Impartial welfarism and the concept of a person

Erkenntnis 25 (1):47 - 60 (1986)
Abstract
This paper examines some work in welfare economics based upon generalized social welfare function (GSWFs). Impartial welfarism consists in a set of apparently quite weak moral axioms concerning GSWFs. Using that framework, welfare economists have derived both utilitarian and Rawlsian doctrines. These results would seem to be of great importance to moral philosophy. I argue, however, that applying them presupposes a view of persons as mere place holders for preferences, thereby limiting the theorems' appeal for moral philosophers. I propose a more satisfactory view of impartial welfarism by replacing the term person by the more general welfare recipient, but this still fails to make the doctrine available to all moral philosophers.
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