The Good Life: The Philosophy of Well-Being

Discover what it means to flourish and live a good life in this course reviewing the philosophy of well-being from classic philosophical works to contemporary scholarship.

What makes a life good? Aristotle observed more than 2,000 years ago in his famous work, “Nicomachean Ethics,” that while almost everyone agrees that the best life is a happy life, we disagree about what is meant by happiness. The same seems just as true today. Aristotle ultimately argues that intellectual engagement is essential to human flourishing, but others hold that the best life is one of pleasure. Yet, in some cases, we are ready to sacrifice pleasure for things that are more meaningful. Contemporary philosophers continue to vigorously debate theories of well-being and its shadow side, “ill-being.” With insights from great works of the philosophical tradition to current cutting-edge scholarship, Gwen Bradford, Ph.D., illuminates the many diverse ways it is possible to cultivate and live a good life.


Section Instructor Format Schedule start date
GHUM2600.F18.1 Gwen Bradford On-campus 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 25, 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Gwen Bradford
FORMAT: On-campus
SCHEDULE: 7-8:30 p.m.
START DATE: Sept. 25, 2018

Instructor: Gwen Bradford

Gwen Bradford, Ph.D., is an associate professor of philosophy at Rice University who specializes in moral philosophy, value theory and normative ethics. Prior to joining Rice, she was a faculty fellow at the Murphy Institute at Tulane University. Her scholarship focuses on well-being and “ill-being,” as well as perfectionism, achievement, intrinsic value, moral responsibility, uniqueness and the philosophy of sport. Dr. Bradford has taught courses on Achievement and the Meaning of Life, Contemporary Moral Issues, ethics and value theory, among other topics. In 2017, Dr. Bradford’s book, “Achievement,” received the American Philosophical Association Book Prize. She holds a doctorate in philosophy from Yale University.

Term: Fall 2018

Start Date: Sept. 25, 2018

End Date: Oct. 30, 2018

Schedule: 7-8:30 p.m.

Length: Six Tuesdays

Location: Rice campus

Fee: $190

Early Registration: $180 if registering by Sept. 11

Rice Alumni: $171

CEUs: 0.9

+ Introduction to the philosophy and concept of well-being: Epicurus and beyond

+ Theories of well-being: hedonism, John Stuart Mill, 21st century hedonism, desire satisfaction theory

+ Theories of well-being: pluralism, perfectionism and Aristotle

+ Calculating the amount of well-being in an individual life and in a population

+ Ill-being: how to explain the “badness of pain” and other puzzles

+ The meaning of life: subjective vs. objective accounts of meaning, meaning vs. well-being

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