Utilitas 6 (2):217-218 (1994)

Some people have supposed that utility is good in itself, non-in-strumentally good, as distinct from good because conducive to other good things. And in modern versions of this view, utility often means want-satisfaction, as distinct from pleasure or happiness. For your want that p to be satisfied, is it necessary that you know or believe that p, or sufficient merely that p is true? However that question is answered, there are problems with the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good. What if you want something only because you have a false belief? What if the time at which you want that p is fifty or five hundred years before the time to which p itself refers? To meet these difficulties, qualifications have to be introduced, and much has been written about how exactly these qualifications are to be framed.1 There is however what may be a rather more serious objection to the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good, or rather to the combination of that view with the principle that it is sufficient for your want that p to be satisfied simply that p is true. The objection is that this combination forces you to give undue weight to the mere acquisition of desires when you come to make judgements about changes in the value of things. It forces you to say that for any true proposition p, which initially you do not want to be true, your mere acquisition of a desire that p will, other things being equal, make the world better. Non-instrumental value can be increased merely by multiplying desires, even though everything else remains the same. Surely, however, improving the world is not as easy as that.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1017/S095382080000159X
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,436
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

XII—Plural Utility.Amartya Sen - 1981 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 81 (1):193-216.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Moral Choice.Evelyn Keyes - 1985 - Dissertation, Rice University
"Utility".John Broome - 1991 - Economics and Philosophy 7 (1):1-12.
Aristotle on the Good of Virtue-Friendship.D. N. Schroeder - 1992 - History of Political Thought 13 (2):203.
Present Desire Satisfaction and Past Well-Being.Donald W. Bruckner - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):15 - 29.
Darwall on Rational Care.Joseph Raz - 2006 - Utilitas 18 (4):400-414.
Quirky Desires and Well-Being.Donald Bruckner - 2016 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 10 (2):1-34.
Perfection and Desire: Spinoza on the Good.Matthew J. Kisner - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (1):97-117.
J. S. Mill's Utilitarianism.Christopher Alan Hoffman - 1994 - Dissertation, Washington University
Spinoza's Theories of Value.Andrew Youpa - 2010 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18 (2):209 – 229.
On Myself, and Other, Less Important, Subjects.Caspar Hare - 2003 - Dissertation, Princeton University
A Plausible Theory of Retribution.Sidney Gendin - 1970 - Journal of Value Inquiry 5 (1):1-16.


Added to PP index

Total views
104 ( #114,068 of 2,519,861 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #205,232 of 2,519,861 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes