Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 17
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Austin, Annie 2016. On Well-Being and Public Policy: Are We Capable of Questioning the Hegemony of Happiness?. Social Indicators Research, Vol. 127, Issue. 1, p. 123.

    Schubert, Christian 2015. OPPORTUNITY AND PREFERENCE LEARNING. Economics and Philosophy, Vol. 31, Issue. 02, p. 275.

    Terlazzo, Rosa 2015. Adaptive preferences: merging political accounts and well-being accounts. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 45, Issue. 2, p. 179.

    Wismadi, Arif Brussel, Mark Zuidgeest, Mark and van Maarseveen, Martin 2015. Equitable distribution of growth for utilitarian and non-utilitarian infrastructure planning. Infrastructure Complexity, Vol. 2, Issue. 1,

    Binder, Martin 2014. Should evolutionary economists embrace libertarian paternalism?. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Vol. 24, Issue. 3, p. 515.

    Qizilbash, Mozaffar 2014. IDENTITY, REASON AND CHOICE. Economics and Philosophy, Vol. 30, Issue. 01, p. 11.

    Schubert, Christian and Binder, Martin 2014. Reconciling Normative and Behavioral Economics: An Application of the “Naturalistic Approach” to the Adaptation Problem. Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Vol. 234, Issue. 2-3,

    Syed, Jawad and Van Buren, Harry J. 2014. Global Business Norms and Islamic Views of Women’s Employment. Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 24, Issue. 02, p. 251.

    Wismadi, Arif Zuidgeest, Mark Brussel, Mark and van Maarseveen, Martin 2014. Spatial Preference Modelling for equitable infrastructure provision: an application of Sen’s Capability Approach. Journal of Geographical Systems, Vol. 16, Issue. 1, p. 19.

    Argenton, Carlo and Rossi, Enzo 2013. Pluralism, Preferences, and Deliberation: A Critique of Sen's Constructive Argument for Democracy. Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 44, Issue. 2, p. 129.

    SCHUBERT, CHRISTIAN and CORDES, CHRISTIAN 2013. Role models that make you unhappy: light paternalism, social learning, and welfare. Journal of Institutional Economics, Vol. 9, Issue. 02, p. 131.

    Binder, Martin and Witt, Ulrich 2012. A critical note on the role of the capability approach for sustainability economics. The Journal of Socio-Economics, Vol. 41, Issue. 5, p. 721.

    van Aaken, Dominik 2012. Individuelle Freiheit als Grundlage normativer Ökonomik. Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft, Vol. 82, Issue. S6, p. 81.

    Qizilbash, Mozaffar 2011. Sugden’s critique of Sen’s capability approach and the dangers of libertarian paternalism. International Review of Economics, Vol. 58, Issue. 1, p. 21.

    Sugden, Robert 2010. OPPORTUNITY AS MUTUAL ADVANTAGE. Economics and Philosophy, Vol. 26, Issue. 01, p. 47.

    Burchardt, Tania 2009. Agency Goals, Adaptation and Capability Sets. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Vol. 10, Issue. 1, p. 3.

    Clark, David A. 2009. Adaptation, Poverty and Well‐Being: Some Issues and Observations with Special Reference to the Capability Approach and Development Studies1. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Vol. 10, Issue. 1, p. 21.


What We Desire, What We Have Reason to Desire, Whatever We Might Desire: Mill and Sen on the Value of Opportunity

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 16 February 2006

I compare Mill's and Sen's accounts of the value of opportunity, focusing on a tension between two ideas they both uphold: that individual freedom is an important component of well-being, and that, because desires can be adaptive, actual desire is not always a good indicator of what will give well-being. The two writers' responses to this tension reflect different understandings of the relationship between freedom and desire. Sen links an individual's well-being to her freedom to choose what she has reason to desire, and looks to a democratic political process for a collective judgement about what it is rational to desire. Mill links the individual's well-being to her freedom to act on her own desires, whatever they may be, within the constraints imposed by a fair initial distribution of resources. He sees no need for collective judgement about what is ultimately valuable in human life. I side with Mill.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *