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Preference Theory And Well Being Essay

2170 words - 9 pages

A preference theory is a philosophical theory that the fulfilment of preferences is the only thing that matters in contributing to well-being. Well-being can be seen as what people ultimately want to achieve; the “ultimate good”1. In terms of preference theory, for you to reach the state of well-being then you must have your preferences satisfied. Preference theories can be split into two distinct categories, actual preference theory and ideal preference theory2. Actual preference theory deals with preferences people actually have, regardless of misinformation or irrationality, while ideal preference theory is interested in what we would “hypothetically” prefer, if we were completely informed and rational3. In this essay, I will be arguing against the account of well-being that actual preference theory posits, and attempt to prove that it is incorrect by showing that the fulfilment of preferences does not always have consequences that are conducive to well-being, and therefore that actual preference theory's account of well-being is ultimately wrong

Actual preference theory states that well-being can be produced by having your preferences satisfied. Thereby, if your preference is satisfied you are inevitably better off, because as a result of the fulfilment of your preference you experience well-being. Therefore it seems undeniable to claim that, according to preference theory, you must experience well-being if your preference is fulfilled. However, this account of well-being seems to have a serious flaw. If an agent is unaware of the fulfilment of their preference, do they still experience well-being? Logic and rationality would have to tell us no, however actual preference theory appears to disagree with this claim, and instead argues that the agent would have to experience well-being as a result of the fulfilment of the preference. According to this type of preference theory, even if you are unaware of the satisfaction of your preference, you can still somehow derive well-being from it. For example, say that someone is attacked and robbed by an unknown assailant and sustains serious injuries as a result. There is very little evidence from the attack, and the chances of finding the attacker are very low. This person has no idea who their assailant was, but has the preference that whoever it was gets punished in some way. Now, say that the assailant ends up getting sent to prison for one of other crimes they have committed. Therefore the victims preference, that their attacker be punished in some way, is then technically fulfilled, and the victim must inevitably experience well-being as a result, despite not actually knowing that their attacker has been punished. This account of well-being seems entirely fallible in my opinion, and I see no way it could be justifiable. How could the victim gain any well-being from the attackers incarceration, without knowledge that the attacker had been incarcerated? As far as the victim knows, their...

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