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Subjective Measures of Well-Being: A philosophical examination

Angner, Erik (2005) Subjective Measures of Well-Being: A philosophical examination. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Over the last couple of decades, as part of the rise of positive psychology, psychologists have given increasing amounts of attention to so-called subjective measures of well-being. These measures, which are supposed to represent the well-being of individuals and groups, are often presented as alternatives to more traditional economic ones for purposes of the articulation, implementation and evaluation of public policy. Unlike economic measures, which are typically based on data about income, market transactions and the like, subjective measures are based on answers to questions like: "Taking things all together, how would you say things are these days - would you say you're very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days?" The aim of this dissertation is to explore issues in the philosophical foundations of subjective measures of well-being, with special emphasis on the manner in which the philosophical foundations of subjective measures differ from those of traditional economic measures. Moreover, the goal is to examine some arguments for and against these measures, and, in particular, arguments that purport to demonstrate the superiority of economic measures for purposes of public policy. My main thesis is that the claim that subjective measures of well-being cannot be shown to be inferior to economic measures quite as easily as some have suggested, but that they nevertheless are associated with serious problems, and that questions about the relative advantage of subjective and economic measures for purposes of public policy will depend on some fundamentally philosophical judgments, e.g. about the nature of well-being and the legitimate goals for public policy.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.eduPKMACH
Committee MemberLoewenstein,
Committee MemberKrips, Henrykrips@pitt.eduKRIPS
Committee MemberRescher, Nicholasrescher@pitt.eduRESCHER
Date: 30 September 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 8 June 2005
Approval Date: 30 September 2005
Submission Date: 19 August 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: measurement; philosophy; positive psychology; welfare; welfare economics; Well-being
Other ID:, etd-08192005-130324
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:00
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 14:26


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