Demenev A.G. Subjectivist and Objectivist Theories in Contemporary Research of Happiness

DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu7.2016.4.1

Aleksey Grigoryevich Demenev

Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor, Deputy Head of Department of Philosophy and Sociology,

Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov

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Prosp. Lomonosova, 2, 163002 Arkhangelsk, Russian Federation


Abstract. Happiness studies have attracted increasing attention in recent decades. Discussion of the relation of objective and subjective factors of happiness as well as the possibility of their identification and assessment, have opposed the supporters of objectivist and subjectivist theories. The paper analyzes the examples of such theories, identifies their strong and weak points. Subjectivist theories associate happiness with emotional and rational response by a person to their life conditions (subjective well-being). Only a person can evaluate their state. Opponents argue that happiness should correspond to objective criteria, paying more attention to objective factors: living conditions, achievements, possession of goods and virtues. They warn against the possibility of self-deception, the manipulation of consciousness, the illusion of happiness. This issue is part of a broader problem: whether morality is objective or subjective? The paper examines the interrelation between objectivist and subjectivist theories of happiness, on the one hand, and eudemonistic and hedonistic theories, on the other hand. Objectivist version of happiness is widespread simultaneously with the growing popularity of Aristotelian ethics in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. Well-being is understood as eudaimonia, self-realization, self-expression and objectively worthwhile life. These discussions demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary happiness studies. Philosophical discussions about happiness came to life, thanks to new empirical data and theoretical conceptions, which appeared in psychological studies. The results of these discussions affect the contemporary social and economic theories. For example, researchers of the economics of happiness are looking for subjective and objective indicators, that reliably reflect the level of social welfare.

Key words: happiness, well-being, virtue, subjectivism, objectivism, eudaimonia, hedonism, economics of happiness.

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