But if a desire-satisfaction theory of welfare is true, then--under certain assumptions--the hypothesis that I desire to be badly off entails a contradiction.
There is a way to formulate preferentism so that the hypothesis that I desire to be badly off does not entail a contradiction.
And it looks like the paradox does not arise for ideal preferentism: it might be that if I were to undergo cognitive psychotherapy, I would not desire to be badly off.
Now suppose that in addition I have another intrinsic desire at t: a desire to be badly off, a desire that my welfare level at t be negative.
P1) The scenario I described, in which someone has a certain set of desires, including the desire to be badly off, is a possible scenario.
Actualist preferentists who are willing to accept this account of what desire is can tell a similar story about the desire to be badly off.
For example, suppose that my only desires are: a desire for salty peanuts (with intensity 20), and a desire to be badly off (with intensity 10).
Preferentists who are bothered should say that no one can desire to be badly off, under any circumstances.
Furthermore, this desire is intrinsic: I do not just want to be badly off because (for example) I think I have done evil, and deserve punishment.
And, in fact, if we reject (P1) we cannot rest at saying that it is impossible to have an intrinsic desire to be badly off.
Hedonists, for example, find all scenarios in which people desire to be badly off perfectly coherent.
Nevertheless, a response to the argument against preferentism that permits people to desire to be badly off (a response that accepts (P1) but rejects (P2)) avoids this controversy, and respects whatever pre-theoretic intuition we may have that it is possible to desire to be badly off.
Desires to be badly off create a problem for preferentism because they generate negative feedback in the "equation of welfare.
For our purposes we only need to know how to determine the degree to which D, my desire to be badly off, is satisfied.
But that derivation assumed that my desire to be badly off was either satisfied or not satisfied; it took no account of degrees of satisfaction.