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When and why do you put more emphasis on subjective or objective wellbeing?

Here we present an overview of different ways to think about wellbeing from objective or subjective perspectives.
© Neil Thin, University of Edinburgh

Here is an overview that shows how all aspects of wellbeing can be considered from objective or subjective perspectives. In the next step we will ask you to apply some of these ways of thinking to an example of your own choice.

Table: objectivism and subjectivism regarding wellbeing and social quality

Aspect of wellbeing Objectivism/externalism Subjectivism/internalism
Health A good society optimises physical health and minimises disease. Healthy individuals are free of disease, and make active use of their exemplary physical capabilities. A good society ensures that everyone feels as healthy as they would like to feel. A healthy individual feels well.
Beauty A good society maximises physical beauty by promoting overt beauty competition and providing resources and capabilities for beautification. A beautiful person meets certain objective standards for beauty. A good society helps everyone feel comfortable with their bodies and their looks, no matter how they actually look. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and someone who feels beautiful is beautiful.
Wisdom A good society facilitates the maximum wisdom of the greatest number of people, using the greatest possible variety of forms of intelligence. To be wise is to have an excellent understanding of how the world works. A good society enables everyone to feel adequately intelligent and not to feel stupid. To be wise is to think in ways that make you happy and that enable you to spread wellbeing to others.
Achievement A good society enables everyone to do as many things as well as they possibly can. People should strive to fulfil their potential as judged by objective criteria of excellence. A good society is one that makes sure no-one feels they are under-achieving. The most important human achievement is contentment: People should aim to be happy with what they achieve, even if this means achieving nothing beyond their own minds.
Interest A good society enables all members to live objectively interesting lives. To live well, you need to actively engage in things that other people would agree are interesting. A good society enables all members to feel that their lives are interesting, even if most other people disagree. To live well, you need to take an interest in something, even if it is something that that you merely think about, and that everyone else thinks is boring or trivial.
Social engagement A good society encourages and facilitates optimal levels and qualities of social engagement. To live well, you need to have lots of friends. It is bad to be socially disengaged. A good society enables people to feel adequately socially engaged, even if they live alone and never meet anyone face-to-face. To live well, you need to appreciate the friends you have. It is bad to feel lonely.
Environmental engagement A good society ensures that everyone spends time in a rich variety of objectively benign environments. To live well, you must regularly visit beautiful places. A good society ensures that everyone is positively appreciative of whatever kind of environment they are in. To live well, you must learn to appreciate the qualities of whatever environment you are in, regardless of whether it is objectively beautiful or interesting.
© Neil Thin, University of Edinburgh
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