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What Is This Thing Called Happiness?$
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Fred Feldman

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199571178

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571178.001.0001

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Empirical Research; Philosophical Conclusions

Empirical Research; Philosophical Conclusions

(p.253) CHAPTER 13 Empirical Research; Philosophical Conclusions
What Is This Thing Called Happiness?

Fred Feldman (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Philosophers and others have alleged that empirical research on happiness has important implications for some long‐standing philosophical questions about happiness. The distinguished British economist Richard Layard seems to claim that the empirical research such as that done by the psychologist Richard Davidson has philosophical implications. Layard apparently thinks that this empirical research supports the conclusion that “there is such a thing as happiness”. He also suggests that it demonstrates that interpersonal comparisons of levels of happiness are feasible. Finally, there is a suggestion that this research might help to show that happiness is a natural kind rather than a mere figment of “folk psychology”. In this chapter, the relevant empirical research is described. There is an attempt to reconstruct the arguments that purport to show that the empirical research supports the philosophical conclusions. In each case it turns out that the research does not have any relevance to philosophy.

Keywords:   Richard Layard, Richard Davidson, MRI, brain scans, positive emotions, objective reality, interpersonal comparisons of utility, natural kinds, folk psychology

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