Review Of "Happiness, Flourishing And The Good Life: A Transformative Vision For Human Well-Being" By G. Thomson, S. Gill, And I. Goodson

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The authors claim “a radical new approach to the human well-being." They are not, however, the first or only ones to offer such an approach—see Richard Kraut's What Is Good and Why (CH, Sep'07, 45-0216). Still, this is a welcome addition that challenges the dominant understanding of well-being, informed by reductive utilitarianism and mainstream economics of “means/end” rationality and the efforts of some psychologists (e.g., Martin Seligman; Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener, and Norbert Schwartz) to tweak the economic approach and provide quantitative ways to measure happiness. This book's further innovation is to interview 50 people, marred somewhat by being limited to one small area of England. The authors argue effectively, however, that sound values can be objectively established, though there is no one unique set of values, and so humans can and do choose among objective values that are not always compatible or commensurable. The authors also discuss distinctions between intrinsic/extrinsic values and instrumental/non-instrumental values that they believe (rightly so, in this reviewer's opinion) have not typically been carefully distinguished or understood. This is a very good, well-written book, well worth reading for both undergraduates and researchers. However, the hardcover price is prohibitively expensive. Readers would be better off purchasing the much more affordable Kindle edition. Summing Up: Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.


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