Much of human effort and much of human thought is directed at well-being in some sense without any attempt to fit into any conception of well-being as such. Public figures everywhere and we in our private conversations aim for improvements. The social sciences give attention to making human life better rather worse.
In our private lives we seek rather specific kinds of improvements. In public discourse attention is given to specific aspects of well-being such as health, safety, the economy, social accord and our spiritual lives. A lengthy explanation of philosophical thought about well-being is available from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/well-being/.
There are three pertinent approaches to well-being that are compatible with each other and with the Capability Approach discussed above.
A good place to start in learning about Buddhism is reading at least the first few paragraphs of the online article, Right Mindfulness: A Foundation of Buddhist Practice, http://buddhism.about.com/od/theeightfoldpath/a/right-mindfulness.htm
Many of us may find it helpful in trying to decide how to “do the most good” in the next several years of our lives to read another article available online, Right Livelihood: the Ethics of Earning a Living, http://buddhism.about.com/od/theeightfoldpath/a/rightlivelihood.htm.
Ideally, perhaps, we should all aspire to winning the Right Livelihood Award, which honors those “working on practical and exemplary solutions to the most urgent challenges facing the world today”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_Livelihood_Award.
Unitarian Universalist Principles and Advocacy
The principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) are succinctly listed and given context in http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/. Guidelines, resources, and position statements and action plans concerning specific issues are available on the Social Justice page of the UUA website, http://www.uua.org/justice/index.shtml
Catholic Social Teaching
As set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) there are seven themes of Catholic social teaching:
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person: Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation: The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society — in economics and politics, in law and policy — directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
- Rights and Responsibilities: Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities – to one another, to our families, and to the larger society – are met.
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition …instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
- Solidarity: We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that if you want peace, work for justice. The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
- Care for God’s Creation: We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation… We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
A good introductory article in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_social_teaching quotes Pope John Paul II as saying that the foundation of Catholic social teaching “rests on the threefold cornerstones of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity”. The meanings of “Human dignity” and “solidarity” are clarified in the first and sixth themes listed above. Subsidiarity is the principle that to the extent practicable the people with a problem should be allowed to solve it themselves — with outside help, if any, given only to the extent needed. This principle is explained more fully in http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html [look in the Table of Contents under “IV THE PRINCIPLE OF SUBSIDIARITY” and click on Origin and meaning].
The point being made is that human well-being is served by allowing people to solve their own problems whenever feasible.