37 utilitarianism utilitarianism according to his

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Unformatted text preview: udaimonistic Utilitarianism (the Greek word Eudaimonia means happiness or flourishing). 37 Utilitarianism Utilitarianism According to his form of utilitarianism, we should seek According to maximize higher forms of well-being rather than lower ones – it is better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied fool. And he constructed a test which should enable us to decide whether a satisfaction is of a high or a low quality: consult an individual who has experienced both, he said, and accept the verdict of this person. both, A person who has both read Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (the Art of Love by Erich Fromm 1956) and watched porn movies can tell what kind of pornography engenders the highest form (if any) of pleasure. We ought to go for the higher quality rather than the lower one. for 38 Utilitarianism Utilitarianism But can the test really guide us? What if two persons But reach conflicting verdicts on a certain kind of pleasure, which of them are we to trust? In particular, how do we know that they have had the same experience? The same stimulus can have produced different reactions in them. Moreover, even if the test works, why abide by it? Why search the higher pleasure rather than the lower, if the lower feels better? feels Suppose that a mentally retarded person feels pleasures of a lower kind than does a Nobel prize laureate, but feels them more intensely – is it really true that the Nobel prize laureate leads a better life? true 39 Utilitarianism Utilitarianism A more radical departure from classical hedonism than more the one taken by Mill would be to say that what matters is not that we have pleasurable experiences (a high degree of well-being), but that we get our preferences, or wishes, satisfied. preferences, This gives a different twist to Mill’s test. If we prefer higher pleasures to lower ones, then this is a reason for us to seek higher pleasures. for But according to this view, it is not only pleasures that But are of importance. We may seek all sorts of things other than certain experiences. If we do and our desires are satisfied, then we enjoy a high level of welfare. The more our desires are satisfied, the better. welfare. 40 Utilitarianism-Preferentialism Utilitarianism-Preferentialism We may now speak of ‘preference’ utilitarianism rather We than ‘hedonistic’ utilitarianism. than In order to be a plausible alternative to hedonism, In preferentialism must be qualified. A standard qualification is as follows: qualification only the satisfaction of preferences, or desires, that we only hold for our own lives (self-regarding preferences) are of importance to our welfare; moreover, only the satisfaction of intrinsic preferences (preferences for things we want for their own sake, not merely as means to some other end) matter. means According to this version of Utilitarianism, the best According outcome is the one which satisfies as many people’s 41 preferences or desires as possible. preferences Utilitarianism Utilitarianism The rationale behind these stipulations is as follows. Suppose I want to discover a vaccine against HIV and Suppose do so. This need not mean that my welfare has increased. But if it was essential for me that I should be the person who discovered the vaccine and did so, then it is plausible to say that my welfare has increased. However, this presupposes that I had an intrinsic desire to be the person who discovered the vaccine. This may seem to be a strange kind of desire. Perhaps it is more plausible to assume that what I was after was fame, an academic career, or something like that. But why did I seek fame and an academic career. But 42 Utilitarianism Utilitarianism Perhaps because I thought it would make me happy – Perhaps in that case, it is only when my intrinsic desire for happiness is satisfied that my welfare is increased. But of course, people may have all sorts of selfBut regarding intrinsic desires. They may desire regarding knowledge, friendship, and so on. According to preference utilitarianism, it is the satisfaction of these preferences that should be maximized. preferences Note that it may well be the case that some of these Note preferences become satisfied without the person holding them ever noticing that this is the case. Hedonists often point to this fact as a defect in the preferentialist position, but preferentialists tend to see 43 it as a strength in their position. Utilitarianism Utilitarianism A special problem with preferentialism is that we often special abandon preferences. Does this mean that their satisfaction no longer matters to our welfare? Preferentialists disagree on this point. The most plausible move for preferentialists to make here is to say that what matters to our welfare is that our preferences get satisfied at the time when we hold them, not otherwise. This means that satisfying somebody’s wishes about what is to happen after their death will not increase their welfare. their 44 Utilitarianism Utilitarianism This seems to be the correct conclusion to draw, but This note that many preferentialists have held that what makes their view plausible is inde...
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