Chapter Seven

1. Do you think it is possible that the members of Peoples Temple—people who voluntarily subjected themselves to the will of Jim Jones and committed suicide when he implored them to do so—lived happily? What does your answer suggest about whether or not happiness is best understood as life satisfaction? Explain.

2. Philosophers Valerie Tiberius and Alicia Hall argue that we need a reliable way of assessing our life conditions in order to ensure that our life satisfaction judgments are meaningful and authoritative. This requires that we adopt the proper perspective. What perspective do Tiberius and Hall suggest we adopt? Explain.

3. Tiberius and Hall defend the value-based life satisfaction theory of happiness. Describe the essential features of value-based life satisfactionism, including the two standards that we should apply to our choice of values. In answering this question, offer an example of each standard.

4. Why do Tiberius and Hall believe that their subjective value-based view of happiness is better than views of happiness that impose objective standards? Do you agree with them? Why or why not?

5. Applying value-based life satisfactionism to the case of the Peoples Temple, what would the theory say about whether the members of the congregation were happy? Do you agree? Why or why not?

6. John Kekes holds that the pursuit of happiness requires the construction of one’s life plan. Describe the essential features of a life plan in terms of the difference between first-order and second-order wants.

7. According to Kekes, how do the three different types of commitments relate to a life plan? In answering this question, offer an example of each kind of commitment.

8. Do you agree with Kekes that thinking about happiness is the same as thinking about the type of person we want to be or become? Why or why not?

9. When we are constructing our life plan, Kekes cautions us regarding certain internal defects we should avoid. What are the different types of internal defects that he identifies? Describe each defect carefully, using an example for each.

10. Kekes also describes external defects that can thwart our life plans. Describe each defect carefully, using an example for each.

11. Do you agree with Kekes that a life plan that avoids both internal and external defects is essential to living happily? Why or why not? Can you think of an example from your own life where you have made one of the mistakes that Kekes has identified? Explain.

12. How might the extra constraints that Tiberius, Hall, and Kekes place on their life satisfaction judgments lead to an even stronger worry regarding the problem of “attitude scarcity”? Do you agree that this is a serious concern with their views? Why or why not?

13. What are some reasons for thinking that the example of the romantic poets, such as John Keats, cast doubt on the life satisfaction theory of happiness? Do you agree? Explain your answer.

14. Martha Nussbaum questions the value of life satisfaction as it relates to our pursuit of happiness. Why does she think that being satisfied might not be that valuable in life? Do you agree that this poses a serious problem for life satisfaction views, and why or why not?

15. After reading about the Heaven’s Gate cult, do you think its members met the criteria put forward by Tiberius and Hall’s value-based life satisfactionism? Explain. How does your answer to this question relate to your answers concerning the members of Peoples Temple?

16. Do you think that the general phenomenon of the cult experience raises a serious objection to life satisfactionism as a view of happiness, and if so, how? If not, why not? Explain. What do you think is the value of satisfaction to living a good life?