What kind of life best ensures human welfare? Since the ancient Greeks, this question has been as central to ethical philosophy as to ordinary reflection. But what exactly is welfare? This question has suffered from relative neglect. And, as Stephen Darwall shows, it has done so at a price. Presenting a provocative new "rational care theory of welfare," Darwall proves that a proper understanding of welfare fundamentally changes how we think about what is best for people.Most (...) philosophers have assumed that a person's welfare is what is good from her point of view, namely, what she has a distinctive reason to pursue. In the now standard terminology, welfare is assumed to have an "agent-relative normativity." Darwall by contrast argues that someone's good is what one should want for that person insofar as one cares for her. Welfare, in other words, is normative, but not peculiarly for the person whose welfare is at stake. In addition, Darwall makes the radical proposal that something's contributing to someone's welfare is the same thing as its being something one ought to want for her own sake, insofar as one cares. Darwall defends this theory with clarity, precision, and elegance, and with a subtle understanding of the place of sympathetic concern in the rich psychology of sympathy and empathy. His forceful arguments will change how we understand a concept central to ethics and our understanding of human bonds and human choices. (shrink)
I argue that social- welfare struggles should become more central for feminists. To clarify these, I offer an analysis of the U.S. welfare system. I expose the system's underlying gender norms and show how administrative practices preemptively define women's needs. I then situate these state practices in a larger terrain of struggle over the interpretation of social needs where feminists can intervene.
This book is about preferences, principally as they figure in economics. It also explores their uses in everyday language and action, how they are understood in psychology and how they figure in philosophical reflection on action and morality. The book clarifies and for the most part defends the way in which economists invoke preferences to explain, predict and assess behavior and outcomes. Hausman argues, however, that the predictions and explanations economists offer rely on theories of preference formation that are in (...) need of further development, and he criticizes attempts to define welfare in terms of preferences and to define preferences in terms of choices or self-interest. The analysis clarifies the relations between rational choice theory and philosophical accounts of human action. The book also assembles the materials out of which models of preference formation and modification can be constructed, and it comments on how reason and emotion shape preferences. (shrink)
Welfare is at least occasionally a temporal phenomenon: welfare benefits befall me at certain times. But this fact seems to present a problem for a desire-satisfaction view. Assume that I desire, at 10am, January 12th, 2010, to climb Mount Everest sometime during 2012. Also assume, however, that during 2011, my desires undergo a shift: I no longer desire to climb Mount Everest during 2012. In fact, I develop an aversion to so doing. Imagine, however, that despite my aversion, (...) I am forced to climb Mount Everest. Does climbing Mount Everest benefit me? If so, when? A natural answer seems to be that if in fact it does benefit me, it benefits me at no particular time, and hence the desire-satisfaction view cannot accommodate the phenomenon of temporal welfare. In this paper, I argue, first, that a desire-satisfaction view can accommodate the phenomenon of temporal welfare only by accepting what I call the “time-of-desire” view: that p benefits x at t only if x desires p at t . Second, I argue that this view can be defended from important objections. (shrink)
Subjectivism about welfare is the view that something is basically good for you if and only if, and to the extent that, you have the right kind of favorable attitude toward it under the right conditions. I make a presumptive case for the falsity of subjectivism by arguing against nearly every extant version of the view. My arguments share a common theme: theories of welfare should be tested for what they imply about newborn infants. Even if a theory (...) is intended to apply only to adults, the fact that it is false of newborns may give us sufficient reason to reject it. (shrink)
Moral philosophers agree that welfare matters. But they disagree about what it is, or how much it matters. In this vital new work, Wayne Sumner presents an original theory of welfare, investigating its nature and discussing its importance. He considers and rejects all notable theories of welfare, both objective and subjective, including hedonism and theories founded on desire or preference. His own theory connects welfare closely with happiness or life satisfaction. Reacting against the value pluralism that (...) currently dominates moral philosophy, he advances welfare as the only basic ethical value. He concludes by discussing the implications of this thesis for ethical and political theory. Written in clear, non-technical language, and including a definitive survey of other work in this area, Sumner's book is essential reading for moral philosophers, political theorists, and welfare economists. (shrink)
Many philosophers hold that the achievement of one's goals can contribute to one's welfare apart from whatever independent contributions that the objects of those goals or the processes by which they are achieved make. Call this the Achievement View, and call those who accept it achievementists. In this paper, I argue that achievementists should accept both that one factor that affects how much the achievement of a goal contributes to one’s welfare is the amount that one has invested (...) in that goal and that the amount that one has invested in a goal is a function of how much one has personally sacrificed for its sake, not a function of how much effort one has put into achieving it. So I will, contrary to at least one achievementist, be arguing against the view that the greater the amount of productive effort that goes into achieving a goal, the more its achievement contributes to one's welfare. Furthermore, I argue that the reason that the achievement of those goals for which one has personally sacrificed matters more to one’s welfare is that, in general, the redemption of one's self-sacrifices in itself contributes to one’s welfare. Lastly, I argue that the view that the redemption of one's self-sacrifices in itself contributes to one's welfare is plausible independent of whether or not we find the Achievement View plausible. We should accept this view so as to account both for the Shape of a Life Phenomenon and for the rationality of honoring "sunk costs.". (shrink)
