On Quality of Life and the Pursuit of Happiness

by Nicholas H. Rescher


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Clarification of the concept of the quality of life as the ultimate yardstick for evaluating social policies is essential to any meaningful application of it. There are two basic dimensions: (1) the artistic, relating to excellence, and (2) the hedonic, consisting of what people-in-general desire to be happy, or idiosyncratic needs, and of psychological mood. Because man lives a substantially generic and not effectively atomistic life, significance in evaluating social programs lies with consensus happiness requisites. Of these, interpersonal social interrelationships are not socially actionable. There remains a limited number of requisites within the sphere of society acting through the agency of the state, among them health, education, political freedom, equality, and privacy. The prospect remains, however, that a society in which many achieve what most people regard as basic requisites to happiness may yet fail to be altogether happy.

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