School of Humanities



Michael Baldwin

Start date

May 2012

Submission date

Michael Baldwin


Economic Materialism and The Good Life: Can a life that privileges money and material goods involve happiness, well-being and The Good Life?


This thesis involves looking at and distinguishing the notions of happiness (mental state or state of mind), well-being (a life that is good for the person leading it) and The Good Life (a life that involves well-being and which is also morally meritorious/virtuous); and then seeing how they relate to the Economic Materialist (a person that values money and material goods and thinks they provide happiness). Currently much of the research on economic materialism either relates to one of these elements, happiness, well-being or less frequently The Good Life separately; or fails to either distinguish them at all as concepts or consider how they interrelate.

Why my research is important

This research is important as we all have to negotiate the place of money and material goods in our lives. It seems absolutely vital to know if valuing money and material goods may preclude, diminish or even augment our personal psychological happiness, well-being or ability to lead The Good Life (one that has both well-being and a moral component). Further, it is imperative to know how happiness, well-being and The Good Life interact in order to understand how they affect a life of economic materialism and might allow us to make choices leading to better lives.

For example; if privileging money and material goods did not make you happy in the psychological sense of a mental state or state of mind in any enduring sense (because adaption rapidly reduces your happiness about material purchases), but could allow you to lead a life higher in Well-being (by say allowing you to lead projects and interests that authentically resonated with you), then economic materialism could add to your well-being; but you should not expect enduring happiness from this pursuit. Alternatively, perhaps privileging money and material goods could make you very happy in the psychological sense of a mental state or state of mind, but ultimately undermines The Good Life, because economic materialism undermines virtue (by leading to less scrupulous means, misdirected ends, or mistaking the means for the ends). In any case this knowledge seems integral to being able to flourish.