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postgraduate thesis: Happiness, well-being, and the Zhuangzi

TitleHappiness, well-being, and the Zhuangzi
Authors
Advisors
Issue Date2017
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Law, C. [羅俊彥]. (2017). Happiness, well-being, and the Zhuangzi. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.
AbstractThis thesis examines the notion of ‘happiness’ from various points of view. As I outline in Chapter 1, it examines two modern philosophical projects that bear most closely on the question of ‘happiness’: eudaimonistic virtue ethics and theories of well-being. I analyse how well these theories and their claim engages our everyday thinking about happiness, and identify features that would be fundamental in any understanding of happiness. It ends with an account of ‘happiness’ constructed from the Chinese anthology, Zhuangzi, and see how well it can answer to those features I have highlighted. In Chapter 2, I undermine the virtue ethics claim that happiness consists necessarily in virtue. I show that this claim fails to achieve the objectivity it wants, for it cannot answer the motivational or aspirational aspect of happiness for those with different outlooks in life, without strong assumptions about human nature. Nevertheless, it rightly emphasises the significance of character traits and human nature, while its emphasis on moral education raises some important questions about the self and happiness. In Chapter 3, I identify three senses of well-being: (1) what is of non-instrumental benefit to someone, (2) the value of a life for the person living it, and (3) the well-functioning of a biological organism. The first two are interrelated. The third is a distinct concept that might be valued non-instrumentally. Intuitions about well-being are pulled apart by these three aspects. I suggest that (2) might not be that important a concept in our everyday first-person deliberation, while (1) is most suited for third-person deliberations as a benefactor. I also show that theories which tie well-being to happiness as a positive state of mind neatly accounts for ordinary thoughts about happiness. They point to the significant role that our emotions play in signalling what might matter to an individual. In Chapter 4, I present a Zhuangist account of happiness as consisting of (1) an approach that could be called ‘wandering’, in which we find fitting responses to our actual circumstance, and (2) a program of reforming our passions by either cultivating flexibility in our values and detachable commitments, or urging the adoption of a perspective that unconditionally affirms the changing world as a unity. The goal is to attain a state of mind that is constant and untroubled. While the two programs can complement each other, I suggest that the latter might undermine the former. Putting aside worries about conformism and vagueness, wandering is a highly plausible and attractive account. However, the attempt to educate our emotions, most evident in its distaste towards grief, has trouble providing a persuasive account of what we are like, and thus, undermine its attraction as a human form of happiness. The text, however, recognises that its ideals might not be the most suitable for everyone. In the Conclusion, I suggest that any account of happiness would have to consider some of these interrelated issues – ethical and character development, human nature, the self and its relation to culture, and psychological health and functioning.
DegreeMaster of Philosophy
SubjectHappiness
Well-being
Dept/ProgramPhilosophy
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/249212

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorFraser, CJ-
dc.contributor.advisorO'Leary, TE-
dc.contributor.authorLaw, Chun-yin-
dc.contributor.author羅俊彥-
dc.date.accessioned2017-11-01T09:59:49Z-
dc.date.available2017-11-01T09:59:49Z-
dc.date.issued2017-
dc.identifier.citationLaw, C. [羅俊彥]. (2017). Happiness, well-being, and the Zhuangzi. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/249212-
dc.description.abstractThis thesis examines the notion of ‘happiness’ from various points of view. As I outline in Chapter 1, it examines two modern philosophical projects that bear most closely on the question of ‘happiness’: eudaimonistic virtue ethics and theories of well-being. I analyse how well these theories and their claim engages our everyday thinking about happiness, and identify features that would be fundamental in any understanding of happiness. It ends with an account of ‘happiness’ constructed from the Chinese anthology, Zhuangzi, and see how well it can answer to those features I have highlighted. In Chapter 2, I undermine the virtue ethics claim that happiness consists necessarily in virtue. I show that this claim fails to achieve the objectivity it wants, for it cannot answer the motivational or aspirational aspect of happiness for those with different outlooks in life, without strong assumptions about human nature. Nevertheless, it rightly emphasises the significance of character traits and human nature, while its emphasis on moral education raises some important questions about the self and happiness. In Chapter 3, I identify three senses of well-being: (1) what is of non-instrumental benefit to someone, (2) the value of a life for the person living it, and (3) the well-functioning of a biological organism. The first two are interrelated. The third is a distinct concept that might be valued non-instrumentally. Intuitions about well-being are pulled apart by these three aspects. I suggest that (2) might not be that important a concept in our everyday first-person deliberation, while (1) is most suited for third-person deliberations as a benefactor. I also show that theories which tie well-being to happiness as a positive state of mind neatly accounts for ordinary thoughts about happiness. They point to the significant role that our emotions play in signalling what might matter to an individual. In Chapter 4, I present a Zhuangist account of happiness as consisting of (1) an approach that could be called ‘wandering’, in which we find fitting responses to our actual circumstance, and (2) a program of reforming our passions by either cultivating flexibility in our values and detachable commitments, or urging the adoption of a perspective that unconditionally affirms the changing world as a unity. The goal is to attain a state of mind that is constant and untroubled. While the two programs can complement each other, I suggest that the latter might undermine the former. Putting aside worries about conformism and vagueness, wandering is a highly plausible and attractive account. However, the attempt to educate our emotions, most evident in its distaste towards grief, has trouble providing a persuasive account of what we are like, and thus, undermine its attraction as a human form of happiness. The text, however, recognises that its ideals might not be the most suitable for everyone. In the Conclusion, I suggest that any account of happiness would have to consider some of these interrelated issues – ethical and character development, human nature, the self and its relation to culture, and psychological health and functioning.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.-
dc.subject.lcshHappiness-
dc.subject.lcshWell-being-
dc.titleHappiness, well-being, and the Zhuangzi-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.description.thesisnameMaster of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelMaster-
dc.description.thesisdisciplinePhilosophy-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.date.hkucongregation2017-
dc.identifier.mmsid991043962676603414-

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