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Is well-being the ultimate moral good?  Can all we value be reduced to “well-being”?

 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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29 July 2018 21:35
 

I’m going to twist the topic a bit.

Well-being can be used as a placeholder for ultimate good, but I seriously doubt it is a scalar value. For those of you not familiar with math, this means that it cannot be a single number, but might be represented by a bunch of different numbers. I say this because there are a number of different “goods” that we each experience differently. In the case of morality, what is good for me might not be good for anyone else. Morality is in a sense a compromise between the good of one person and the good of other people.

And that’s only the start of framing the problem. Human individuals need a number of different goods in order to simply remain physically healthy. We can abstract these as “balances”, relating them to the old Epicurean advice of moderation. Asserting the need for balance or moderation, however, implies that no singular value can suffice. Then, add in the social and environmental needs of humans, the arguable psychological need to procreate, and the dynamism introduced by multiple agents that can compete and cooperate, and the notion of a singular scalar value for well-being becomes absurd.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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29 July 2018 22:55
 
Poldano - 29 July 2018 09:35 PM

I’m going to twist the topic a bit.

Well-being can be used as a placeholder for ultimate good, but I seriously doubt it is a scalar value. For those of you not familiar with math, this means that it cannot be a single number, but might be represented by a bunch of different numbers. I say this because there are a number of different “goods” that we each experience differently. In the case of morality, what is good for me might not be good for anyone else. Morality is in a sense a compromise between the good of one person and the good of other people.

And that’s only the start of framing the problem. Human individuals need a number of different goods in order to simply remain physically healthy. We can abstract these as “balances”, relating them to the old Epicurean advice of moderation. Asserting the need for balance or moderation, however, implies that no singular value can suffice. Then, add in the social and environmental needs of humans, the arguable psychological need to procreate, and the dynamism introduced by multiple agents that can compete and cooperate, and the notion of a singular scalar value for well-being becomes absurd.

Yes. We exist within a world where certain goods are inversely proportional.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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03 August 2018 03:53
 
Poldano - 29 July 2018 09:35 PM

I’m going to twist the topic a bit.

Well-being can be used as a placeholder for ultimate good, but I seriously doubt it is a scalar value. For those of you not familiar with math, this means that it cannot be a single number, but might be represented by a bunch of different numbers. I say this because there are a number of different “goods” that we each experience differently. In the case of morality, what is good for me might not be good for anyone else. Morality is in a sense a compromise between the good of one person and the good of other people.

And that’s only the start of framing the problem. Human individuals need a number of different goods in order to simply remain physically healthy. We can abstract these as “balances”, relating them to the old Epicurean advice of moderation. Asserting the need for balance or moderation, however, implies that no singular value can suffice. Then, add in the social and environmental needs of humans, the arguable psychological need to procreate, and the dynamism introduced by multiple agents that can compete and cooperate, and the notion of a singular scalar value for well-being becomes absurd.

Sorry I missed this.

Well-being as a “placeholder” seems more or less like what I have in mind by calling it an empty moral category.  It’s more a logical construct that refers to states of existence than an existential fact itself, and as such it would be neither a “scalar value” nor even a measurable state.  Rather it’s just an empty moral category through which we refer to the conglomerate of factors comprising it, something like feeling contentment with one’s lot in life as situated in some state of the universe.  How would one even measure something as multi-factored as that?  How could one measure what’s essentially a way of referring to multiple factors that comprise a ‘state of being.’?

In any case, I don’t think it makes sense to say that well-being is a state of the brain situated in a state of the world, and like you I think one way of framing the problem would be balancing the factors that comprise it, not measuring well-being itself.  But again, that balance, per se, would not be reflected as a state of the brain (though of course the cognition behind the balancing would be).  Rather it would be, as you indicate, accommodating the convergence of multiple factors that fall under the moral and logical umbrella of “well-being.” I think this reasoning even follows from Harris’ own use of “health” by comparison.  In point of fact, we do not measure health as a scalar value representing a state of the body.  Rather we ‘measure’ health as a balance of factors that comprise it.  Thus one is always relatively healthy when compared to other states, all things considered, not one is healthy as an absolute measure of some given state, health.  That sort of thing.  I don’t think what Harris wants even follows from his own analogy, and one can simply flesh out that analogy to show it.  Health refers to a balancing of factors based on given states, not a measure in scalar terms of some given ‘state of being’ itself.

