35 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2008
Date Written: November 26, 2008
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.
Keywords: utilitarianism, intertemporal choice, multiple selves, hyperbolic discounting, self control
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Read, Daniel, Personal Utilitarianism: Multiple Selves and Their Search for the Good Life (November 26, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1307798 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1307798