Utilitarianism is the view according to which the only basic requirement of morality is to maximize net aggregate welfare. This position has implications for the ethics of creating and rearing children. Most discussions of these implications focus either on the ethics of procreation and in particular on how many and whom it is right to create, or on whether utilitarianism permits the kind of partiality that child rearing requires. Despite its importance to creating and raising children, there are, by (...) contrast, few sustained discussions of the implications of utilitarian views of welfare for the matter of what makes a child’s life go well. This paper attempts to remedy this deficiency. It has four sections. Section one discusses the purpose of a theory of welfare and its adequacy conditions. Section two evaluates what prominent utilitarian theories of welfare imply about what makes a child’s life go well. Section three provides a sketch of a view about what is prudentially valuable for children. Section four sums things up. (shrink)
Liberal egalitarians tend to be committed both to generous asylum policies and generous, universal welfare states. Yet there may be political, social and economic reasons why there is a conflict in realising both. Asylum seekers may create economic pressures to the welfare state, or undermine national solidarity supposedly necessary to support redistribution. In this paper, I discuss how political theorists should approach these empirical concerns. I take issue with the view that theorists can simply move between ‘realism’ and (...) ‘idealism’ by accepting more or less of reality. Instead, political theorists should seek to offer a critical description of the conflict, which can reveal structures of power that ought to be subject to normative scrutiny. To this end, I discuss two accounts of how the welfare state may justify asylum restrictions in relation to the case of Sweden, a universal welfare state that has recently introduced restrictions on asylum to protect the welfare state. I argue along these accounts that the welfare state is both an important source of political and social order and a foundation of the personal moral experience. Yet a critical analysis also illustrates how these claims weaken as underlying methodological nationalism and bias towards existing power structures are brought to light. Asylum restrictions cannot be justified if they contribute to perpetuating these power structures, which cause some of the conflict with the welfare state in the first place. (shrink)
Man controls and dominates the habitat of most animals, both domestic and wild and there is a need for a pragmatic, workable approach to the problem of reconciling animal welfare with economic forces and the needs of man. It is the author's contention that much of the current philosophical discussion of animal welfare is misdirected now that it is possible to measure to some extent what animals think and feel and how much they can appreciate their quality of (...) life. The book deals with farm animals, pets, wild animals and laboratory animals and dicusses their environmental requirements, fear and stress, their response to pain, injury, disease and death, behaviour and aggression, and the implications of biotechnology and genetic engineering. Finally, the book tries to reconcile reverence for life with the inescapability of killing and reviews the prospects of preserving and enhancing quality of life for animals through legislations, education, economic and moral incentives. (shrink)
I defend the view that an individual''s welfareis in one respect enhanced by the achievementof her goals, even when her goals are crazy,self-destructive, irrational or immoral. This``Unrestricted View'''' departs from familiartheories which take welfare to involve only theachievement of rational aims, or of goals whoseobjects are genuinely valuable, or of goalsthat are not grounded in bad reasons. I beginwith a series of examples, intended to showthat some of our intuitive judgments aboutwelfare incorporate distinctions that only theUnrestricted View can support. (...) Then, I show howthe view can be incorporated into a broadertheory of welfare in ways that do not produceimplausible consequences. This in hand, Ifinish by providing a more philosophicalstatement of the Unrestricted View and the casein its favor, and respond to some objections. (shrink)
Invariabilism is the view that the same theory of welfare is true of every welfare subject. Variabilism is the view that invariabilism is false. In light of how many welfare subjects there are and how greatly they differ in their natures and capacities, it is natural to suppose that variabilism is true. I argue that these considerations do not support variabilism and, indeed, that we should accept invariabilism. This has important implications: it eliminates many of the going (...) theories of welfare while making some of the remaining ones more attractive. (shrink)
