Transworld Egoism, Empathy, and the Golden Rule

  • Harriet E. Baber University of San Diego, USA


According to preferentism, the ‘desire theory’ of well-being, one is made better off to the extent that her preferences, or desires, are satisfied. According to narrow preferentism, preferentism as it has traditionally been understood, the preferences that matter in this regard are just actual preferences; preferences we might ‘easily have had’, do not matter. On this account also, only actual preference satisfaction contributes to well-being. Merely possible preference satisfaction, including the ‘real possibility’ of attaining desired states of affairs, does not contribute to well-being. Broad preferentism makes sense of the intuition that feasibility as such contributes to well-being. On this account, we are made better off not only by the actual satisfaction of our actual preferences but also by the mere feasibility of satisfying preferences that we ‘might easily have had’. In addition to making sense of our intuition that feasibility as such, contributes to our well-being, broad preferentism provides a rationale for altruistic behavior. On this account support policies that benefit worldmates whose actual circumstances are different from our own because their circumstances are the our circumstances at nearby possible worlds, and our circumstances at other possible worlds, affect our own actual well-being.


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How to Cite
Baber, H. E. (2017) “Transworld Egoism, Empathy, and the Golden Rule”, De Ethica, 3(3), pp. 21-31. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.163321.