Owen Flanagan (PI) (Philosophy, Duke University)

Wenqing Zhao (Philosophy, Duke University)

Varieties of Well-Being: A Cross-Cultural Study aims to explore three non-Western views of well-being. In particular, the project surveys Confucianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, which have endured, continued to function, and provide distinctive conceptions of well-being and human flourishing. The rationale for engaging in comparative research on well-being is that we live in increasingly multicultural and cosmopolitan worlds where different people abide different normative regimens. Modern people are thus called upon to comprehend how others understand the content and contours of a good human life. Such understanding promotes tolerance, appreciation for differences, as well as provides resources for thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of one’s own conceptions of well-being. The project aims to generate more culturally attuned and empirically informed discourse about well-being, and more sensitive communication across scholarly fields and cultural traditions. It is believed that the existing measurement and methods of understanding, assessing, and comparing wellbeing can be significantly enhanced by attending to a broader array of cultural traditions. Moreover, through collaboration with leading empirical scientists and cultural anthropologists, the project leads to a networked population of experts whose combined knowledge will be an ongoing boon to the study of well-being. The public mission of the project is to advance cross-cultural reflection and to create a passion among people for learning from, not just about, other traditions on different forms of good human life. In the end, it leads us to envision an education system in which teachers and children come to think of learning about how other peoples and traditions understand meaning, happiness, and living well.