Welfare biology is the study of living things and their environment with respect to their welfare. Despite difficulties of ascertaining and measuring welfare and relevancy to normative issues, welfare biology is a positive science. Evolutionary economics and population dynamics are used to help answer basic questions in welfare biology : Which species are affective sentients capable of welfare? Do they enjoy positive or negative welfare? Can their welfare be dramatically increased? Under plausible (...) axioms, all conscious species are plastic and all plastic species are conscious. More complex niches favour the evolution of more rational species. Evolutionary economics also supports the common-sense view that individual sentients failing to survive to mate suffer negative welfare. A kind of God-made fairness between species is also unexpectedly found. The contrast between growth maximization, average welfare, and total welfare maximization is discussed. It is shown that welfare could be increased without even sacrificing numbers. Since the long-term reduction in animal suffering depends on scientific advances, strict restrictions on animal experimentation may be counter-productive to animal welfare. (shrink)
Aquaculture is the fastest growing animal-production sector in the world. This leads to the question how we should guarantee fish welfare. Implementing welfare standards presupposes that we know how to weigh, define, and measure welfare. While at first glance these seem empirical questions, they cannot be answered without ethical reflection. Normative assumptions are made when weighing, defining, and measuring welfare. Moreover, the focus on welfare presupposes that welfare is a morally important concept. This in (...) turn presupposes that we can define the capacities of fish, which is an empirical undertaking that informs and is informed by ethical theories about the moral status of animals. In this article we want to illustrate the need for a constant interaction between empirical scientific research and ethics, in which both fields of research make their own contribution. This is not a novel claim. However, the case of fish sheds new light on this claim, because regarding fish there is still much empirical uncertainty and there is a plurality of moral views on all levels. Therefore, we do not only want to show the necessity of this interaction, but also the added value of a cooperation between ethicists and empirical scientists, such as biologists, physiologists, and ethologists. We demonstrate this by considering the different steps in the process of reflection about and implementation of fish welfare. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that subjectivists about welfare must claim that the favorable attitudes whose satisfaction is relevant to your well-being are those that you would have in idealized conditions (e.g. ones in which you are fully informed and rational). I argue that this is false. I introduce a non-idealizing subjectivist view, Same World Subjectivism, that accommodates the two main rationales for idealizing: those given by Peter Railton and David Sobel. I also explain why a recent argument from Dale (...) Dorsey fails to show that subjectivists must idealize. Because Same World Subjectivism is a plausible non-idealizing view, subjectivists about welfare needn't idealize. (shrink)
This paper argues that we should replace the common classification of theories of welfare into the categories of hedonism, desire theories, and objective list theories. The tripartite classification is objectionable because it is unduly narrow and it is confusing: it excludes theories of welfare that are worthy of discussion, and it obscures important distinctions. In its place, the paper proposes two independent classifications corresponding to a distinction emphasised by Roger Crisp: a four-category classification of enumerative theories (about which (...) items constitute welfare), and a four-category classification of explanatory theories (about why these items constitute welfare). (shrink)
This paper studies the welfare consequences of strategic voting in two commonly used parliamentary agendas by comparing the average utilities obtained in simulated voting under two behavioural assumptions: expected utility maximising behaviour and sincere behaviour. The average utility obtained in simulations is higher with expected utility maximising behaviour than with sincere voting behaviour under a broad range of assumptions. Strategic voting increases welfare particularly if the distribution of preference intensities correlates with voter types.
Consider Dave, an altruistic software developer whose monthly charitable contributions include Oxfam, Friends of Animals, and the Sierra Club. Dave's contributions to Oxfam suggest that he values human life and welfare. His support for Friends of Animals, moreover, indicates that he does not restrict his welfare concerns to humans—Dave is no anthropocentrist. Finally, his contributions to the Sierra Club show that he values nature and wants to see it preserved, untrammeled by human beings. At first glance, Dave's support (...) for Friends of Animals may seem quite congenial to his support for the Sierra Club. Indeed, if one were to classify Dave's concerns into two groups it seems natural to say that he has a concern for... (shrink)
_Welfare, Meaning, and Worth_ argues that there is more to what makes a life worth living than welfare, and that a good life does not consist of what is merely good for the one who lives it. Smuts defends an objective list theory that states that the notion of worth captures matters of importance for which no plausible theory of welfare can account. He puts forth that lives worth living are net high in various objective goods, including pleasure, (...) meaning, knowledge, and loving relationships. The first part of the book presents a theory of worth, a mental statist account of welfare, and an objectivist theory of meaning. The second part explores the implications for moral theory, the popularity of painful art, and the viability of pessimism about the human condition. This book offers an original exploration of worth as a combination of welfare and meaning that will be of interest to philosophers and ethicists who work on issues in well-being and positive psychology. (shrink)
Mikhalevich & Powell (2020) argue that it is wrong, both scientifically and morally, to dismiss the evidence for sentience in invertebrates. They do not offer any examples, however, of how their welfare should be considered or improved. We draw on animal welfare science to suggest some ways that would not be excessively demanding.
