The understanding of the concept of happiness brings light to a multiple theoretical framework composed of different approaches that are not always rightly considered or well known. This chapter aims at resuming the differentiation in happiness studies and proposes the identification of subjective and objective indicators of happiness that maintain the multiple distinction existing in theory. The conclusion highlights the necessity for a coexistence of approaches to happiness in order to foster a more solid and complete knowledge on this particular subject.
Browse by title
Michela Guerini and Giampaolo Nuvolati
Borja L—pez Noval
In the present chapter the idea of quality of life is traced back to Aristotle, whose analysis of the good life is remarkably comprehensive and still nowadays constitutes one of the main approaches to the issue. Aristotle’s account of the good life is objective – and actually quite constringent, as many individuals are excluded from the happy life – and multidimensional. Other lasting features are its subtle understanding of the nature and role of individuals’ agency and intrinsic motivation, and its stress on the importance of institutional conditions, particularly education, aiming at perfecting human beings’ nature. Thomas More, in line with previous Christian thought, democratizes the idea of the good life. In addition, he reinforced the importance attributed to the institutional framework as external control at the expense of both individuals’ agency and intrinsic motivation because he does not agree with the thesis of the perfectible nature of human beings. Tommaso Campanella recovered this thesis, although not completely, as he asserts the need for eugenic policies. Other contributions of Campanella to the idea of quality of life are his comprehensive understanding of health; his intuition as regards the importance of erecting a universal community of human beings to avoid war; and the role attributed, anticipating Francis Bacon, to techno-scientific development. Bacon’s New Atlantis supposed a Copernican shift in the idea of the good life because the focus is set on the utility of individuals, instead of on their agency. As a consequence, as regards health, Bacon seems to weight treatment more than life style. In the Enlightenment the new focus on utility would lead economists to consider social relationships instrumentally. Otherwise, moral philosophers of the Enlightenment recovered the Aristotelian idea of the good life completely, now excluding only women. The utilitarian approach was developed systematically by Jeremy Bentham, who took pleasure as the basic element of happiness and does not distinguish among its sources. Besides, material well-being is definitively considered the fundamental component of happiness by him, to the point that he proposed money as its measurement unit. Arthur Pigou develops this thesis further. Thus, although Pigou distinguishes between economic and non-economic well-being and considers possible trade-offs between them, and even is sensitive to non-utilitarian aspects, he finally states that for the time being economic growth is a good proxy of total well-being. Richard Easterlin tested this thesis based on subjective measures of well-being, thus adopting a substantive utilitarian approach, and found that it was not the case. He used psychological measures of well-being that are now widely accepted and have given rise to the happiness approach to quality of life. Otherwise, Amartya Sen has developed the capability approach in line with that of Aristotle and the moral philosophers of the Enlightenment. Finally, current developments in quality of life research as regards possible connections between the happiness and capability approaches are mentioned.
Pier Luigi Porta
Public happiness is the core idea of the Italian School during the latter half of the eighteenth century. This chapter focuses on that notion and on the impact of the analysis of some of the major Italian economists along those lines especially in connection with the reforms launched and implemented particularly in Naples and in Milan at the time. Among other figures, Antonio Genovesi, Pietro Verri, Ferdinando Galiani and Cesare Beccaria stand out for their contributions. Genovesi and Beccaria are also pioneering professors of the discipline in Naples and in Milan respectively. The chapter expands the study of the Italian case in three directions. In the first place it is shown that the Italian School is the offspring of the humanist movement, thriving in Italy and exported all over Europe since the twilight of the Middle Ages, and their emphasis on vita civile: it is significant that Genovesi, the master of the Italian School, calls the discipline economia civile. Secondly the Italians, with their analysis of happiness, are shown to be more relevant than other precursors (e.g. the Physiocrats) in paving the way to the formative steps of the British Classical School and to Smith’s Wealth of Nations in particular. Finally the chapter brings out the continuity of the Italian School through the subsequent centuries up to the present day.
