Research Article

A Critique of Sumner's Account of Welfare


a1 Center for Bioethics, University of South Carolina


Wayne Sumner, in the first six chapters of his excellent book Welfare, Happiness and Ethics, argues for what he calls an authentic life satisfaction theory of welfare. Somewhat generally, Sumner's theory of welfare is a sophisticated subjective account that treats one's happiness of a certain sort, and in the right conditions, as enhancing one's welfare. In this essay, I critically explore Sumner's account of welfare. I argue that Sumner's arguments for his own account of welfare, when followed to their logical conclusion, support a position which is slightly, but significantly, different from his own position. Additionally, I argue that Sumner's account of welfare has several counter-intuitive implications. I conclude that his account is seriously flawed.