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Antifrustrationism is an axiological position proposed by German philosopher Christoph Fehige,[1] which states that "we don't do any good by creating satisfied extra preferences. What matters about preferences is not that they have a satisfied existence, but that they don't have a frustrated existence."[2] According to Fehige, "maximizers of preference satisfaction should instead call themselves minimizers of preference frustration."[2]

What makes the world better is "not its amount of preference satisfaction, but the avoided preference frustration."[3] In the words of Fehige, "we have obligations to make preferrers satisfied, but no obligations to make satisfied preferrers."[2] The position stands in contrast to classical utilitarianism, among other ethical theories, which holds that creating "satisfied preferrers" is, or can be, a good in itself. Antifrustrationism has similarities with, although it is different from, negative utilitarianism, the teachings of Buddha, Stoicism, philosophical pessimism, and Schopenhauer's philosophy.[4] In particular, negative preference utilitarianism states that we should act in such a way that the number of frustrated preferences is minimized and is therefore directly based on antifrustrationism. The difference is that antifrustrationism is an axiology, whereas negative preference utilitarianism is an ethical theory.

The moral philosopher Peter Singer has in the past endorsed a position similar to antifrustrationism (negative preference utilitarianism), writing:

The creation of preferences which we then satisfy gains us nothing. We can think of the creation of the unsatisfied preferences as putting a debit in the moral ledger which satisfying them merely cancels out... Preference Utilitarians have grounds for seeking to satisfy their wishes, but they cannot say that the universe would have been a worse place if we had never come into existence at all.[5]

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  1. ^ Support for that Fehige presents antifrustrationism as an axiological (value theory) position rather than a claim in normative ethics include Fehige 1998, p. 508: "How good or bad is a world? Let us assume, as so often, that this is a matter solely of the preferences it contains and of their frustration and satisfaction. One question we shall then have to face is how the existence of a preference and its satisfaction compares to the non-existence of this preference: is it better, or worse, or just as good, or sometimes one and sometimes the other? Section 1 will argue at length that, ceteris partibus, the two options – satisfied preference and no preference – are equally good, a doctrine we can call antifrustrationism."
  2. ^ a b c Fehige 1998, p. 518.
  3. ^ Karlsen 2013, p. 160.
  4. ^ Fehige 1998, p. 541: "An outline of the ancestors and near and distant relatives of antifrustrationism will have to wait another occasion. (See, however, the sources listed in notes 2 and 21.) It is instructive, for example, to compare the doctrine of the relevant teachings of Buddha, the Stoics, Schopenhauer, or Albert Ellis, to Seana Shiffrin’s recent work, to pessimism (in the various meanings of that word), and to what has become known as ‘negative utilitarianism’. Some similarities notwithstanding, all of these differ from antifrustrationism in important respects."
  5. ^ Singer 1980.


  • Fehige, Christoph (1998). "A Pareto Principle for Possible People". In Christoph Fehige and Ulla Wessels, eds., Preferences (PDF). De Gruyter. pp. 509–43.
  • Karlsen, Dagfinn Sjaastad (2013). "Is God Our Benefactor? An Argument from Suffering" (PDF). Journal of Philosophy of Life. 3 (3): 145–67.
  • Singer, Peter (1980-08-14). "Right to Life?". The New York Review of Books.