivism and Objectivism

Subjectivist theories of well-being account for the intuition that well-being and ill-being cannot leave us cold –the so-called ‘resonance’ requirement. Objectivist theories ground (in a less problematic way than subjectivist theories) the type of prudential criticism normally embodied in well-being language. In this paper, I sketch an approach to the study of well-being and ill-being that is non-committal with regard to subjectivism and objectivism. On the view that I present, resonance is delivered by subjective states that play a fundamental epistemological role, not a formal or metaphysical one. As for prudential criticism, I show how it is and should be understood in fallibilist terms, as something the correct application of which to each individual is ultimately assessed by way of the prudential epistemology outlined above.


Connie Rosati, On Reasons of Personal Good

When I was a teenager, I vowed that if I ever weighed enough to donate blood, I would do so. Did the fact that made such a vow give me reason, some 30 plus years later, to donate blood? If so, what kind of reason is that, and what can we learn from such cases about our practical reasons more generally? I argue that such vows can give us reason to act, reasons of self invention, and that these reasons are among those that bear not only on constituting ourselves as particular sorts of persons, but also on our personal good. In the course of defending this claim, I offer a tentative account of the kinds of reasons that enter into our efforts to lead lives that are good for us, what I call reasons of personal good.


Mauro Rossi & Christine Tappolet, Happiness as Affective Evaluation

In this paper, we put forward a new theory of occurrent happiness as an affective evaluation. Our theory combines two main claims. The first is that occurrent happiness consists in a broadly positive balance of affective states, such as emotions, moods, and sensory pleasures. The second is that these affective states are all kinds of felt evaluations, that is, affective experiences of value. Together, these claims deliver the conclusion that occurrent happiness consists in a broadly positive affective experience of value. We show that our theory is superior to all the competing account of happiness, namely, hedonism, life satisfactionism and Haybron’s emotional state theory.


Valerie Tiberius, Fulfillment and Failure

According to the value fulfillment theory of wellbeing, we live well when we realize or fulfill our appropriate values over the course of our lives. This way of thinking about wellbeing has some advantages. For example, it explains how wellbeing is specially related to the person living the life, but it also explains how we can be critical of that person s current values and desires. Can the value fulfillment theory help us understand ill-being? This talk introduces the value fulfillment theory and explores its implications for how we can fail to live well.