Prudence and authenticity: Intrapersonal conflicts of value

Philosophical Review 112 (2):215-245 (2003)
Prudence and authenticity are sometimes seen as rival virtues. Prudence,as traditionally conceived, is temporally neutral. It attaches no intrinsic significance to the temporal location of benefits or harms within the agent’s life; the prudent agent should be equally concerned about all parts of her life. But people’s values and ideals often change over time, sometimes in predictable ways, as when middle age and parenthood often temporize youthful radicalism or spontaneity with concerns for comfort,security, and predictability. In situations involving diachronic, intrapersonal conflicts of value, prudence—in particular,temporal neutrality—appears to require the agent to subordinate her current ideals to her future ones or at least to moderate pursuit of current ideals in light of future ones. But this demand may seem to sacrifice authenticity, if we suppose that authenticity requires acting on the ideals that the agent reflectively and sincerely accepts at the time of action. This tension between prudence and authenticity raises interesting questions about temporal neutrality, the structure of intrapersonal conflicts of value, the nature of ideals, and the demands of authenticity. After examining various aspects of this puzzle, I defend the commitments of prudence in situations involving intrapersonal value conflict and argue that authenticity—understood as being true to oneself— actually supports temporal neutrality. I conclude by suggesting how this defense of prudence lends credibility to the more general demand of temporal neutrality.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108
DOI 10.1215/00318108-112-2-215
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Donald W. Bruckner (2012). Against the Tedium of Immortality. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (5):623-644.
Dale Dorsey (2010). Preferences, Welfare, and the Status-Quo Bias. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):535-554.
Donald W. Bruckner (2009). Silent Prudence. Philosophical Explorations 12 (3):349-364.

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