Preference Utilitarianism

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 10-04-13 15:05

Preference Utilitarianism

A form of utilitarianism based on personal preferences. 

Peter Singer developed this form of Utilitarianism. He stated the good life:

'Is one in which my own considered, informed preferences are maximally satisfied.'

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Preference Utilitarianism

Singer suggests we should take the viewpoint of an impartial spectator

Considers preferences of all conscious beings.

  • 'Our own preferences cannot count any more than the preferences of others'

When acting morally we should take into account all the people affected by our actions. 

Have to be weighed and balanced & then we must choose the action which gives the best possible consequence for those affected. 

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Preference Utilitarianism

Principle of utility followed (GGFGN) - act & rule. 

Doesn't analyse how instrumental an act is for bringing about a particular consequence - considers how instrumental a person's preference is in bringing about a particular consequence.

More preferences satisfied in the world - the better. 

CONSEQUENTIALIST THEORY - preferences of the whole bring about the desired consequences. 

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Preference Utilitarianism

Consider whether a decision is right or wrong by asking if it fits in with what people would rationally prefer. 

Singer -> concerned about minorities. 

Felt all minorities and individuals should be taken into account when considering what is best for everyone. 

Believed you should do what's in the best interests of the GREATEST NUMBER rather than calculating pleasure against pain

Singer's approach concentrates on minimising suffering rather than maximising pleasure. 

Thinks there is more agreement on what causes pain than what gives pleasure - CEILING ON SUFFERING. 

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Principle Of Equal Consideration

This principle of preferences or interests acts like a pair of scales. Everyone's preferences/interests are weighed equally

Singer - preferences rather than human life which we should value

Animals fall within our sphere of moral obligations since certain animals show preferences. 

'An action contrary to the preference of any being is, unless the preference is outweighed by contrary preferences, wrong.' 

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  • 1919 - 2002
  • In moral decision, consider our own preferences and those of others

'Equal preferences count equally, whatever their content.' 

  • People are happy when they get what they prefer. But these preferences may clash with those of others
  • We need to 'stand in someone else's shoes' & try to imagine what they might prefer
  • Treat everyone including ourselves with impartiality, Hare also argues for universality. 
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1) Most popular form of utilitarianism in contemporary philosophy. 

2) Preference utilitarians argue that happiness is experienced subjectively compared to act & rule utilitarians tend to view happiness in objective terms

3) Preference utilitarianism bypasses the problem that utilitarianism pretends that subjective concepts such as happiness can be defined objectively by defining 'good' 'happiness' & 'pleasure' subjectively

4) Preference utilitarianism recognises that what makes one person happy may not make another happy.

5) Preference utilitarians define the 'good' not as happiness but as preference satisfaction.

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1) Doesn't consider other people when deciding on how to act.

2) Acting on the basis of your own preferences may prevent others pursuing happiness. 

3) Doesn't establish if what makes a person happy is necessarily good for them. 

4) Can we actually presume that people will know what will make them happy?

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