The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 118, Issue 9, September 2021

Joe Horton
Pages 486-503

New and Improvable Lives

According to weak utilitarianism, at least when other things are equal, you should maximize the sum of well-being. This view has considerable explanatory power, but it also has two implications that seem to me implausible. First, it implies that, other things equal, it is wrong to harm yourself, or even to deny yourself benefits. Second, it implies that, other things equal, given the opportunity to create new happy people, it is wrong not to. These implications can be avoided by accepting a complaints-based alternative to weak utilitarianism. However, complaints-based views face two decisive problems, originally noticed by Jacob Ross. I here develop a view that avoids these problems while retaining the advantages of complaints-based views.