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Happiness is not Well-Being


  • Jason Raibley



This paper attempts to explain the conceptual connections between happiness and well-being. It first distinguishes episodic happiness from happiness in the personal attribute sense. It then evaluates two recent proposals about the connection between happiness and well-being: (1) the idea that episodic happiness and well-being both have the same fundamental determinants, so that a person is well-off to a particular degree in virtue of the fact that they are happy to that degree, and (2) the idea that happiness in the personal attribute sense can serve as a “proxy” for well-being, i.e., that a person’s degree of deep or robust happiness approximates their degree of well-being. It is argued that happiness in both these senses is conceptually, metaphysically, and empirically distinct from well-being. A new analysis of welfare, well-being as agential flourishing, can explain welfare’s real connection to happiness in both the episodic and personal attribute senses. It predicts that such happiness is only directly beneficial when it is valued, when it is a form of valuing, or when it underwrites (i.e., serves as the causal basis for) the disposition to realize one’s values. It is therefore a necessary—but not sufficient—condition for especially high levels of well-being. This analysis of welfare integrates many insights from the eudaimonic tradition of welfare and happiness research in psychology, and also addresses common criticisms of these eudaimonic models. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Jason Raibley, 2012. "Happiness is not Well-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 13(6), pages 1105-1129, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jhappi:v:13:y:2012:i:6:p:1105-1129
    DOI: 10.1007/s10902-011-9309-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard M. Ryan & Veronika Huta & Edward Deci, 2008. "Living well: a self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 139-170, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:chinre:v:10:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s12187-016-9377-z is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Andrew E. Clark, 2015. "SWB as a Measure of Individual Well-Being," PSE Working Papers halshs-01134483, HAL.
    3. Hiromi Taniguchi & Deborah A. Potter, 2016. "Who are your Neighbors? Neighbor Relationships and Subjective Well-Being in Japan," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 11(4), pages 1425-1443, December.
    4. repec:aes:amfeco:v:46:y:2017:i:19:p:822 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Andrew MacLeod, 2015. "Well-Being: Objectivism, Subjectivism or Sobjectivism?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 1073-1089, August.
    6. repec:eee:anture:v:66:y:2017:i:c:p:1-13 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Andrew E. Clark, 2015. "SWB as a Measure of Individual Well-Being," Working Papers halshs-01134483, HAL.
    8. Dora G. Gudmundsdóttir & Bryndís Björk Ásgeirsdóttir & Felicia A. Huppert & Inga D. Sigfúsdóttir & Unnur A. Valdimarsdóttir & Arna Hauksdóttir, 2016. "How Does the Economic Crisis Influence Adolescents’ Happiness? Population-Based Surveys in Iceland in 2000–2010," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 1219-1234, June.
    9. Vivian Miu-Chi Lun & Michael Harris Bond, 2016. "Achieving Subjective Well-Being Around the World: The Moderating Influence of Gender, Age and National Goals for Socializing Children," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 587-608, April.
    10. Rocío Calvo & Mariana Arcaya & Christopher Baum & Sarah Lowe & Mary Waters, 2015. "Happily Ever After? Pre-and-Post Disaster Determinants of Happiness Among Survivors of Hurricane Katrina," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 427-442, April.
    11. Aaron Adibe Agbo & Blessing Ome, 2017. "Happiness: Meaning and Determinants Among Young Adults of the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 151-175, February.
    12. Hiromi Taniguchi, 2015. "Interpersonal Mattering in Friendship as a Predictor of Happiness in Japan: The Case of Tokyoites," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(6), pages 1475-1491, December.
    13. Jeff Levin, 2014. "Religion and Happiness Among Israeli Jews: Findings from the ISSP Religion III Survey," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 593-611, June.
    14. Yunji Kim & Youngwha Kee & Seung Lee, 2015. "An Analysis of the Relative Importance of Components in Measuring Community Wellbeing: Perspectives of Citizens, Public Officials, and Experts," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 121(2), pages 345-369, April.


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