Anyway, I agree that once fully fleshed out, “the notion of a singular scalar value for well-being becomes absurd.”  It does for both logical reasons—how does one measure ‘being,’ well or otherwise—as well as for factual ones—as “health” is not a measureable state of the body, so “well-being” is not a measureable state of the brain.  And without a ‘singular scalar value’ or something like it, it’s hard to see how Harris would even conceive a science of well-being as the basis for moral theory.

 

 

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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07 October 2018 12:52
 

I don’t think “well being” can be summarized as a scalar, but I do think we’re fairly good at assessing it, and I think we’ll get much better at it.

Almost everything a human can do cannot (yet) be made accurately explicit. We can’t write down a good formula for how to walk, or play chess, or play the violin, or debate in forums. But we do recognize expertise (which means reliable performance), in many of these domains.

 
 
Libertarian
 
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Libertarian
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20 October 2018 14:15
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 03 August 2018 03:53 AM
Poldano - 29 July 2018 09:35 PM

I’m going to twist the topic a bit.

Well-being can be used as a placeholder for ultimate good, but I seriously doubt it is a scalar value. For those of you not familiar with math, this means that it cannot be a single number, but might be represented by a bunch of different numbers. I say this because there are a number of different “goods” that we each experience differently. In the case of morality, what is good for me might not be good for anyone else. Morality is in a sense a compromise between the good of one person and the good of other people.

And that’s only the start of framing the problem. Human individuals need a number of different goods in order to simply remain physically healthy. We can abstract these as “balances”, relating them to the old Epicurean advice of moderation. Asserting the need for balance or moderation, however, implies that no singular value can suffice. Then, add in the social and environmental needs of humans, the arguable psychological need to procreate, and the dynamism introduced by multiple agents that can compete and cooperate, and the notion of a singular scalar value for well-being becomes absurd.

Sorry I missed this.

Well-being as a “placeholder” seems more or less like what I have in mind by calling it an empty moral category.  It’s more a logical construct that refers to states of existence than an existential fact itself, and as such it would be neither a “scalar value” nor even a measurable state.  Rather it’s just an empty moral category through which we refer to the conglomerate of factors comprising it, something like feeling contentment with one’s lot in life as situated in some state of the universe.  How would one even measure something as multi-factored as that?  How could one measure what’s essentially a way of referring to multiple factors that comprise a ‘state of being.’?

In any case, I don’t think it makes sense to say that well-being is a state of the brain situated in a state of the world, and like you I think one way of framing the problem would be balancing the factors that comprise it, not measuring well-being itself.  But again, that balance, per se, would not be reflected as a state of the brain (though of course the cognition behind the balancing would be).  Rather it would be, as you indicate, accommodating the convergence of multiple factors that fall under the moral and logical umbrella of “well-being.” I think this reasoning even follows from Harris’ own use of “health” by comparison.  In point of fact, we do not measure health as a scalar value representing a state of the body.  Rather we ‘measure’ health as a balance of factors that comprise it.  Thus one is always relatively healthy when compared to other states, all things considered, not one is healthy as an absolute measure of some given state, health.  That sort of thing.  I don’t think what Harris wants even follows from his own analogy, and one can simply flesh out that analogy to show it.  Health refers to a balancing of factors based on given states, not a measure in scalar terms of some given ‘state of being’ itself.

Anyway, I agree that once fully fleshed out, “the notion of a singular scalar value for well-being becomes absurd.”  It does for both logical reasons—how does one measure ‘being,’ well or otherwise—as well as for factual ones—as “health” is not a measureable state of the body, so “well-being” is not a measureable state of the brain.  And without a ‘singular scalar value’ or something like it, it’s hard to see how Harris would even conceive a science of well-being as the basis for moral theory.

 

Do you not believe you could create a rough scalar value for health? I believe I probably could make a half decent one and I’m not even a doctor. Arguably a health insurance company is a half decent scalar of health. Mostly people don’t talk about health as a scalar but most people have a rough idea of where others fall on that scalar in their head.

 
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