I've recently been mulling over what seems to be a disagreement between desire-satisfaction view theorists about the proper way to formulate a desire-satisfaction view about well-being. (This thought has been inspired by discussions I've had on this blog with Chris Heathwood and Doug Portmore, and my recent unhealthy obsession with Ben Bradley's book "Well-Being and Death" which I recommend to any and all.) Briefly, I thought I'd lay out the two proposed options and the plusses and minuses of both and ask everybody for some input: which one do you prefer? Are there other arguments in favor of either side that I'm missing?
The first view, call it the "Hobbesian" approach, holds that that which benefits a given individual is the object of desire, and the explanation for this benefit is, in part, that it is desired. I call this the Hobbesian approach, because this view is introduced by Hobbes at Leviathan I 6: "Whatsoever is the object of any mans appetite or desire; that is it which he for his part calleth `good'". The official statements of Sidgwick's (at Methods 111-112), Railton's (in "Facts and Values"), and Lewis's (in "Dispositional Theories of Value") all have this feature (which is mirrored by others, Perry for instance). (Incidentally, some of these are not theories of well-being per se, but of the good on the whole, but if it's good for the good on the whole, it seems to me, it's good for the good for a person.) Very roughly, one might say that the Hobbesian approach holds that x is good for A if and only if A desires x. (I say "roughly" because there are a number of issues that are left open by this formulation that I don't <em>think</em> make any difference to the discussion here.)
The second view, call it the "Moorean" approach, holds that that which benefits a given individual is not the object of desire, but rather a conjunctive state of affairs: the state of affairs in which S desires x and x. Call this a D-state. Chris Heathwood (in "The Problem of Defective Desires"), Ben Bradley (in Well-Being and Death), and a bunch of others characterize the desire-satisfaction view in this way. To put this more technically, the Moorean approach holds that x is good for A if and only if x is an instance of a D-state of A's.
As I see it, there is one important argument in favor of the Hobbesian approach, which I'll summarize very briefly. The Hobbesian approach seems to be able to capture the "resonance" or "non-alienation" constraint on which many desire-satisfaction views rely for their motivation. As Railton notes, we should reject theories of well-being which imply that a given individual's good might fail to gain an "internal resonance"—such views would be "intolerably alienating". Without this motivation, it would seem hard to offer reasons to accept a desire-satisfaction view against more objective competitors. But the Moorean approach seems not to capture this constraint. To see why, imagine that I don't desire to vote for Sam Brownback in the upcoming Kansas governor's race. In fact, I desire never to have such a desire: I would regard my wanting to vote for Sam Brownback as a severe corruption of my moral sensibilities. But the Moorean approach would appear to say that, despite my complete aversion to wanting to vote for Sam Brownback, despite my complete aversion to the D-state in which I so desire and so vote, such a D-state is a benefit to me. But this, to me, sounds just as alienating as telling me that knowledge, great achievement, or pleasure is good for me in a way that I don't desire or value. So, anyway, that appears to me to be at least one motivation for accepting the Hobbesian approach.
The motivation for the Moorean approach seems to me to rely on a general principle of the nature of intrinsic value inspired by Moore. Ben very helpfully outlines this principle in his book, which he calls "SUP": "The intrinsic value of something depends solely on its intrinsic properties." The Hobbesian approach obviously cannot accommodate SUP: the intrinsic value of any x for A depends on some extrinsic fact about x, viz., A's desire of x. So if SUP is a plausible constraint on theories of well-being, the only desire-satisfaction view that could pass muster is the Moorean approach: the intrinsic properties of the D-state are all that appear required to explain the intrinsic value of the D-state. Anyway, that's one motivation for the Moorean approach.
Part of the reason for my post here is to see if there are other arguments in favor of either approach. But as a very limited comment on the arguments presented here, my own view is that the desire-satisfaction view is much better served by the Hobbesian approach rather than the Moorean approach (whether or not the DS view could ultimately be defended). Of course, this leaves the desire-satisfaction view with the burden of rejecting SUP. But I wonder if the motivation for the Hobbesian view couldn't also be a motivation to reject SUP itself: if one important constraint on any welfare good x is that x "resonate" or "fail to alienate", it would appear that an extrinsic fact is at least partially required to explain x's intrinsic value. But this might just come down to a disagreement about whether the non-alienation constraint or SUP is more plausible as a general thesis about well-being.