Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Published in: Linley, P.A. & Joseph, S. (Eds.), ‘Positive Psychology in Practice’ chapter 39. Publisher: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2004, Hoboken, NJ USA, ISBN 0471459062
Utilitarian philosophy holds that public policy should aim at advancing human happiness. This moral theory meets many objections, on pragmatic grounds it is denounced as unfeasible and on ideological grounds as undesirable. As a result the principle is marginal in policy making.
In this chapter I consider these classic philosophical qualms in the light of recent empirical research on life-satisfaction. It appears that these objections do not apply. Happiness is a useful goal criterion, both in public policy and in individual therapy.