Well-Being as Value Fulfillment: How We Can Help Each Other to Live Well

Oxford University Press 2018

What is human well-being? Valerie Tiberius argues that our lives go well to the extent that we succeed in terms of what matters to us emotionally, reflectively, and over the long term. In other words, well-being consists in fulfilling or realizing our appropriate values over time. In the first half of the book, Tiberius sets out the theory of well-being as value fulfillment. She explains what valuing is and what it is to fulfill values over time. In the second half of the book she applies the theory to the problem of how to help others, particularly our friends. We don’t always know how to provide the help we know others need; but we also have the problem of knowing what help they need in the first place, and this is a problem that requires ethical thinking. Tiberius argues that when we want to help others achieve greater well-being, we should pay attention to their values. This entails attending to how others’ values fit together, how they understand what it means to succeed in terms of these values, and how things could change for them over time. Being a good and helpful friend, then, requires cultivating some habits of humility that overcome our tendency to think we know what’s good for other people without really understanding what it’s like to be them.

Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction

Routledge 2015

This is the first philosophy textbook in moral psychology, introducing students to a range of philosophical topics and debates such as: What is moral motivation? Do reasons for action always depend on desires? Is emotion or reason at the heart of moral judgment? Under what conditions are people morally responsible? Are there self-interested reasons for people to be moral? Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction presents research by philosophers and psychologists on these topics, and addresses the overarching question of how empirical research is (or is not) relevant to philosophical inquiry.

The Reflective Life: Living Wisely With Our Limits

Oxford University Press 2008

What can we do to live life wisely? You might think that the answer would be to think and reflect more. But this is not Valerie Tiberius’s answer. On her view, when we really take account of what we are like – when we recognize our psychological limits – we will see that too much thinking and reflecting is bad for us. Instead, we need to think and reflect better. This means that we need to develop wisdom: we need to care about things that will sustain us and give us good experiences, we need to have perspective on our successes and failures, and we need to be moderately self-aware and cautiously optimistic about human nature. Further, we need to know when to think about our values, character, and choices, and when not to. A crucial part of wisdom, Tiberius maintains, is knowing when to stop reflecting and get lost in the experience.

The Reflective Life also considers the issue of how to philosophize about how to live. A recent trend in moral philosophy has been toward what is sometimes called ’empirically informed ethics’. This methodology has not yet caught on in normative ethics, primarily because we cannot conclude anything about what ought to be the case from the facts about what is. Tiberius agrees that this leap should be avoided, but argues that empirical psychology can inform our philosophical theories in interesting ways.


Well-Being, Values and Improving Lives 

Performance and Progress:  Essays on Capitalism, Business and Society, Subramanian Rangan (Ed.).  Oxford University Press, 2015); pages 339-357.

While large scale crises such as global poverty or climate change require large scale solutions, individual agents – as consumers, activists, voters, and leaders – certainly must play a role.  This chapter proposes a theory of individual well-being that affords a strategy for generating reasons to do better by the world that also promote long-term self-interest.  The theory defended characterizes well-being in terms of value fulfillment over time, and it holds that a person’s current values might be in need of improvement or modification to count as best for the person over time.  After an overview and brief defense of the theory, the chapter turns to the question of how a person’s values might be modified and improved in ways that benefit both the person and the planet.

Does the New Wave in Moral Psychology Sink Kant? 

The Blackwell Handbook on Naturalism, Kelly James Clark (ed.). (Wiley Blackwell).   

Some claim that recent work in moral psychology both undermines Kantian moral theory and supports Humean approaches to morality. Does moral psychology undermine Kantian, rationalistic moral theory?  After distinguishing various Kantian claims and the evidence against them, I argue that the empirical case against Kantianism as a viable moral theory is not conclusive.

Prudential Value.

Oxford Handbook of Value Theory edited by Iwao Hirose and Jonas Olson.  Oxford University Press, 2015.

Recipes for a Good Life:  Eudaimonism and the Contribution of Philosophy

The Best Within Us:  Positive Psychology Perspectives on Eudaimonic Functioning, edited by Alan Waterman.  (Washington, D.C.:  American Psychological Association, 2013), pp. 19-38.

Philosophical Methods in Happiness Research

The Oxford Handbook of Happiness, David, S., Boniwell, I. and Ayers, A (eds.).  (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 315-325.

