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Personal Utilitarianism: Multiple Selves and Their Search for the Good Life


Daniel Read


University of Warwick - Warwick Business School

November 26, 2008


Abstract:     
Personal utilitarianism applies act-utilitarianism to the problem of individual choice. It is based on the view that the good life is achieved through maximizing the sum of individual measures of utility over a population. the population being the sequence of semi-autonomous selves from which the individual is composed. I begin by showing how our lives can usefully be partitioned into selves because the weights put on our various choice motives are constantly changing and, consequently, our preferences themselves concerning what we should choose at any given time can also change from moment-to-moment. In particular, because we put disproportionate weight on our present needs relative to our future ones, we often become impatient and choose options that offer immediate gratification. I use concepts from game theory to describe multiple selves, and to discuss how strategic interactions between selves are possible, and then conclude by considering the practical problem of how to achieve the good life, or how can we get our selves to choose what is best for us in the long run.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: utilitarianism, intertemporal choice, multiple selves, hyperbolic discounting, self control

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Date posted: December 3, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Read, Daniel, Personal Utilitarianism: Multiple Selves and Their Search for the Good Life (November 26, 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1307798 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1307798

Contact Information

Daniel Read (Contact Author)
University of Warwick - Warwick Business School ( email )
Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom
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