In this article I contrast two conceptions of the structure of lives: the “stream of behavior” framework (which I call “flat”) and the “concurrent strand” framework (which I call “deep”). The stream of behavior approach has a distinguished history, going back at least to William James. For example, William James writes about the stream of thought: “Within each personal consciousness thought is sensibly continuous” [James1981, 220]. In contrast, according to the parallel strand framework, lives consist of multiple concurrent and asynchronous strands, each endowed with a rich structure. As a foil against which to present the new approach, I have chosen the work of Daniel Kahneman on the measurement of well-being. This choice will reveal that taking a stance in this matter is not just a debate about theory—it has practical consequences as well.
1 The unbearable flatness of being
1.1 Kahneman’s two selves
In his Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman distinguishes between two selves, the “exper...