PHILOS 2YY3 Lecture Notes - Derek Parfit, Negative Number
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Derek Parfit: What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best?
- Hedonism: pleasure/pain as dichotomy determining value.
o Narrow Hedonism:
o Preference Hedonism:
What pains and pleasure have in common is their relation to our preferences
and desires– fulfills individual preference.
An experience is pleasant if it is preferred – life goes better if it goes as you
prefer it to go.
About our present state of mind/consciousness – introspectively
discernible, affecting our states of mind.
Problem: better for me to believe I am not being deceived, irrelevant to
whether or not my belief is false.
It is better for you to believe you are not being deceived, even if your
belief is false, as long as it doesn’t affect your state of mind.
- Desire –Fulfillment: what would best fulfill someone’s desires
o Unrestricted Version: fulfillment of all my desires throughout life
Problem: does my life really go better if desires I had about someone else are
fulfilled without my knowledge?
o Success Version:
Only count desires about one’s own life
Deception I don’t know about is bad for me (if i desire not to be deceived)
Problem: is my life worse if my desire to be a good parent is not fulfilled
because my kids are failures, even if i don’t know about it or am dead?
o Summative Versions:
Appeal to all of one’s desires about her life
Assign positive number to each preference or desire fulfilled and negative
number to those not fulfilled (consider intensity) and get total net sum
Problem: summing just considers LOCAL desires
Is life better if I make you an addict and fulfill all of your desires?
What about if you live a longer life of a lower quality?
o Global Versions:
Appeal to preference about one’s life considered as a whole.
E.g. would prefer not to be addicted to drugs of an infinite supply when one
considers their life as a whole and would choose a shorter, but more
fulfilling, high quality life
Problem: what os good/bad for you depends on your preferences, (facts not
Someone who wants to spend their life counting blades of grass;
people can desire things that are not best for you.
- Objective List Theories: certain things are good/bad for us whether or not we want them
o Reply to Rawl’s grass blade counter
Wanting something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best for you
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