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Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics ca ‘The Concept of Welfare L. W. SUMNER War is welfare? And how much docs it matte for ethics? These se the questions ths book sets out t0 explore. We shall say that 4 fully developed answer to ether question will count as a theory about the nature of welfae or aoout its vale. The philosophical tradition offers ws many such theories. We will try to determine ‘whether any of them is adequate; if not, then we will ced to look for something better (or perhaps conclude that a gencral theory ik just aot to be had in this area) ‘Our concern willbe with wellize in the original meaning still preserved in the term's etymology the condition of faring oe ding well It sin this sense that weltere aaches pre-eminently to the lives of individuals, and a peeson' welfare is more of les the same a5 her wellbving or interest oF (in one of ts any meanings) hee ood. Wherein does welfare, in thi senes, consist? What infor 8 life to go well (or badly)? And what isthe practical importance of welfare? What role should i pay, say, in ethics (or politic)? These are the questions which wil eccupy us ‘Welfare matters. On this muck we all agree, a the very least when our own interest is at stake. Although most of us are highly falible managers of our peesoaal firs, we generally havea fairly definite sense of when things ae going well or baly for us, and a setled preference for the former condition over the Iter, When we face the lage decisions tha shape our lives—what to work a whom to marry, where to live, whether to have children we ‘ther make them primarily with a view to our own wellbeing of if nor, come to regret this failing afterwcd. If the failing is pet sistent then ou lives do not mere go badly, they also cease ina real sense to be our lve. At that point we need to remind Out CLARENDON PRESS - OXFORD selves that a certain degre of selteentredness isan indinpensable condition fr being a person or a subject inthe fst place. Falling ta9ae below this minimum, having too ie regard for one's own poo 2 ‘The Concept of Welfare is not a vite but 2 pathology, nt aus or sintiness but Gehosenent or servic, For most of, especlly Ife ae white, male, and afllvnt, this nora angen we hae lite diff sing above dhe chek Cd eel of elf interest necessary in oder to ave an Menity of Gu own, Ot problem may hen sen ro be avodig the oppose cxtreme the excuse concen for kis own good which the Characeistic mack of the epout. However, this tempeation Sms femarkably cay to esi (ar easier than che sie the ther way Ino theaniacon af th self The pre epi, nded seems v0 te chutney the creature of textbooks in this oF economics ‘th the pombe exception of prchonaths, the Ope i virally ton-xstentin real fe What rendre impraciaef rcon fiona soa Bong Ene ne pce ones ged vary by ous own well-being, we ean scarcely avoid extending this contra at vt to some favoured cle of thereat’, reighbours, ends co-workers loverr—t0 whom we fe ose, Ceaneed, Now se so manager ake «broader ew, Men Sting a len inerminently withthe interest of 3 tation oss tr ethnic grap or ule r race or gender Indeed we go furchet Stl since een the mont hardearted among us te ike 0 find fur sympathies aroused when we areconroned by che corrosive ‘flcts of poner or fain of war on the Ives of distant san fers. We cae about he plight sinply Heese I 0 Ba for them, as would-be egitewe ate nal floes ‘Weliar, whether our own or tha of others isnot merely a rasta concen for ue-ometing that we sek simply beste Ste happen care about ie Iris aso 2 prominent feature of out SSrmensie neal nosing conta om he pt of tur projects The general form ofthese constrain shat we mst show a due concer or respect for others (and for ourselves ab trl case we ate ot steady moa acne in tha re Ton othr move spect formulations they oven wal every asec of our vet decison affecting minor must be made ‘Inthe bet iret of the hl etene decison poet the invert of he patent tat ste adminteed nthe Best interest ofthe beneficiary, goverment must manage tee afirs inthe irre of the govered, and soon. Welle abo ipl ied in some ofthe undional vine: prance snd benevolence, of ours, fut alo fendsip and cven joie, which requres The Concept of Welfare 3 Inter alia that we refrain from -he deliverate infliction of harm on bothers. Indeed, ware we to surat the notions of hari and bene: fit from common-sense morality, there would be lie Ife: not only lite substantive coaten, but few of our thick ethical con cepts a5 wel. ‘The centrality of welfare in ethics has long been recognized by ‘oral philosophers. It is dificult to think of any major ethical theory which does not assign em important role o protecting the interests of some favoured set of welfare subjects. Theories which share this common commitment may, of couse, go on to differ in significant ways: which subjects they privilege (the members of ‘one’s society? the members of our species? al sentient being), what sort of protection they afford (a set of basic rights? «place atthe bargaining table? inclusion in the genesal welfare?) and 50 fon, One sich dimension will Be of pariculae interest for our i {quicy: whether welfare ithe orly asic value countenanced By the theory oF i meely one among phrality of such goods. The view that Welfare isthe only value which am ethical theory need take seriously ultimately and for sts Own sake, we shall all welfare ‘Welfaism is one possible answer to the question of hove much welfare matters for ethics: i counts for everything, Iti 2 highly