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Well-Being and Fair DistributionBeyond Cost-Benefit Analysis$
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Matthew Adler

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195384994

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384994.001.0001

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Well-Being and Interpersonal Comparisons

Well-Being and Interpersonal Comparisons

Chapter:
(p.154) (p.155) 3 Well-Being and Interpersonal Comparisons
Source:
Well-Being and Fair Distribution
Author(s):

Matthew D. Adler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384994.003.0004

Drawing from the philosophical literature, this chapter offers an analysis of well-being in terms of fully informed, fully rational, extended preferences. This account is preferentialist, but it does not tie well-being to preferences in a crude or simplistic way. Instead, it is designed to be sensitive to important platitudes about well-being—that well-being has critical force, and that it cannot be too “remote” from the subject—which have been part of the motivation for philosophical views that draw a nexus between well-being and mental states or objective goods, rather than reducing an individual's well-being to the satisfaction of her actual preferences. The chapter begins by surveying the philosophical literature on well-being. It then discusses the problem of interpersonal comparisons. Having reviewed both the philosophical literature and the question of interpersonal comparisons, an account of well-being is presented: one that derives interpersonal level and difference comparisons as well as ratio information from a set U of utility functions that represent the fully informed, fully rational, extended preferences of the various individuals in the population regarding life-histories, lotteries over life-histories, and comparisons to nonexistence.

Keywords:   well-being, preferences, interpersonal comparison, philosophical literature, utility functions

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