Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David Sobel


fittingness, ill-being, prudence, prudential value, resonance, well-being

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Philosophy


The Resonance Constraint is a crucial claim in the contemporary literature about well-being: if something is good for a person, it must resonate with her. As Connie Rosati and Peter Railton put it, a person’s well-being must be “suited” to her, it should be “compelling or attractive” and it should not be “intolerably alienating.” Surprisingly, the Resonance Constraint and the phenomenon of resonance itself have received little direct attention. This dissertation explores the phenomenon of resonance and its impact for theories of well-being and theories of ill-being.

In chapter 1, I focus on one aspect of resonance that has been severely under explored. It is widely assumed that the relevant attitude for the Resonance Constraint must be motivational. I argue that resonance can be cognitive too: if an individual believes that something is good for her, it resonates with her. Many have concluded that subjectivism and hybrid theories can meet the Resonance Constraint and that objectivism cannot. I argue that objectivism can meet this constraint too. The novel strategy that I suggest starts with this claim: if there are facts about a person that ground facts about her well-being, she is alienated from what is good for her when she does not recognize those facts. I argue that a person’s well-being is counterfactually connected to her beliefs. An idealized person would be acquainted with facts about her own well-being and so would come to have true beliefs about what is good for her. This suffices for objectivism to meet the Resonance Constraint.

In chapter 2, I argue for Fit, a principle that is a prudential version of the claim that attitudes must fit their objects. Fit is the conditional claim that if an individual fully benefits from something, her attitudes towards it must be fitting to that object. Fit falls within the tradition of the resonance constraint because it draws a connection between an individual’s well-being and her attitudes. I argue that Fit is a desideratum of an adequate theory of well-being that it is compatible with Fit. Even though Fit states a necessary condition for full benefit only, it has powerful and surprising consequences for first-order theories of well-being. I argue that two versions of the objective list theory, hedonism, desire views and hybrid views are not compatible with Fit as they are. Suitable modifications change the views so much that only views with hybrid elements will be compatible with Fit. I argue that hybrid views that claim that well-being consists in loving the good can accommodate Fit.

In chapter 3, I focus on the phenomenon of ill-being (what is intrinsically bad for us) and on one family of views, what it is known as “loving the good theories.” According to this view, there is more to well-being than just pleasure or just objective value. For this view, pleasure and objective value in isolation, unrelated to each other, do not suffice for well-being either. I am particularly interested in whether a loving the good theory as extended to ill-being can successfully accommodate the connection between mind and world. In this chapter, I explore the resources of a loving the good theory to account for ill-being. I focus on Shelly Kagan’s view because he is, to my knowledge, the only philosopher who has suggested an extension of loving the good theories to ill-being. I argue that Kagan’s loving the good theory does not provide an explanation of ill-being. This specific result is limited to Kagan’s view, but it is, I hope, an important step in our collective exploration on the nature of ill-being.


Open Access

Available for download on Sunday, September 15, 2024

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