Measuring Wellbeing by Eliciting Preferences? - ‘Is Wellbeing possible in Illness?’

5 March 2019, 13:00 - 14:00

CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Wellbeing is a concept that plays a central role in political and moral debates about health, education, and disability for example, as well as in economic debates about resource distribution more generally. But the nature of wellbeing is unclear: is a good life a life in which your preferences are satisfied? or is a good life a life of pleasure? or is it something else? Indeed, irrespective of what you think the nature of wellbeing is, it is also unclear how wellbeing might best be measured. To what extent is a person's preferences or their self-reports of their lived experience a good guide to their degree of wellbeing? Do preferences need to be "purified" or "laundered" first? What to make of the problem of adaptive preference? When should peoples' first-hand testimony be taken at face value, and when should it be examined critically?

We will examine these issues by reading some recent debates in economics and philosophy. Our particular emphasis towards the second half of the reading group will be the case of illness and disability.

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This week's reading: 

Havi Carel, "Chapter Six- Is Wellbeing Possible in Illnes?" In Phenomenology of Illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.


This reading group is hosted by the ERC-funded project 'Qualitative and Quantitative Social Science: A Unified Logic of Causal Inference?'. QUALITY is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (ERC grant agreement no. 715530)

22 January 2019

Erik Agner. "What preferences really are." Philosophy of Science 85, 4 (October 2018): 660-681.

29 January 2019

Anna Alexandrova. 'Chapter Three- How to Build a Theory: The Case of Child Wellbeing.' In A Philosophy for the Science of Wellbeing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

5 February 2019

Daniel M. Hausman and Michael S. McPherson. "Preference Satisfaction and Welfare Economics." Economics & Philosophy 25, 1 (March 2009): 1-25.

Gil Hersch. "Can an evidential account justify relying on preferences for well-being policy?" Journal of Economic Methodology 22, 3 (2015): 280-291.

12 February 2019

*Please note that this session will take place in a different location, which will be confirmed soon.*

19 February 2019

Gerardo Infante, Guilhem Lecouteux, and Robert Sugden. "Preference purification and the inner rational agent: a critique of the conventional wisdom of behavioural welfare economics." Journal of Economic Methodology 23, 1 (2016): 1-25.

Gerardo Infante, Guilhem Lecouteux, and Robert Sugden. "'On the Econ within': a reply to Daniel Hausman." Journal of Economic Methodology 23, 1 (2016): 1-25.

26 February 2019

Elizabeth Barnes, "Taking Their Word for It." In The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 

5 March 2019

Havi Carel, "Chapter Six- Is Wellbeing Possible in Illnes?" In Phenomenology of Illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

12 March 2019

Donald L. Patrick, Ruth A. Engelberg, J. Randall Curtis. "Evaluating the Quality of Dying and Death." Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 22, 3 (September 2001): 717–726.