This introductory chapter briefly sets out the purpose of the book, which is to provide a comprehensive, philosophically grounded defense of the use of social welfare functions as a framework for evaluating governmental policies and other large-scale choices. The “social welfare function” (SWF) is a concept that originates in theoretical welfare economics. The proper design of the SWF framework raises many questions of normative theory—questions that this book will engage. In doing so, it draws upon welfare economics, social choice theory, and related formal literatures (such as utility theory and decision theory), and upon philosophical scholarship concerning a variety of topics, in particular, well-being, equality, and personal identity. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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