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Darwall on Rational Care

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2006



Stephen Darwall's understanding of what kind of life is a good life, good for the person whose life it is, belongs in the same family as, among others, Scanlon's and mine. It is a family of views about well-being which descends from Aristotle, and Darwall has much of interest to say about the good life, and particularly about Aristotle's views on the subject. Many of the observations central to his position seem to me cogent, and are shared by other writers. These include three important propositions:

  1. that a good life, one which is good for those whose life it is, is not necessarily the same as a life which they think is good for them, nor does it necessarily consist in their desires being satisfied, nor in the satisfaction of any subset of their desires (e.g. their considered desires, or those not based on any false assumptions).

  2. that people aim or intend to do what is worth doing, to have relationships worth having, and engage in goals worth pursuing, and so on, and that all of these, and their combination, are distinct from having a good life (and this explains how people can knowingly sacrifice their own good), and

  3. that what makes the well-being of people worth pursuing, to the extent that it is, what provides reasons for those same people and for others to protect or promote it, is that people are valuable in themselves.

Research Article
Cambridge University Press 2006

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This article was written for a seminar organized by Roger Crisp about Darwall's account of welfare. With minimal revisions I have left it as it was.