The interests or welfare of the child are rightly central to anydiscussion of the ethics of reproduction. The problematic nature of thislegitimate concern is seldom, if ever, noticed or if it is, it ismisunderstood. A prominent example of this sort of misunderstandingoccurs in the Department of Health's recent and important `SurrogacyReview' chaired by Margaret Brazier (The Brazier Report) and thesame misunderstanding makes nonsense of at least one provision of theHuman Fertilization and Embryology Act 1990. (The HFE Act).This paper explores (...) and hopefully resolves this misunderstandingand sets out the ways in which the idea of theinterests of the child can legitimately function inbioethics. (shrink)
An introduction to the philosophical debate over what makes a person's life go well. It attempts to clarify the question of welfare and to explore several of the most important answers, while displaying the main contours of the dialectic.
Thomas Hill, a leading figure in the recent development of Kantian moral philosophy, presents a set of essays exploring the implications of basic Kantian ideas for practical issues. The first part of the book provides background in central themes in Kant's ethics; the second part discusses questions regarding human welfare; the third focuses on moral worth -- the nature and grounds of moral assessment of persons as deserving esteem or blame. Hill shows moral, political, and social philosophers just how (...) valuable moral theory can be in addressing practical matters. (shrink)
Should theories of distribution focus solely on subjective welfare or solely on objective resources? While both of these ‘currencies’ have well-known objections that make each of them implausible alone, I argue that neither currency should be jettisoned entirely. Instead, I construct a multi-currency distributive theory involving both welfare and resources. While I think that such a heterogeneous theory is able to mitigate objections to both pure resourcism and pure welfarism, it also creates a new concern, which I call (...) the precedence concern, in which a theorist must determine which currency takes precedence in a given situation. I argue that to answer the precedence concern, altering the currency should result in altering the site of distribution as well. As a result, moral value between individuals should be measured in terms of welfare while state justice should be measured in terms of resources. (shrink)
Thomas Hill, a leading figure in the recent development of Kantian moral philosophy, presents a set of essays exploring the implications of basic Kantian ideas for practical issues. The first part of the book provides background in central themes in Kant's ethics; the second part discusses questions regarding human welfare; the third focuses on moral worth-the nature and grounds of moral assessment of persons as deserving esteem or blame. Hill shows moral, political, and social philosophers just how valuable moral (...) theory can be in addressing practical matters. (shrink)
Despite being co-opted by economists and politicians for their own purposes, ‘welfare’ traditionally refers to well-being, and it is in this sense that L. W. Sumner understands the term. His book is a clear, careful, and well-crafted investigation into major theories of welfare, accompanied by a one-chapter defense of “welfarism,” the view that welfare is the only foundational value necessary for ethics. Sumner himself is attracted to utilitarianism, but he makes no commitment to it in this work, (...) which will be of interest to many moral philosophers. (shrink)
In recent work, economist Yew-Kwang Ng suggests strategies for improving animal welfare within the confines of institutions such as the meat industry. Although I argue that Ng is wrong not to advocate abolition, I do find his position concerning wild animals to be compelling. Anyone who takes the interests of animals seriously should also accept a cautious commitment to intervention in the wild.
