Happiness Studies and the Problem of Interpersonal Comparisons of Satisfaction: Two Histories, Three Approaches.

Citation:

Kaminitz, Shiri Cohen. 2018. “Happiness Studies and the Problem of Interpersonal Comparisons of Satisfaction: Two Histories, Three Approaches.”. Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being 19 (2) : 423.

Abstract:

An old methodological obstacle confronts the use of Life Satisfaction surveys in Happiness Studies: a problem that economists recognize by the name of (the impossibility of) interpersonal comparisons of satisfaction/utility. But the recent implementation of insights from happiness studies into policy making transforms an originally theoretical obstacle into a real-world problematic, providing substantial motivation for engaging with this issue. Just this problem is highlighted by recent critics of happiness surveys. This paper locates the problem currently facing happiness studies at the intersection of two traditions or two histories: that of economic methodology and that of psychological methodology. Three dominant approaches to the issue revealed through these histories are identified: ‘the skeptical approach’, ‘the pragmatic approach’, and ‘the ethical-normative approach’. The paper works to bring together the two disciplinary histories and evaluate the three approaches in order t

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