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Preferentism and the Paradox of Desire

by Bradford Skow

The basic idea behind actualist preferentism is that getting what one wants makes one's life go better. A recent objection to preferentism is the ``paradox of desire.'' In a nutshell, this objection goes like this. I can certainly desire to be badly off. But if a desire-satisfaction theory of welfare is true, then---under certain assumptions---the hypothesis that I desire to be badly off entails a contradiction. So much the worse for desire-satisfaction theories of welfare.

In this paper I show how to formulate preferentism so that the hypothesis that I desire to be badly off does not entail a contradiction. The key is to allow how close someone's desires are to being satisfied to play a role in determining their level of welfare. My version of preferentism implements this idea by allowing desire satisfaction to come in degrees.

ISSN 1559-3061
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