AffiliationUniv Arizona, Dept Philosophy
Keywordsinterpersonal comparisons of welfare
interpersonal comparisons of utility
interpersonal comparisons of well-being
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherSAGE PUBLICATIONS INC
CitationBarrett, J. (2019). Interpersonal comparisons with preferences and desires. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 18(3), 219–241. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470594X19828021
JournalPOLITICS PHILOSOPHY & ECONOMICS
Rights© The Author(s) 2019.
Collection InformationThis item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AbstractMost moral and political theories require us to make interpersonal comparisons of welfare. This poses a challenge to the popular view that welfare consists in the satisfaction of preferences or desires, because interpersonal comparisons of preference or desire satisfaction are widely thought to be conceptually problematic, and purported solutions to this problem to lead to a hopeless subjectivism about these comparisons. In this article, I argue that the key to meeting this challenge lies in distinguishing preferences from desires, and preference satisfaction from desire satisfaction theories of welfare. More specifically, I defend three conclusions. First, interpersonal comparisons of preference satisfaction do raise a serious conceptual problem, but this same problem does not arise for interpersonal comparisons of desire satisfaction. Second, none of the existing solutions to the conceptual problem of interpersonal comparisons of preference satisfaction are satisfactory, since none explain how we can make interpersonal comparisons of preference satisfaction objectively. Third, we can at least make a limited range of objective interpersonal comparisons of desire satisfaction, and there are reasons to be optimistic about the possibility of making a wider range of such comparisons, but there is a need for further research on the topic.
VersionFinal accepted manuscript