THE NORM OF WELL-BEING
In a strict, direct sense it is impossible to alter the
of a sentient being, even if one wanted to.
One just cannot give it units of happiness, or take units of happiness or
happiness-catenality away from
It is only the condition, and hopefully the situation, of a
happiness-catenal that can be changed, and it is such a change in condition
which may affect its happiness-catenary feelings.
If the catenal's condition is neutral and 'good' in a
badness-catenary sense, there is no reason to
The catenal in question is then 'well', that is, healthy or in a desirable
Some say that a human being in such a healthy state does not feel any
separate parts in her or his body, but is aware of this body 'as an
When it is subsequently claimed, however, that this awareness would
generate 'a feeling of well-being and happiness', the awareness must either
be an occasional one or, if permanent, must generate (a feeling of)
To equate well-being with happiness --as in this example-- could
solely be correct on the implausible, absolute view of the relationship
between happiness-catenary and situational catenality.
Since we cannot change happiness-catenary states but only conditions, the
term well-being should even for this reason be applied to a
condition, or situational state, and not to a happiness-catenary one.
The situation which then represents well-being is the neutral state.
According to 'the norm of well-being', a subnorm of
the norm of neutrality, it is this state of
well-being which is normatively superior.
And it is this well-being which may be brought about, and which must be
brought about, if anything.
(From this it does not follow that when we try to promote a catenal's
well-being in one respect, that it could not for contingent, empirical
reasons be detrimental to the catenal's well-being in another respect.)
Hedonists or eudaimonists might object that even
tho one cannot
directly offer a catenal happiness, or more happiness, one can manipulate
its conditions in such a way that it is made to feel happy.
But if happiness is indeed a situational guiding-signal, and unhappiness a
situational warning-signal, it is rather odd --to
say the least-- to consider it one's goal to have
a signal flash as frequently and as long as possible, and to use the
thing it conveys information about (the catenal's situation) merely as a
Hedonists and eudaimonists of the
perfective end type must, then,
too blithely be turning things upside down.
On the argument from the function of happiness-catenality, happiness and
unhappiness themselves may only be used as means to attain, or to establish
how to attain, a good situation.
Happiness is on this account an instrumental (antepenultimate)
value, while the good situation itself, or well-being, is the (penultimate)
Hence, the norm of well-being is compatible with a form of instrumental or
nonperfective hedonism or eudaimonism, even tho pleasure and happiness are
neutralities in themselves.
Perfective hedonists and eudaimonists might still argue that the happiness
catena is a
basic catena and that
happiness-catenary polarity is not a sign of anything.
This, however, would not yet force the neutralist who adheres to the
subnorm of well-being to completely reject happiness.
If the neutralist said that happiness (like unhappiness) is inferior to
nanhappiness this is, or would be, true all other things being equal.
But given that there is a special relationship between happiness-catenality
and all situation catenas, this ceteris paribus clause never holds.
For happiness cannot be combined with every kind of situation or
situational change; it can solely be combined with a good situation or
Where there would be inferior happiness, there is superior well-being or a
change in the direction of superior well-being.
Now, as it is only the situation that can be changed, or left the same, we
have no reason to alter a state of well-being, or to refrain from changing
a situation in the direction of such a state, regardless of whether it is
accompanied by a feeling of happiness or not.
(Hedonists or eudaimonists cannot argue that the ceteris paribus clause
could hold with respect to the situation catenas.
For if that were possible, there would not be any relationship between
happiness-catenary and situational catenality.
In that uncomfortable case hedonists and eudaimonists themselves would
have no means at all anymore to promote pleasure or happiness, the ultimate
or perfective values of their own doctrines.)