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Preference Utilitarianism

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Tessa Attrill

on 6 November 2012

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Transcript of Preference Utilitarianism

Weaknesses Preference utilitarianism is one of the most popular forms of utilitarianism in the world of contemporary philosophy, it defines a morally right action as that which produces the most favorable consequences for the people involved. It considers a lots of peoples preferences, not just individuals. What is it? Preference Utilitarianism was first put forward by John Harsanyi in 1977, but is more commonly associated with R.M Hare and Peter Singer. According to Harsanyi, “preference utilitarianism is the only form of utilitarianism consistent with the important philosophical principle of preference autonomy. By this I mean the principle that, in deciding what is good and what is bad for a given individual, the ultimate criterion can only be his own wants and his own preferences."

R.M Hare said "In this form if utilitarianism it is important to take into account the preferences of the individuals involved, except where those preferences come in to direct conflict with the preferences of others. The right thing to do therefore is to maximize the chance that everyone’s preferences will be satisfied."

Peter Singer said "the preference of the victim could sometimes be outweighed by the preferences of others", this shows that preference utilitarianism could sometimes support the killing of someone. But Singer still has a respect for the life of others, “a wide range of the most central and significant preferences a being can have". Singer also points out that people can be mistaken about what will make them happy but they are never mistaken about what they prefer. Founders Examples A good and simple example of preference utilitarianism is the cake example:
if my friends are all on diets and would prefer not to have cake, it would be more moral for me to eat it without sharing, according to preference utilitarianism.

A bit more complicated example is the gang violence example:
If a gang decided to rob and kill someone, then they would have more pleasure from killling the person and they would also have more money, which means that the gang have more pleasure after the person has been killed, than they did before, there are more people in the gang, so they would get more pleasure and by using preference utilitarianism this would be seen as the morally right thing to do as more people would be happy after killing one person Strengths Everyone's interests must be given equal consideration.
Makes the world a 'happier' place.
Practical and useful e.g if someone won the lottery, they would share it rather than keep it to themselves, this very useful to many other people.
Easy to apply to real life situations Hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) is wrong- just because there are some people who enjoy a certain activity, it doesn't make that activity right. E.g, paedophilic pornography, it isn't right.
It is unpredictable, you might think it will help a lot of people, but something could change that would mean a lot of people would not benefit from it.
Incalculable- You could make a decision that does benefit a lot of people but could make matters worse for a lot more people with out even realising.
It is unfair to some people, it makes a lot of people happy, but you might have to cause suffering to innocent people, this is wrong. By Tessa and Eleanor. Preference Utilitarianism Chernobyl Disaster
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