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Well-Being and Pluralism

OPEN Journal of happiness studies | 28 Oct 2020

P Mitchell and A Alexandrova
Abstract
It is a commonly expressed sentiment that the science and philosophy of well-being would do well to learn from each other. Typically such calls identify mistakes and bad practices on both sides that would be remedied if scientists picked the right bit of philosophy and philosophers picked the right bit of science. We argue that the differences between philosophers and scientists thinking about well-being are more difficult to reconcile than such calls suggest, and that pluralism is central to this task. Pluralism is a stance that explicitly drives towards accommodating and nurturing the richness and diversity of well-being, both as a concept and as an object of inquiry. We show that well-being science manifests a contingent pluralism at the level of methodology, whereas philosophy of well-being has largely rejected pluralism at the conceptual level. Recently, things have begun to change. Within philosophy, conceptual monism is under attack. But so is methodological pluralism within science. We welcome the first development, and bemoan the second. We argue that a joined-up philosophy and science of well-being should recognise the virtues of both conceptual and methodological pluralism. Philosophers should embrace the methodological justification of pluralism that can be found in the well-being sciences, and scientists should embrace the conceptual reasons to be pluralist that can be found in philosophical debate.
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