Over the last decade, "New Atheists" such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have pushed the issue of atheism to the forefront of public discussion. Yet very few of the ensuing debates and discussions have managed to provide a full and objective treatment of the subject.
Does free will exist? The question has fueled heated debates spanning from philosophy to psychology and religion. The answer has major implications, and the stakes are high. To put it in the simple terms that have come to dominate these debates, if we are free to make our own decisions, we are accountable for what we do, and if we aren't free, we're off the hook.
Philosophical theories of agency and responsibility have focused primarily on actions and activities. But, besides acting, we often omit to do or refrain from doing certain things. Omitting or refraining, like acting, can have consequences, good and bad. And we can be praiseworthy or blameworthy for omitting or refraining. However, omitting and refraining are not simply special cases of action; they require their own distinctive treatment.
Since the middle of the twentieth century, virtue ethics has enriched the range of philosophical approaches to normative ethics, often drawing on the work of the ancient Greeks, who offered accounts of the virtues that have become part of contemporary philosophical ethics. But these virtue ethical theories were situated within a more general picture of human practical rationality, one which maintained that to understand virtue we must appeal to what would make our lives go well. This feature of ethical theorizing has not become part of philosophical ethics, although the virtue theories dependent upon it have.
Philosophers defend theories of what well-being is but ignore what psychologists have learned about it, while psychologists learn about well-being but lack a theory of what it is. In The Good Life, Michael Bishop brings together these complementary investigations and proposes a powerful, new theory for understanding well-being.