Well-being: Hedonism, Preference-Satisfaction and Objective List Theories
Ø John Harsanyi. Morality and the Theory of Rational Behavior
Ø Martha Nussbaum. Adaptive Preference and Womens Options in Women in Human Development, pp. 111 - 166
Ø H. E. Baber. "Subjective Welfareism and Adaptive Preference"
Ø Jon Elster. "Sour Grapes"
v Objective-List Theories: purport to appeal to universal human nature in order to arrive at essential conditions for human flourishing
Ø Nussbaum’s List (pp. 78-80): are the entries plausible
§ Bodily integrity: is the opportunity for sexual satisfaction central? Is “choice in matters of reproduction”?
§ Practical Reason: is “being able to form a conception of the good and engage in critical reflection about planning one’s life” important for ones own welfare?
§ Other Species: is “being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants and the world of nature” really important cross-culturally?
Ø Objections to the Objective List approach: elitist and appears to license paternalism; appeals to questionable notions of human nature; may be question-begging to the extent that lists are compiled by reflecting on preferences (arrived at by “focus groups” of elite individuals)
Ø Nozick’s Utility Machine
§ Supposed to show that hedonism is false since we desire states that are not strictly “in the head”—however pleasurable these states may be.
§ Response 1: our intuitions in cases this removed from reality are unreliable
§ Response 2: appealing to our preference not to plug in begs the question of whether we should understand well-being in terms of pleasure or preference-satisfaction
§ Preference and choice: revealed preference
§ “True” rather than “manifest” preferences are to be satisfied
§ Neither the origin nor content of preferences count
§ The Perfectly Benevolent Despot
§ Perverse tastes
§ Meet The Meat (vide The Restaurant at the End of the Universe!): intuitively we think that we ought to change the world to accommodate preferences rather than manipulating preferences so that they can be satisfied by the status quo.
§ Expensive Tastes: should people who are more demanding get more?
§ Adaptive Preference: should people who are satisfied with little get less?
Ø Response to Nussbaum
§ Preference is dispositional: the absence of occurrent frustration doesn’t mean a state is preferred
§ Bundles of goods are ranked
§ Rational choice model can explain veiling and other apparently “irrational’ practices.