“All’s well that ends well!” subjective wellbeing: an epistemic enquiry
Wellbeing in general is represented in terms of the quality of life of an individual or group. The different objective and subjective indicators that go into the composition of quality of life leave its definition and measurement elusive, despite its global recognition as a policy goal. Attempts at an objective measure have brought out two basic methodological alternatives. The first, objective, measure has come out as the famous Physical Quality of Life Index, supplanted now by the Human Development Index. The second one, dealing with subjective wellbeing, focuses upon self-reported levels of happiness, pleasure, fulfillment etc. The present study, divided into five sections, is an epistemic enquiry into subjective wellbeing. After the introductory remarks, section 2 presents the recent discussions in the theory of subjective wellbeing, especially in terms of life satisfaction and domain satisfaction and their relationship. Section 3 introduces the concepts of Hedonism and Eudaimonia in the notion of wellbeing; one’s life goes well to the extent that one is contented with it (hedonistic element); at the same time, it is the term wellbeing’, not the term ‘happiness’, that denotes the notion of what makes life good for the individual living that life (eudaimonia). Section 4 traces the development of the concept of wellbeing in terms of Utilitarian philosophy in the 18th century and section 5 discusses wellbeing in the context of the theory of justice. The next section presents the capabilities approach of Sen and Nussbaum in the wellbeing framework. While Rawls limited his analysis of social welfare to the ‘social primary goods’ that rational humans need or desire, and ‘negative freedoms’ that involve the absence of interference, the capabilities approach of Sen and Nussbaum expanded on the base of Rawlsian philosophy to include ‘positive freedoms’ as well, like freedom from being constrained by poverty or a lack of education.
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