The Folk Philosophy of Well-Being.
Eric Schwitzgebel (Co-PI) (Philosophy, University of California, Riverside)
Seth Margolis (Psychology, University of California, Riverside)
Sonja Lyubomirsky (PI) (Psychology, University of California, Riverside)
Daniel Ozer (Co-PI) (Psychology, University of California, Riverside)
Across millennia, philosophers have debated what constitutes well-being or “the good life.” In that time, five central philosophical views of well-being have emerged—hedonic, life satisfaction, eudaimonic, desire fulfillment, and non-eudaimonic objective list. More recently, psychological science has also begun to investigate “the good life,” with the aim of discovering how people can durably increase their levels of well-being. However, psychology has largely ignored two of the philosophical views of well-being—desire fulfillment and non-eudaimonic objective list. Our project seeks to examine these two forms of well-being by first creating and validating measures of them. In addition, due to philosophical concerns with the current predominant measure of one form of well-being—life satisfaction, or the subjective judgment people make about how content they are with their lives—we plan to create an improved measure of life satisfaction.
Next, using measures of the five types of well-being, including three developed by our team, we plan to be the first to assess people’s opinions of all five philosophical views of well-being. We will test whether the extent to which a person agrees with a philosophical view of well-being predicts that person’s level of well-being according to that view.
After exploring these questions, we will investigate whether well-being interventions developed by psychologists (e.g., expressing gratitude or savoring positive experiences) boost specific forms of well-being more than others. If this occurs, we plan to identify the mechanisms by which a well-being intervention targets certain types of well-being. In addition, it is possible that the efficacy of each intervention is partially determined by one’s level of agreement with each of the philosophical views of well-being. Finally, we expect particular well-being interventions to alter the extent to which a person agrees with each of the philosophical views of well-being.
We believe our research will advance both the psychological and philosophical study of well-being and “the good life.” Psychologists will be interested in whether beliefs about well-being play a role in determining the effectiveness of a well-being intervention, and if so, the mechanisms by which this occurs. Philosophers will find particular interest in how laypeople regard the philosophical views of well-being, and whether their perspectives can be changed by well-being interventions. We believe that creating psychological measures of philosophical views of well-being will create avenues for psychologists and philosophers to work together to study these types of well-being.
By investigating the relationship between well-being interventions and the philosophical views of well-being, we aim to foster interdisciplinary research on well-being—research that will offer people more effective methods for living “the good life.” With our newly developed measures, scientists will have the tools to conduct research on how to boost previously neglected forms of well-being. Furthermore, our project will identify which well-being interventions people find most effective, based on their beliefs about well-being and which form of well-being they wish to raise. This increased precision should lead to more successful well-being interventions and, thus, promote both individuals and communities to live the best lives they can.