Utilitarianism and Beyond by Amartya Sen, Bernard Williams

By Amartya Sen, Bernard Williams

A quantity of stories of utilitarianism thought of either as a conception of non-public morality and a conception of public selection. All yet of the papers were commissioned in particular for the amount, and among them they characterize not just quite a lot of arguments for and opposed to utilitarianism but in addition a first class number of the main fascinating and influential paintings during this very energetic sector. there's additionally a considerable creation by means of the 2 editors. the amount will represent an immense stimulus and aspect of reference for a variety of philosophers, economists and social theorists.

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68 J. A. MIRRLEES probabilistic lotteries for alternative selves, only one of whom will actually occur, is that what is planned for some alternatives would plausibly have no effect on considered preferences regarding what happens to the other alternative selves. Such emotions as regret have to be discounted. Nevertheless, it should be possible to perform the thought-experiments required to calculate utility. While choices among alternative uncertain outcomes can define and measure utility for alternative lives taken as wholes, it would be more useful for many purposes if one could assign utility to subperiods of lives, as my earlier discussion suggested one could.

It surely might become difficult to maintain the assumptions in the face of an accumulation of certain kinds of evidence. If so, we should bear in mind the possibility that a weaker kind of independence might hold for rational preferences. In that case, it would still be possible to define utility, and show how it could be measured; but it would be best for individuals to maximise, not the sum of utilities, but some other function of utility levels. A reconstruction of utilitarianism would then be required and possible.

Therefore, the similarity postulate must be classified as a nonempirical a priori postulate. But, of course, interpersonal utility comparisons are by no means unique among empirical hypotheses in their dependence on such nonempirical postulates. In actual fact, whenever we choose among alternative empirical hypotheses, we are always dependent on some nonempirical choice criteria. This is so because the empirical facts are always consistent with infinitely many alternative hypotheses, and the only way we can choose among them is by using a priori nonempirical choice criteria, such as simplicity, parsimony, preference for the 'least arbitrary' hypothesis, etc.

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