Well-being occupies a central role in ethics and political philosophy, including in major theories such as utilitarianism. It also extends far beyond philosophy: recent studies into the science and psychology of well-being have propelled the topic to centre stage, and governments spend millions on promoting it. We are encouraged to adopt modes of thinking and behaviour that support individual well-being or 'wellness'.

What is well-being? Which theories of well-being are most plausible? In this rigorous and comprehensive introduction to the topic, Guy Fletcher unpacks and assesses these questions and many more, including:

  • Are pleasure and pain the only things that affect well-being?
  • Is desire-fulfilment the only thing that makes our lives go well?
  • Can something be good for someone who does not desire it?
  • Is well-being fundamentally connected to a distinctive human nature?
  • Is happiness all that makes our lives go well?
  • Is death necessarily bad for us?
  • How is the well-being of a whole life related to well-being at particular times?

Annotated further reading and study and comprehension questions follow each chapter, and a glossary of key terms is also included, making The Philosophy of Well-Being essential reading for students of ethics and political philosophy. This title is also suitable for those in related disciplines such as psychology, politics and sociology.

chapter |7 pages


chapter |19 pages


chapter |22 pages

Desire-fulfilment theory

chapter |28 pages

Objective list theories

chapter |15 pages

Perfectionist theories of well-being

chapter |20 pages

The happiness theory of well-being

chapter |20 pages

Hybrid theories of well-being

chapter |13 pages

Well-being and the shape of a life

chapter |14 pages

Well-being and death

chapter |5 pages


chapter |7 pages

List of cases