Scales for Scope: A New Solution to the Scope Problem for Pro-Attitude-Based Well-Being (Utilitas)

Abstract: Theories of well-being that give an important role to satisfied pro-attitudes need to account for the fact that, intuitively, the scope of possible objects of pro-attitudes seems much wider than the scope of things, states, or events that affect our well-being. Parfit famously illustrated this with his wish that a stranger may recover from an illness: it seems implausible that the stranger’s recovery would constitute a benefit for Parfit. There is no consensus in the literature about how to rule out such well-being-irrelevant pro-attitudes. I argue, first, that there is no distinction in kind between well-being-relevant and irrelevant pro-attitudes. Instead, well-being-irrelevant pro-attitudes are the limiting cases on the scale measuring how muchof a difference pro-attitudes make to the subject’s well-being. Second, I propose a particular scalar model according to which the well-being-relevance of pro-attitudes is measured by either their hedonic tone, or by the subject’s conative commitment.
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