Present desire satisfaction and past well-being

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Abstract

One version of the desire satisfaction theory of well-being (i.e., welfare, or what is good for one) holds that only the satisfaction of one's present desires for present states of affairs can affect one's well-being. So if I desire fame today and become famous tomorrow, my well-being is positively affected onlyif tomorrow, when I am famous, I still desire to be famous. Call this the present desire satisfaction theory of well-being. I argue, contrary to this theory, that the satisfaction of past desires that are no longer held does indeed affect one's well-being. The satisfaction of past desires is good for one in that the present satisfaction of past desires positively affects one's past well-being. I argue for this view in stages, starting with the recognition that many of our desires are satisfied not at an instant but over an interval of time, and that it is during this interval of time that our well-being is positively affected. Once we get our foot in the door with some temporal thickness to desire satisfaction and the associated well-being, I argue, the door must open more widely to allow for greater temporal distance between present desire satisfaction and past well-being. I defend my thesis that present satisfaction of past desires increases one's past welfare against objections, including the claim that it involves backward causation and Velleman's claim that the view is highly counterintuitive whether or not it involves backward causation. I argue that some of the objections rely on hedonistic intuitions, intuitions that most desire satisfaction theories of welfare aim to correct. Once properly understood and applied, my counterintuitive and controversial thesis is really quite innocuous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Volume91
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy

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