Lorraine Besser-Jones, Eudaimonic ethics: the philosophy and psychology of living well

Sven Nyholm

Research output: Contribution to journalBook reviewAcademic


Besser-Jones holds that well-being consists in having the experience of satisfying three innate psychological needs at the core of human nature: "relatedness," "autonomy," and "competence." Of these three, the first is the most central one, and we satisfy it by interacting with our fellows in caring and respectful ways: by "acting well." To act well, we need, Besser-Jones argues, a virtuous character: we need certain moral beliefs, and we need those to interact with our intentions in ways that reliably lead us to act in ways that satisfy our psychological needs. Besser-Jones’s theory has many virtues, but appears overly narrow. The theory ignores the importance of bodily, or physical, well-being. It is also overly restrictive to base an account of virtue wholly upon the agent’s own psychological well-being. If we possess qualities of mind or character that do or would make us into good friends or associates, this appears to be a sufficient reason for counting these qualities as virtues of ours. And giving others due care and respect is surely worthwhile in itself, not only as a means to our own psychological well-being.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNotre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


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