Utilities, Preferences and Substantive Goods
People's utility levels are meant to be measures of their well-being. Early utilitarians defined them in terms of people's happiness. Modern economics defines them in terms of people's actual preferences. But in ethics they have to be defined in terms of people's informed preferences. I shall discuss the relationship between people's desires and preferences, and that between their reasoned and unreasoned preferences. I shall argue that people's basic desires are much the same, whereas their preferences are often very different. Finally, I shall argue, contrary to Scanlon's theory, that the things that are good for us are beneficial to us ultimately because they satisfy our biological and psychological needs and our personal interests.
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