Is there a necessary link between human well-being and morality?  

No, there is not.  The reason is that there is no commonly accepted meaning for the concept of "morality" or of "human well-being".  Each different conception of "morality" usually entails a different concept of "human well-being" -- but not necessarily.  And each different conception of "human well-being" usually entails a different concept of "morality" -- but again, not necessarily.  (I will not get into the meaning of "necessary" in this context, but rely on the common run-of-the-mill understanding.) 

Moral theories can be roughly classed as either consequentialist or non-consequentialist.  Consequentialist theories determine the morality of actions on the basis of the consequences of some action in question.  Non-consequentialist theories rely on the motivation of the action, or the nature of the action, or (in the case of anti-realist theories) deny that there is any factual element to moral utterances.  Since "human well-being" is affected by the factual consequences of actions and not by the nature of the action or the motivation of the action, or a non-action utterance, non-consequentialist moral theories do not maintain a close link between morality and human well-being.  Non-consequentialist theories of morality incorporate a sharp disconnect between actions, persons, or things that are morally approved or disapproved, and any conception of human well-being.  The disconnect results from the separation of the criteria for moral approval and the criteria for impacting human well-being.  The two criteria are in different universes.  Non-consequentialist theories separate moral considerations from prudential considerations.  Thinking about well-being belongs in the prudential universe, not the moral universe.  Any non-consequentialist moral theory is thus compatible with many different conceptions of "human well-being".

Kantian duty ethics, for example, where the Categorical Imperatives are justified on the basis of their supposed derivation from reason and rationality, has no link to any particular concept of human well-being.  Kant argues that to be reasonable and rational one must be moral, but does not argue that being moral is a means to human well-being.  In fact, he argues in places that one ought to be moral even if it damages one's well-being.  The criterion for being moral is a consideration of motivation.  Another example is Hare's Prescriptivism, where moral utterances are taken as commands and prescriptions not as factual descriptions of actions.  Since actions by themselves are not something that are moral or non-moral, morality cannot directly affect one's conception of human well-being.  The criterion of being moral is a consideration of language classification, or of emotional content.  The most popular form of morality is Authoritative Rule morality, where the moral worth of an action derives from whether or not it is in accord with the Rules dictated by some Authority.  The Ten Commandments are the classic examples.  One obeys the rules regardless of how the consequences might impact one's conception of human well-being.  The criterion of being moral is a consideration of obeisance to rules.  It does not matter for such non-consequentialist theories of morality whether one's concept of "human well-being" is cashed out in terms of individual or collective happiness, economic net worth, or inclusive fitness.

On the other hand, consequentialist theories of morality, such as Utilitarianism or Evolutionary Ethics, do establish a necessary link between morality and human well-being.  Consequentialist theories (by definition) evaluate the morality of actions on the basis of the consequences of those actions.  Therefore, they must include as part of their moral theory a concept of human well-being that drives that evaluation.  An action is moral to the extent that it improves (or is expected to improve) the particular theory's definition of well-being.  But although the connection for these theories is thus necessary, different consequentialist moral theories incorporate vastly different notions of "human well-being".  But despite the wide variation in measures of well-being proposed, all consequentialist theories collapse the distinction between the prudential and the moral.  Moral and prudential considerations involve the same kinds of consequences, and use the same measures of well-being.  The only remains of the distinction that some consequentialist theories maintain admit is based on the beneficiary of the consequences being evaluated.  Some, but certainly not all, allow that moral actions benefit others, while prudential actions benefit the agent.

The end result is that the very notion of how one conceives of "morality" will determine whether one considers that there is a necessary link between human well-being and morality.  If one conceives of morality in a consequentialist way, then one will argue that there is a necessary link.  The concept that one has of "human well-being" is the criterion for what one considers moral or immoral.  But if one conceives of morality in a non-consequentialist way, then one will argue that the link to "human well-being" is contingent on just which notion of "human well-being" is being discussed.  For a non-consequentialist morality, moral considerations are different from prudential considerations, and human well-being is in the prudential universe.

 

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