contentious answer, largely outof favour these day, Historically, its principal defenders have hen che atltarians who adopted wel. farismas thei cheory ofthe good. Buta commitment to welfaism is not necessarily a commitment to tilcarianism a wellaist may ccqually bea natural law theorit or deontoogist. Being a utliar fan requires being a wells, hut not vice versa, Besides its wel farism,utlitarianism is composed of te further ingredients, cach fof them highly contentious in is own right consequential, he view thatthe right consists ia nasimizing the general goody and aggregation, che view that the general good isthe sum total of individual goods. The ethical ehsory which results from combining all three ingredients is very much out of favour these days, and this fact may partially account for the unpopularity of welfarism, However this may be, it would be quite wrong to reject welfarism simply because of ies traditional connections wth uiitaranisan, if there is something seiously amiss with the later, it might ie im one (or both) of its other dining features. The adequacy of 4 The Concept of Welfare weltsism asa theory of value for ethics isan issue which merits tention on is vin, fee of all uit by association. Giving this attention will be one of ose aims. ‘We will be concerned hoth with the nature of welfare (what is it for lifero he going wel?) and with i value (what role should vwelbeing playin an ethical theory). tm principle these questions Could be acdresied in ether oder. Ihave chosen to begin by ask- ing what wellae const in while peescinding a= much as possible fom the cole iemight play in our moral thinking. This oxder seems | natural ene, since i general we expost the value of 4 thing £9 ‘depend om ie nature, rather than vice versa, However, it does have one significant drawback. Questions about the value of welfare are, by and large, more familar to common sense than questions about is nature. Most of us manage our ‘ordinary lives on the unreflctive assumption that well-being is ‘worth pursuing or promoting and that ll-being(f we may calli that) is equally worth avoiding or preventing, that it 2 good thing for lives to go well and a bad thing for them to go badly, thar it counts in favour of some activity of condition that it Is beneficial and against tht it harmful, and soon. In all of this wwe are taking for granted the postive value of welfze (and che negative value of ilfael. Furthermore, we generally think and act fs chough welfare were valuable for is own sake, or i is own ‘ight, rather than merely asa means to some further, deeper good In doing so we assign it basic or itimate values we would there fore be puszed f someone asked why welfare s valuable or de sanded to be shown what itis valuable for. Surly welfare 1s Waluable in itself anything is. “Tis is oe to say that questions about the value of welfare are straightforward o thatthe righ answers to them are obvious on the contrary, they are some of the deepest and most difficult issues in philosopbical ethics. At every sage, however, thse issues can reallly be connected tothe concerns of our everyday lives. In this Fespect, though intricate and even abstract, they remaia intelligible and accessible. Furthermore, i seems obvious why tackling them will reuite specially philosophical skills, The sciences, includ- ing the socialsciences, have attempred to expel all questions of ‘alu fromm thee territory. Whether oe not they have succeeded ia this purge, the upshot hasbeen to relegate these issues tthe do- main of philosophy. Of course it may be thar evaluative questions The Concept of Welfare 5 ae inherently undecdable, rus that no methodology seientitic or otherwise is adequate to then, But if they are resolvable, the teh nigues needed for solving them are, by commen consent, philoso pica ones. Where the value of welfaze is concerned, thevelote, it Is easy to see why our ingury must be 4 philosophical one. ‘The boundary between scence and philosophy is harder 10 lo cate when out aim isto discover not how or why welfare matters bur what itis. In general when we want to understand what some thing is, or what iis ike, the sciences seem the obvious place to tum. Iris a mysterious matter, therefore, how there cou be oom for a peculiacly philosophical inguiey into the nature of welfare, Worse, the question itself is mysterious, Am answer ta it will ll us what welfare consists in, or what is constittive of it. But surely we must already know what welfare iy since we al seck it in out everyday lives, How, then, could philosophical inguicy into the natuze of welfare ever yield any nove results? Indeed, if we do not already agree om what counts as were how could it ever yield ‘any results ac all? Lut THE NATURE OF THINGS These puzls may not be geected by any fares pce co welae They might ely perplex os were we undewaing an inary into the satce of che things which have wadoall inetd plospher, sch as mental sats pean oF Pop. ‘ic, or uber. The tesigations wo fall win he Alma of metapiy whic tela aero snes, Coe ‘er, for ita, powpheal theories abou the ate ofc toton Soch there ae planiy no empial or scenic They do not report causal comets beween parla ere of sts ofthe worl, and if we ah fo lam about suc come tome do no ons he orks of phitwopbers On the eer hand, however they abo so mort Be mevey analy or ee pel When te austin alco of cat dos alice iss rw ee o's a Sonsin This ott yea hee nothing oF apres he esne fom exploring and clang or concep, mon" inary langage” pilesophy has had ths modes bat wore fim. But no amotnt of expt of or conepalfaeerk