In order to proceed with exploring the methodological issues related to the measurement (indicators of happiness) and evaluation (quality of happiness), it is important to clarify what we mean by the term ‘happiness’. The debate around the definition of a new approach of measuring well-being of nations has put ‘happiness’ at the centre of concerns by highlighting, among others, two aspects to be considered: the individual observation and the subjective dimension. The necessity to consider the individual perspective, completely ignored by the traditional GDP approach, in measuring countries’ well-being is broadly urged and accepted. Many point out that the most important dimension of the individual perspective is represented by the subjective perception, defined in terms of happiness. However, focusing on the individual perspective, especially if that is done exclusively on a subjective perception, is affected by some risk. This contribution aims at exploring the conceptual issues related to those risks, which refer to some dualisms around well-being (subjective vs. objective, happiness vs. subjective experience, individual vs. community, present vs. future). These issues are important in order to define the indicators able to monitor happiness and to support its quality assessment.
What does it mean to lead a life of quality? This chapter recognizes the importance of discussing measurement issues in the study of people’s quality of life; however, it argues that conceptualization must come first. In other words, thinking about what quality of life is and providing a rationale for its assessment must precede and shape up its measurement. Hence, the chapter does not aim to contribute to the proliferation of quality-of-life indices; its intention is to provide a rationale for the understanding of quality of life. The rationale starts from a basic postulate: human beings have both intrinsic and extrinsic value. These values give rise to two qualities in a person’s life: an inner and an outer quality of life. The chapter states that leading a life of quality requires from people not only to be happy (by leading a life of inner quality), but also to contribute – through their actions – to the happiness of others (by leading a life of outer quality).
Carol D. Ryff and Jennifer Morozink Boylan
This chapter reviews the philosophical and conceptual foundations of two types of happiness: hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being. Both are increasingly the focus of scientific research, including studies of health. We summarize extant evidence linking both types of well-being to health, broadly defined to include self-reported health, disease states and severity, functional capacities and biological risk factors. For eudaimonic well-being, links to brain-based assessments have also been conducted. The overarching message from this literature is that well-being, whether framed as life contentment or life engagement, appears to be protective of good health, and further that health problems appear to compromise well-being. More research is needed, particularly longitudinal studies that can more clearly delineate the direction of causal influences as well as the biological and brain-based mechanisms that account for connections between well-being and health. We conclude with consideration of how studies of well-being might fruitfully intersect with studies of quality of life. A further priority for future work pertains to interventions designed to promote greater experiences of life contentment and life engagement for greater segments of society, which may also be beneficial for health.
Ed Diener and Louis Tay
National accounts of subjective well-being survey citizens about their subjective well-being, including life satisfaction, positive feelings and negative feelings. The results of these surveys are meant to inform policy discussions by revealing who is flourishing and who is suffering, and understanding the circumstances associated with this. The results can help policy discussions in several ways. First, they provide metrics for assessing the value of non-market variables, such as clean air and social support. Second, the subjective well-being surveys can pinpoint which groups and regions are suffering, and help point to the potential causes of this. Third, the national accounts of well-being provide a metric for assessing subjective well-being, which is of value in itself as citizens highly value ‘happiness’. Fourth, high subjective well-being is known to have a beneficial influence on health, social relationships and work productivity. Finally, the results of subjective well-being surveys can give a broad assessment of the quality of life of societies, and point to policies that might raise well-being.
The terms ‘quality-of-life’ and ‘happiness’ have different meanings; sometimes they are used as an umbrella term for all of value, and other times to denote special merits. This chapter is about the specific meanings of the terms. I distinguish four qualities of life, one of which is subjective appreciation with life. Next I distinguish four kinds of appreciation, one of which is ‘happiness’ in the limited sense of the word. On the basis of this conceptual differentiation I inspect what is measured by some current measures of quality of life. I discuss several weaknesses of these measures and show that quality of life cannot be measured comprehensively. The most comprehensive measure of quality of life is how long and happily people live, which is entirely measurable.