CFP: Subjective Measures of Well-Being and the Science of Happiness


Subjective Measures of Well-Being and the Science of Happiness:
Historical origins and philosophical foundations

Date: February 2-3, 2008
Website: <>

Workshop organized by the Department of Philosophy and the Center for Ethics
and Values in the Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Subjective measures of well-being ­- that is, measures based on answers to
questions like: “Taking things all together, how would you say things are
these days?” ­ emerged in the study of marital happiness and educational
psychology shortly after WWI, and have since been used for a variety of
purposes by psychologists, psychiatrists, gerontologists, economists, and
other social and behavioral scientists.

By now, these measures have inspired a sizeable body of work ­ sometimes
referred to as “eupathics,” “the science of happiness,” or “positive
psychology” ­ that aspires to shed light on the determinants and
distribution of happiness, satisfaction, and other “positive” mental states.
As of late, proponents of subjective measures have argued that subjective
measures of well-being should be used as a guide for public policy and that
governments, to this end, should establish so-called National Well-Being
Accounts, designed to track the dynamics of well-being in the population.


In spite of psychologists’ inroads into what has traditionally been regarded
as philosophical territory, this body of work has only recently attracted
the attention of historians and philosophers of science. Given that the
empirical literature raises a host of interesting issues, this is fertile
territory for further work. The aim of this workshop is to shed light on the
historical origins and philosophical foundations of subjective measures of
well-being in particular and the science of happiness / positive psychology
in general.

Goals include to trace the historical roots of the psychologists’ efforts;
to explore various foundational assumptions that go into the enterprise and
to assess their relative plausibility; to examine the manner in which
philosophical analysis (whether inspired by ethics, political philosophy,
the philosophy of science, or other branches of philosophy) can inform
empirical work; and to investigate how empirical results might feed into
philosophical argument.
Philosophers, historians, psychologists, economists, and others who might be
interested in participating are invited to submit complete papers
electronically or in hard copy to the organizer (see contact information
below) before December 1, 2007. The number of slots is very limited. Papers
that are firmly grounded in the empirical literature are strongly preferred.
In order to maximize the amount of discussion, presentations will be
relatively short. Instead, accepted papers will be circulated ahead of time.
Presenters will be offered a limited amount of funding to help offset the
costs of their participation in the workshop.
Deadline for submission: December 1, 2007
Notification of accepted papers: December 15, 2007
Workshop: February 2-3, 2008

Anna Alexandrova, University of Missouri­St Louis

Erik Angner, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dan Haybron, Saint Louis University

Don Ross, University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Cape Town

Valerie Tiberius, University of Minnesota

Erik Angner
Dept. of Philosophy and Dept. of Finance, Economics and Quantitative Methods
University of Alabama at Birmingham
1530 3rd Avenue South, HB414A
Birmingham, AL 35294-1260, USA
Phone: +1 205 934 4805
Fax: +1 205 975 6610


  1. Wes Andersib

    I am an undergrad at Portland State University. Can anyone go to these conferences? Are there sometimes discounts for people like undergrads? I have only recently been very interested in philosophy and psychology, and so, I have never been to a conference. I would like to go to at least one next year though. Thank you for your help. I enjoy this blog.

  2. gualtiero piccinini

    Most academic conferences are more or less open to anyone.  In many cases attendants are supposed to register, but (i) at philosophy conferences registration is usually very cheap and (ii) if you sneak in without registering, probably no one will say anything.  I think going to some conferences is a good experience for someone like you.  I would recommend looking for conferences happening near you, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on travelling.

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