Philosophers have been arguing about the meaning of well-being since the time of the Ancients. Participants in the contemporary debate about it include governments who promote it to encourage a work ethic, corporations who reconfigure it as a marketing strategy, "mindfulness" gurus who seek to realise it by retreating from the world, and Aristotelians who imagine it in the context of the good life or eudemonia. This book argues that none of these approaches enable us to understand fully the nature of well-being or what we have to do in order to realise a sustainable form of it.
The book has two main objectives. The first is to argue that an account of ethical life is important for well-being. However, pace Aristotle, rather than understanding well-being and the good life as the realisation of our essence as rational human beings, it argues that it must be understood in the context of empathy which, uniquely, allows us to see the world from the perspective of others. This capacity to see ourselves as ethical subjects is important for well-being because "living well" has become such a significant feature of our social, cultural and political world. The second objective is to establish that we can only sustain ourselves as ethical subjects who are able to live well in the world when we are politically active as citizens. Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, it makes the claim that, while empathy ordains us as ethical subjects, it is political life, or praxis, which confirms us as subjects able to sustain a meaningful experience of well-being.
Section 1: Beyond Existing Accounts of Well-Being
2. Psychological Approaches to Well-Being
3. Theoretical Approaches to Well-Being
4. Political Approaches to Well-Being
Section 2: Towards a New Account of Well-Being: Aristotle, Arendt and Stoicism
5. Aristotle, Empathy, Ethics
6. Arendt, Politics, Praxis
7. Stoicism, the Human Condition and the Limits to Well-Being