The article tries to qualify the contentious issue of whetherthere is a human right to welfare. Our notion of human rightsis practically without criteria for distinguishing between whenit is used correctly and when incorrectly. The first step inany satisfactory resolution of the issue about welfare rightsis to supply duly determinate criteria. I then consider thechief reasons for doubting that there is a human right towelfare, in the light of what seem to be, all things considered,the best criteria to (...) attach to the notion of a human right. (shrink)
When making decisions about action to improve animal lives, it is important that we have accurate estimates of how much animals are suffering under different conditions. The current frameworks for making comparative estimates of suffering all fall along the lines of multiplying numbers of animals used by length of life and amount of suffering experienced. However, the numbers used to quantify suffering are usually generated through unreliable and subjective processes which make them unlikely to be correct. In this paper, I (...) look at how we might apply principled methods from animal welfare science to arrive at more accurate scores, which will then help us in making the best decisions for animals. I argue that a combined use of both a whole-animal measure and a combination measurement framework for assessing welfare will give us the most accurate answers to guide our action. (shrink)
Biological studies have demonstrated that it is possible to slow the ageing process and extend lifespan in a wide variety of organisms, perhaps including humans. Making use of the findings of these studies, this article examines two problems concerning the effect of life extension on population size and welfare. The first—the problem of overpopulation—is that as a result of life extension too many people will co-exist at the same time, resulting in decreases in average welfare. The second—the problem (...) of underpopulation—is that life extension will result in too few people existing across time, resulting in decreases in total welfare. I argue that overpopulation is highly unlikely to result from technologies that slow ageing. Moreover, I claim that the problem of underpopulation relies on claims about life extension that are false in the case of life extension by slowed ageing. The upshot of these arguments is that the population problems discussed provide scant reason to oppose life extension by slowed ageing. (shrink)
A traditional interpretation holds that Kant's political theory simply constitutes an account of the constraints which reason places on the state's authority to regulate external action. Alexander Kaufman argues that this traditional interpretation succeeds neither as a faithful reading of Kant's texts nor as a plausible, philosophically sound reconstruction of a `Kantian' political theory. Rather, he argues that Kant's political theory articulates a positive conception of the state's role.
First published in 1991, _Beyond the Welfare State?_ has been thoroughly revised and updated for this new edition, which draws on the latest theoretical developments and empirical evidence. It remains the most comprehensive and sophisticated guide to the condition of the welfare state in a time of rapid and sometimes bewildering change. The opening chapters offer a scholarly but accessible review of competing interpretations of the historical and contemporary roles of the welfare state. This evaluation, based on (...) the most recent empirical research, gives full weight to feminist, ecological, and "anti-racist" critiques and also develops a clear account of globalization and its contested impact upon existing welfare regimes. The book constructs a distinctive history of the international growth of welfare states and offers a comprehensive account of recent developments from "crisis" to "structural adjustment." The final chapters bring the story right up to date with an assessment of the important changes effected in the 1990s and the prospects for welfare states in the new millennium. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to present a new argument against so-called fitting attitude analyses of intrinsic value, according to which, roughly, for something to be intrinsically good is for there to be reasons to want it for its own sake. The argument is indirect. First, I submit that advocates of a fitting-attitude analysis of value should, for the sake of theoretical unity, also endorse a fitting-attitude analysis of a closely related but distinct concept: the concept of intrinsic value (...) for a person, i.e., the concept of welfare. Then I argue directly against fitting-attitude analyses of welfare. This argument, which is the focus of the paper, is based on the idea that whereas whether an event is good or bad for a person doesn’t change over time, the attitudes there is reason to have towards such an event can change over time. Therefore, one cannot explain the former in terms of the latter, as fitting-attitude analyses of welfare attempt to do. (shrink)
Sometimes people desire that their lives go badly, take pleasure in their lives going badly, or believe that their lives are going badly. As a result, some popular theories of welfare are paradoxical. I show that no attempt to defend those theories from the paradox fully succeeds.
