Moral philosophers agree that welfare matters. But they disagree about what it is, or how much it matters. Wayne Sumner presents an original theory of welfare, investigating its nature and discussing its importance. He considers and rejects all notable theories of welfare, both objective and subjective, including hedonism and theories founded on desire or preference. His own theory connects welfare closely with happiness or life satisfaction. Reacting against the value pluralism that currently dominates moral philosophy, he advances welfare as the only basic ethical value. He concludes by discussing the implications of this thesis for ethical and political theory. Written in clear, non-technical language, and including a definitive survey of other work in this area, Sumner's book is essential reading for moral philosophers, political theorists, and welfare economists.
`Very helpful footnotes and an extensive bibliography. Upper-division undergraduate and graduate students and faculty in philosophy will find this volume of special interest.'
`Undismayed by the damage that economists and politicians in different ways have done to the term 'welfare', Sumner offers a carefully developed systematic argument for restoring the term to a better use ... This argument moves on from stage to stage to few visible slips. At every stage it is illuminating. At every stage it keeps up enough suspense to impel readers to go on to see how the next stage will work out. This will be true even for readers
thoroughly familiar with the topics and the texts that Sumner takes up. Sumner has something new and penetrating to say about all of them. Thus overall it is a very accomplished book.'
David Braybrooke, Philosophy in Review
`The book is extremely well-written and argued, and the discussion of competing views (e.g., hedonism, desire theory, perfectionism) is very insightful. Most importantly, Sumner's theory of welfare breaks important new ground, and is sure to become one of the leading theories. Ignore this book at your peril.'
Peter Vallentyne, Economics and Philosophy
`a clear, careful and well-crafted investigation into major theories of welfare'
Bruce Brower, University of Tulane, The Philosophical Review, vol 107, no 2, April 1998
1. The Concept of Welfare; 2. Welfare and Subjectivity; 3. Objective Theories; 4. Hedonism; 5. The Desire Theory; 6. Welfare and Happiness; 7. Welfarism; Bibliography; Index.