Objective Prescriptions, and Other Essays

By R. M. Hare | Go to book overview

II
PREFERENCES OF POSSIBLE PEOPLE

11. 1 . I WANT to draw attention to a paper by Mane Hajdin called "'External and Now-For-Then Preferences in Hare's Theory'" ( 1990). This paper has altered my treatment of preferences so radically that it might affect my view on the preferences of possible people. I do not think that it actually does; but I need to discuss the question.

Hajdin sets out to show that my theory of moral reasoning can be so modified as to make irrelevant two kinds of preferences that have been an embarrassment to me, namely those that Dworkin ( 1977: 234) has called 'external' preferences, and those that I have called 'now-for-then' preferences. Another name for the first of these is 'non- experiential preferences'--that is, preferences for things other than experiences of the preferrer. Another name for the second is 'asynchronic preferences'--that is, preferences for what should happen at times other than the time when the preference is had. I shall for the most part use the second pair of expressions and their antonyms.

The effect of the elimination of these two kinds of preferences from moral reasoning would be to make my own theory much more like the 'happiness utilitarianism' advocated by Brandt ( 1989). Already in MT 5. 61 had said that there could be a form of preference utilitarianism that was in effect the same as a form of happiness utilitarianism-- namely a form that restricted the preferences taken into account to synchronic experiential preferences (i.e. now-for-now and then-for- then preferences for experiences of the preferrer), and excluded from consideration asynchronic non-experiential preferences. This is because 'happiness' can be defined for some purposes as a state in which we get the experiences we prefer to have and not those which we prefer not to have (there are of course other possible definitions, but this one gets fairly close to Brandt's thought). In my comment on Brandt paper (H 1989c) I developed this idea. More recently, in my reply to Anna Kusser (H 1995: ii. 280), I came closer to saying that I accepted this modification of my theory paper.

____________________
"'Preferences of Possible People.'" From C. Fehige and U. Wessels, eds.. Preferences ( Berlin: De Gruyter, 1998).

-126-

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