Any Way You Slice It: On Fission, Fusion and the Weighing of Welfare

It is generally thought that there are certain persons to whose welfare we should give special weight. It is commonly held, for example, that we should give special weight to our own welfare. On the strongest version of this view, we should always give overriding weight to our own welfare, and so, in considering any set of alternatives, we should always prefer the one in which we fare best. Many people would reject this strong view, for two reasons. First, many people would hold that impersonal reasons (such as reasons of total utility) can sometimes outweigh, or at least counterbalance, reasons of self-interest. Further, many people think that reasons deriving from special personal relations can sometimes outweigh, or at least counterbalance, reasons of self-interest. We can, however, formulate a much weaker, and much more plausible, version of the self-interest view that avoids both these problems. Let’s first define a person’s kin as anyone in the person’s extended family (including himself). And let’s define a person’s kith very broadly as anyone with whom that person has ever interacted. We can now formulate the weak version of the self-interest view as follows
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