Welfare and Rational Care

Welfare and Rational Care

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Welfare and Rational Care
    Book Description:

    What kind of life best ensures human welfare? Since the ancient Greeks, this question has been as central to ethical philosophy as to ordinary reflection. But what exactly is welfare? This question has suffered from relative neglect. And, as Stephen Darwall shows, it has done so at a price. Presenting a provocative new "rational care theory of welfare," Darwall proves that a proper understanding of welfare fundamentally changes how we think about what is best for people.

    Most philosophers have assumed that a person's welfare is what is good from her point of view, namely, what she has a distinctive reason to pursue. In the now standard terminology, welfare is assumed to have an "agent-relative normativity." Darwall by contrast argues that someone's good is what one should want for that person insofar as one cares for her. Welfare, in other words, is normative, but not peculiarly for the person whose welfare is at stake. In addition, Darwall makes the radical proposal that something's contributing to someone's welfare is the same thing as its being something one ought to want for her own sake, insofar as one cares. Darwall defends this theory with clarity, precision, and elegance, and with a subtle understanding of the place of sympathetic concern in the rich psychology of sympathy and empathy. His forceful arguments will change how we understand a concept central to ethics and our understanding of human bonds and human choices.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2532-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iv-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. I Welfare’s Normativity
    (pp. 1-21)

    This book concerns what we variously call a person’s good, interest, well-being, or welfare: the good of a person in the sense of what benefits her.¹ This differs, I shall argue, from what a person herself values, prefers, or takes an interest in, even rationally. It is true, of course, that helping someone realize her values is almost always a significant part of advancing her welfare. Still, a person’s good is a different thing from what she holds good, either actually or rationally, even from her own point of view.

    One way to see this is to think about what...

  5. II Welfare and Care
    (pp. 22-49)

    Having found a telegram addressed to Tarzan with the news that Tarzan rather than he is the rightful Lord Greystoke, William Cecil Clayton ponders his future and the recent actions of “this strange man,” Tarzan. Tarzan despairs, notwithstanding this recent news, of providing his beloved Jane the social place he believes her happiness requires. Worse, Jane is already promised to Clayton and would not permit herself to leave him, or, at least, to do so happily. So Tarzan decides to leave Jane with Clayton, thereby clearing her way to a happy life, although at the cost of his own happiness.¹...

  6. III Empathy, Sympathy, Care
    (pp. 50-72)

    In this chapter, we turn to the question of how to understand and identify the attitude that is featured in a rational care theory of welfare. This confronts us with the worry that it is impossible to define care or concern without already making use of the idea of a person’s good or welfare, and therefore that we cannot define welfare in terms of rational care. However, we need not define care (or, as I will call it in this chapter, sympathetic concern), if it is something like a psychological natural kind. Just as we can use a term like...

  7. IV Valuing Activity: Golub’s Smile
    (pp. 73-104)

    To this point, we have been concerned with the metaethics of welfare, with defending the rational care theory and exhibiting the psychological characteristics of sympathethic concern necessary for it to feature in such a theory. In this final chapter, we turn to the normative question of what kind of life is best for human beings in the sense of benefiting them most or providing them the greatest welfare.

    Strictly speaking, questions of normative ethics are logically independent of metaethical issues, and this is no less true when it comes to welfare. Virtually any combination of metaethical and normative ethical positions...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 105-122)
  9. References
    (pp. 123-132)
  10. Index
    (pp. 133-135)