Constructivism and Wise Judgment

Constructivism in Practical Philosophy, edited by James Lenman and Yonatan Shemmer, (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 195-212.
In this paper I introduce a version of constructivism that relies on a theory of practical
wisdom. Wise judgment constructivism is a type of constructivism because it takes correct
judgments about what we have “all-in” reason to do to be the result of a process we
can follow, where our interest in the results of this process stems from our practical
concerns. To fully defend the theory would require a comprehensive account of
wisdom, which is not available. Instead, I describe a constructivist methodology for
defending an account of wisdom and outline its main features. This gives us enough to
see what wise judgment constructivism would look like, why it might be an attractive
theory, and how it is different from other versions of constructivism.

Open-mindedness and Normative Contingency

Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 7, edited by Russ Shafer-Landau (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 182-204.

Open-mindedness seems to be a virtue because an open mind is more receptive to the truth. But if value judgments are best understood as a human projection, expression, or construction, then it is unclear why open-mindedness is a virtue when it comes to normative judgments. If moral truths are not “out there”, what is the point of an open mind?  What are we being open to?  Further, if oughts and values are, in some way, contingent on us, open-mindedness may put us at greater risk of losing important convictions than in the case of belief about the world. In this paper I defend open-mindedness for normative judgment in the context of meta-ethical theories that makes values mind-dependent.

Wisdom Revisited:  A Case Study in Normative Theorizing

with Jason Swartwood; Philosophical Explorations,  Vol. 14, No. 3, September 2011, pp. 277–295.

Extensive discussions of practical wisdom are relatively rare in the philosophical
literature these days. This is strange given the theoretical and practical importance of
wisdom and, indeed, the etymology of the word “philosophy”. In this paper, we
remedy this inattention by proposing a methodology for developing a theory of
wisdom and using this methodology to outline a viable theory. The methodology we
favor is a version of wide reflective equilibrium. We begin with psychological
research on folk intuitions about wisdom, which helps us to avoid problems caused
by reliance on the possibly idiosyncratic intuitions of professional philosophers. The
folk theory is then elaborated in light of theoretical desiderata and further empirical
research on human cognitive capacities. The resulting view emphasizes policies that
the wise person adopts in order to cope with the many obstacles to making good choices.


with Alexandra Plakias, in Doris, J., & the Moral Psychology Research Group. (eds.). The Moral Psychology Handbook. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) pp. 401-431.

Normative Theory and Psychological Research

with Alicia Hall, The Journal of Positive Psychology, Vol. 5.  No. 3, May 2010, pp. 212-225.

This paper is a contribution to the debate about eudaimonism started by Kashdan,
Biswas-Diener, King, and Waterman in a previous issue of The Journal of Positive
Psychology. We point out that one thing that is missing from this debate is an
understanding of the problems with subjective theories of well-being that motivate a turn
to objective theories. We then argue that a suitably modified subjective theory can solve
these problems and that this is the theory that ought to be favored by psychologists.

Appiah and the Autonomy of Ethics

Neuroethics, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2010, pp. 209-214.

Well-Being:  Psychological Research for Philosophers

Philosophy Compass 1/5, 2006, pp. 493-505.

Value Commitments and the Balanced Life

Utilitas, Volume 17, No. 1, March 2005, pp. 24-45.

According to critics such as Bernard Williams, traditional ethical theories render it
impossible to lead good and meaningful lives because they emphasize moral duty or the
promotion of external values at the expense of the personal commitments that make
our lives worth living from our own perspective. Responses to this criticism have not
addressed the fundamental question about the proper relationship between a person’s
commitments to moral values and her commitments to non-moral or personal values.
In this article, I suggest that we think about this relationship by reflecting on the way
that a prudentially virtuous person who has commitments to both moral and non-moral
values would regard these commitments. I argue that people with the virtue of balance
do have reasons to act in accordance with their moral commitments, but that whether or
not these reasons are overriding depends on the type of commitment in question.

Cultural Differences and Philosophical Accounts of Well-Being

The Journal of Happiness Studies, 5, 2004, pp. 293-314.

Maintaining Conviction and the Humean Account of Normativity Topoi, Volume 21, Nos. 1-2, 2002, pp. 165-173.

Humean Heroism:  Value Commitments and the Source of Normativity

, pp. 426-446.

This paper is a contribution to the debate about eudaimonism started by Kashdan,
Biswas-Diener, King, and Waterman in a previous issue of The Journal of Positive
Psychology. We point out that one thing that is missing from this debate is an
understanding of the problems with subjective theories of well-being that motivate a turn
to objective theories. We then argue that a suitably modified subjective theory can solve
these problems and that this is the theory that ought to be favored by psychologists.