Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christopher Heathwood

Second Advisor

Robert Hanna

Third Advisor

Alastair Norcross


Some lives go better than others. On this fact there is virtually no disagreement. If that is true, then what makes it so? Answers to this question are theories of personal welfare. This dissertation provides such a theory that claims, roughly, that a life goes better for the person who lives it to the extent he gets what he cares about getting and he believes he is getting those things.

This dissertation is structured as follows. The Prologue properly frames and details the importance of the issue of personal welfare. Chapter One examines two of the main types of personal welfare theories. Objections to those theories are raised, and some general principles of welfare are formulated in response to those concerns, including that desires play at least some role in the correct theory of welfare. Chapter Two takes a preliminary look at desire theory--the third and final main type of personal welfare theory. It considers and rejects the possibility that something in addition to desires affects welfare before taking stock of the challenges that face any desire theory. Chapter Three begins by considering whether a unified theory of welfare for all beings exists before rejecting this idea. The main focus of the chapter, however, is putting in place the foundations of the proposed theory as found in the works of Harry Frankfurt. Frankfurt’s works on a variety of topics are covered in great detail because part of the problem in the debate over desire theory stems from the failure to view desires in their proper and broader context as an integral part of the human psyche. Chapter Four considers some popular forms of and objections to desire theory in order to collect the remaining conceptual tools required to build the correct theory of personal welfare. Chapter Five explains this theory in full, extols its virtues, demonstrates how it resolves the two most difficult objections facing any desire theory, and shows how it resolves a deep conceptual confusion within desire theory. Finally, the Epilogue details the meaning of life and shows how Caring Satisfactionism is perfectly consistent with it.