Two types of sustainability definitions are contrasted. 'Social scientific' definitions, such as that of the Brundtland Commission, treat sustainability as a relationship between present and future welfare of persons. These definitions differ from 'ecological' ones which explicitly require protection of ecological processes as a condition on sustainability. 'Scientific contextualism' does not follow mainstream economists in their efforts to express all effects as interchangeable units of individual welfare; it rather strives to express sensitivity to different types and scales of (...) impacts that present activities can exert on the future. We can therefore express the moral obligation to act sustainably as an obligation to protect the natural processes that form the context of human life and culture, emphasizing those large biotic and abiotic systems essential to human life, health, and flourishing culture. Ecosystems, which are understood as dynamic, self-organizing systems humans have evolved within, must remain 'healthy' if humans are to thrive. The ecological approach to sustainability therefore sets the protection of dynamic, creative systems in nature as its primary goal. (shrink)
It is commonly asserted that “death is not a welfare issue” and this has been reflected in welfare legislation and policy in many countries. However, this creates a conflict for many who consider animal welfare to be an appropriate basis for decision-making in animal ethics but also consider that an animal’s death is ethically significant. To reconcile these viewpoints, this paper attempts to formulate an account of death as a welfare issue. Welfare issues are issues (...) that refer to evaluations concerning an animal’s interests. This includes evaluations that refer only to comparisons between the presence and absence of states, including positive states. This means that an animal’s death may be a welfare issue insofar as it leads to the exclusion of relevant positive states. This allows us to deny that death is necessarily not a welfare issue. (shrink)
Abstract Theories of personal well-being are typically developed so that they render verdicts on (a) how well-off a person is at a moment, (b) how well-off a person is over an interval of time, and (c) how good a whole life is for the person who lives it. Conative theories of welfare posit welfare-atoms that consist, e.g., in episodes of desire-satisfaction, aim-achievement, or values-realisation. Most extant conative theories are additive: they compute well-being over time - up to and (...) including the value of a whole life - by adding up the values of these welfare atoms. Here, it is shown that such atomistic, additive conative theories do not always generate plausible verdicts on (b) and (c) above. They imply that lives featuring incoherent plans and rapidly changing projects go surprisingly well for those who lived them. Holistic theories of well-being are often thought to provide a solution to problems like these. However, one of the best-known versions of welfare holism within the conative family, Rawls? rational life-preferentism, is based on the problematic assumption that there is one ideal life plan for each person. This paper presents a new form of paradigm-resemblance based conative holism that does not make this assumption and that explains the limits of additivity. (shrink)
Stuart White and others claim that providing welfare benefits to citizens who do not, and are not willing to, work breaches the principle of reciprocity. This, they argue, justifies placing a minimum work requirement on welfare recipients. This article seeks to rebut their claim. It begins by rejecting the attempt to ground the work requirement on a civic obligation to work. The article then explores the principle of reciprocity, and argues that the practice of reciprocity depends on the (...) particular conception of distributive justice adopted. An examination of different interpretations of egalitarian justice and their corresponding patterns of reciprocity demonstrates that unconditional welfare benefits are compatible with, and sometimes even warranted by, the principle of reciprocity. Thus, imposing a work requirement on welfare recipients is by no means a mandate of reciprocity. Key Words: contractualism unconditional basic income reciprocity welfare state work. (shrink)
This paper describes the perspectives of stakeholders within the North American dairy industry on key issues affecting the welfare of dairy cattle. Five heterogeneous focus groups were held during a dairy cattle welfare meeting in Guelph, Canada in October 2012. Each group contained between 7 and 10 participants and consisted of a mix of dairy producers, veterinarians, academics, students, and dairy industry specialists. The 1-h facilitated discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Content analysis of the resulting transcripts showed (...) that participants across all stakeholder categories identified lameness as the most important welfare issue facing dairy cattle. Other prominent issues of concern included cow comfort, disease, on-farm mortality, stockmanship, painful procedures, injuries, cull cow management, calf management, and restriction of behavioural freedoms. Participants typically gave several reasons for why they considered issues problematic. Underlying reasons were grouped according to animal-centered concerns [at both the individual and at the herd level ] and industry-centered concerns . This analysis identified areas of shared concern among diverse stakeholder groups, which should aid in the development of standards and policies that satisfy stakeholders within and external to the dairy industry. (shrink)
Some theories of justice hold that individuals placed in fortunate circumstances through no merit or choice of their own are morally obligated to aid individuals placed in unfortunate circumstances through no fault or choice of their own. In these theories what are usually regarded as obligations of benevolence are reinterpreted as strict obligations of justice. A closely related view is that the institutions of a society should be arranged in a way that gives priority to helping people placed in unfortunate (...) circumstances through no fault or choice of their own. Any theory of this type needs a way of assessing individuals’ circumstances to determine who is fortunate and who is unfortunate.I shall argue that the standard for assessing people's circumstances to determine what they owe and are owed according to distributive justice should be the welfare or well-being level that they can attain, given their circumstances. This claim, that the ‘currency of justice’ should be welfare, has attracted criticisms that some have thought decisive. My counterclaim is that if we adopt an objective account of welfare and properly accommodate concerns about individual responsibility, the criticisms can be drained of their force. (shrink)
In this paper, we examine the problems facing a policy maker who observes inconsistent choices made by agents who are boundedly rational. We contrast a model-less and a model-based approach to welfare economics. We make the case for the model-based approach and examine its advantages as well as some problematic issues associated with it.
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