The Moral Philosophy of Social Cooperation
- New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 5: What Counts as Utility?
CHAPTER 5 28/09/2000 16:04 Page 1 5. What counts as utility? IS HAPPINESS THE SAME AS SATISFACTION OF DESIRES? Does the utilitarian value judgment favor the actual happiness of individuals or, if there is a difference, favor satisfying whatever desires or preferences individuals may currently happen to have? Although one answer to this question may sound ominous, neither answer has any direct policy implications. (I am not about to advocate imposing happiness on recalcitrant subjects.) Anyway, if gratifying their actual desires would in fact make people miserable because their desires had been based on misinformation or warped by an extreme short-run outlook or were otherwise ill-considered, should philosophers nevertheless applaud such counterproductive gratification? Philosophers are unlikely, of course, to know in advance that gratifying desires would bring misery and overriding them bring happiness. Still, clarity of thought requires facing the issue. One might object that assessing two versions of a fundamental value judgment against each other is pointless because such judgments, by their very meaning, can have no reasons offered for them. Two versions of utilitarianism, with their somewhat different underlying intuitions, simply stand in contrast. Strictly speaking, this objection is valid, but only against the way I have phrased the issue so far. Actually, the issue is discussible because a judgment that appears fundamental may turn out, under examination, not to be so (recall Sidney Alexander’s remarks, cited in Chapter 2). Discussion may sharpen the intuition on which a seemingly fundamental value judgment rests. THE ENDOGENEITY OF PREFERENCES...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.