Preference utilitarianism is one of the most popular forms of utilitarianism in contemporary philosophy. Unlike classical utilitarianism, which defines right actions as those that maximize pleasure and minimize pain, preference utilitarianism promotes actions that fulfill the interests (preferences) of those beings involved. The beings may be rational, that is to say, their interests may be carefully selected based on future projections, but this is not compulsory; here, the definition of "party" extends to all sentient beings, even those living solely in the present. Since what is good and right depends solely on individual preferences, there can be nothing that is in itself good or bad: for preference utilitarians, the source of both morality and ethics in general is subjective preference. Preference utilitarianism therefore can be distinguished by its acknowledgement that every person's experience of satisfaction is unique.
The theory, as outlined by R. M. Hare in 1981, is controversial, insofar as it presupposes some basis by which a conflict between A's preferences and B's preferences can be resolved (for example, by weighting them mathematically). In a similar vein, Peter Singer, a major proponent of preference utilitarianism and himself influenced by the views of Hare, has been criticised for giving priority to the views of beings capable of holding preferences (being able to actively contemplate the future and its interaction with the present) over those solely concerned with their immediate situation, a group that includes many animals and young children. Hence, in cases of abortion, the views of the parent (however selfish or not, as the case may be) are prioritised over those of the fetus, without recourse to any (perceived) rights (here, the "right to life"). There are, he writes in regard to killing in general, times when "the preference of the victim could sometimes be outweighed by the preferences of others". Singer does, however, still place a high value on the life of rational beings, since killing them does not infringe upon just one of their preferences, but "a wide range of the most central and significant preferences a being can have".
Other articles related to "preference utilitarianism, utilitarianism":
... Preference utilitarianism was first put forward in 1977 by John Harsanyi in Morality and the theory of rational behaviour but it is more commonly associated with R ... Harsanyi rejects hedonistic utilitarianism as being dependent on an outdated psychology saying that it is far from obvious that everything we do is motivated by a desire to maximise pleasure and minimise ... He also rejects ideal utilitarianism because “it is certainly not true as an empirical observation that people’s only purpose in life is to have ‘mental states of intrinsic worth ...
Famous quotes containing the word preference:
“He that has his chains knocked off, and the prison doors set open to him, is perfectly at liberty, because he may either go or stay, as he best likes; though his preference be determined to stay, by the darkness of the night, or illness of the weather, or want of other lodging. He ceases not to be free, though the desire of some convenience to be had there absolutely determines his preference, and makes him stay in his prison.”
—John Locke (16321704)