Second-Order Preferences and Instrumental Rationality

Acta Analytica 26 (4):367-385 (2011)
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Abstract

A second-order preference is a preference over preferences. This paper addresses the role that second-order preferences play in a theory of instrumental rationality. I argue that second-order preferences have no role to play in the prescription or evaluation of actions aimed at ordinary ends. Instead, second-order preferences are relevant to prescribing or evaluating actions only insofar as those actions have a role in changing or maintaining first-order preferences. I establish these claims by examining and rejecting the view that second-order preferences trump first-order preferences. I also examine and reject the view that second-order preferences give additional normative force to an agent’s preferred first-order preferences. I conclude by arguing that second-order preferences should be integrated into an agent’s object-level preference ordering, and by explaining how best to make sense of this integration

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Donald W. Bruckner
University of Pittsburgh (PhD)

Citations of this work

Silent prudence.Donald W. Bruckner - 2009 - Philosophical Explorations 12 (3):349-364.

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References found in this work

The Logic of Decision.Richard C. Jeffrey - 1965 - New York, NY, USA: University of Chicago Press.
The sources of normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Onora O'Neill.
Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Morals by agreement.David P. Gauthier - 1986 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Free agency.Gary Watson - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (April):205-20.

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