Ethics - Preference Utilitarianism (Peter Singer)

A summary of Peter Singer's Preference Utilitarianism

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  • Created on: 10-05-10 20:52
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Explain the Preference Utilitarianism of Peter Singer
To preference utilitarians, an action which is morally right is an action which makes the most favourable
consequences for the people involved. They interpret the best consequences in terms of 'preference
satisfaction'. Each person has individual preferences or desires, 'good' is described as the satisfaction of
these. A right action is what leads to this satisfaction. Preference utilitarianism is knowing that every
person's experience of satisfaction will be unique. The most wellknown preference utilitarian is Peter
The basic idea behind it is that people may be mistaken about what will make them happy. For example I
might think that going out in town with my friends will make me happy, but that I would actually be happier
staying at home and reading a Jane Austen novel. In this situation, the hedonistic utilitarian would say that it
is better if I stay at home and read a Jane Austen novel as that is what will make me happiest. However,
the preference utilitarian, such as Peter Singer, would say that it is better if I go into town with my friends as
that is what I want to do, and what matters is that I get what I want.
This version of utilitarianism contrasts with both hedonistic utilitarianism and ideal utilitarianism.


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