[I’m currently working on a new introduction to theories of welfare for utilitarianism.net, and am wondering whether to include the following. Two big questions: Do you agree that “spookiness” worries seem like a common basis (especially amongst students / non-specialists) for rejecting objective list theories? And if so, do you find the substantive discussion here to be helpful?]Resistance to objective list theories may sometimes stem from the sense that there is something metaphysically extravagant, disreputable, or “spooky” about the objective values that it posits. But competing theories of welfare are arguably in no better position with regard to such metaethical concerns. Wellbeing is an inherently normative notion: it is that which is worth pursuing for an individual’s sake. (If you are not describing something that matters in this way, then whatever it is that you are giving an account of, it cannot truly be welfare. A thoroughgoing normative skeptic or nihilist must deny that there is any such thing.)^[Expressivists may give an anti-realist gloss on what “mattering” amounts to. But then they can just as comfortably extend this gloss to the kind of first-order “objectivity” posited by objective list theories.]Utilitarians, especially, regard welfare as objectively valuable: if someone claims that others’ interests don’t matter, we think they’re making a serious moral mistake. Given this ultimate commitment to a kind of first-order normative objectivity, we might as well build a similar sort of objectivity into our theory of welfare right from the start—that is, in specifying what contributes to our welfare. Once you are on board with welfare value at all, it is not clear that there is any additional metaphysical cost to accepting an objective list theory in particular.^[Cf. Bedke (2010), ‘Might All Normativity be Queer?’]On the other hand, it can be hard to shake the sense that there is something seemingly less mysterious about grounding. . .
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