Must rational intentions maximize utility?

Suppose that rational choices are to be defined as choices that maximize some sort of expectation of some sort of value. What sort of value should this definition appeal to? According to a familiar neo-Humean view, the answer is ‘Utility’, where utility is defined as a measure of subjective preference. According to a rival neo-Aristotelian view, the answer is ‘Choiceworthiness’, where choiceworthiness is an irreducibly normative notion – the notion of an action that is good in a certain way. This paper argues against the neo-Humean answer, and in favour of the neo-Aristotelian answer. Various possible interpretations of what exactly a “preference” is are explored, to see if there is any interpretation that supports the claim that a rational agent’s “preferences” must satisfy the “axioms” that are necessary for measuring those preferences by means of a utility “function”. It is argued that the only interpretation that supports the idea that the rational agent’s preferences must meet these axioms interprets “preferences” as a kind of value-judgment. But this turns out to be version of the neo-Aristotelian view, rather than the neo-Humean view.
Keywords Rational choice  expected utility  preferences
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