Imperative sentences like Dance! do not seem to represent the world. Recent modal analyses challenge this idea, but its intuitive and historical appeal remain strong. This paper presents three new challenges for a non-representational analysis, showing that the obstacles facing it are even steeper than previously appreciated. I will argue that the only way for the non-representationalist to meet these three challenges is to adopt a dynamic semantics. Such a dynamic semantics is proposed here: imperatives introduce preferences between alternatives. (...) This characterization of meaning focuses on what function a sentence serves in discourse, rather than what that sentence refers to (e.g., a state of the world). By representing the meaning of imperatives, connectives and declaratives in a common dynamic format, the challenges posed for non-representationalism are met. (shrink)
Philosophers working on time-biases assume that people are hedonically biased toward the future. A hedonically future-biased agent prefers pleasurable experiences to be future instead of past, and painful experiences to be past instead of future. Philosophers further predict that this bias is strong enough to apply to unequal payoffs: people often prefer less pleasurable future experiences to more pleasurable past ones, and more painful past experiences to less painful future ones. In addition, philosophers have predicted that future-bias is restricted to (...) first-person preferences, and that people’s third-person preferences are time-neutral. Philosophers disagree vigorously about the normative status of these preferences—i.e., they disagree about whether first-person future-bias is rationally permissible. Time-neutralists, for example, have appealed to the predicted asymmetry between first- and third-person preferences to argue for the rational impermissibility of future-bias. We empirically tested these predictions, and found that while people do prefer more past pain to less future pain, they do not prefer less future pleasure to more past pleasure. This was so in both first and third-person conditions. This suggests that future-bias is typically non-absolute, and is more easily outweighed in the case of positive events. We connect this result to the normative debate over future-bias. (shrink)
This book is about preferences, principally as they figure in economics. It also explores their uses in everyday language and action, how they are understood in psychology and how they figure in philosophical reflection on action and morality. The book clarifies and for the most part defends the way in which economists invoke preferences to explain, predict and assess behavior and outcomes. Hausman argues, however, that the predictions and explanations economists offer rely on theories of preference formation that (...) are in need of further development, and he criticizes attempts to define welfare in terms of preferences and to define preferences in terms of choices or self-interest. The analysis clarifies the relations between rational choice theory and philosophical accounts of human action. The book also assembles the materials out of which models of preference formation and modification can be constructed, and it comments on how reason and emotion shape preferences. (shrink)
I distinguish several doctrines that economic methodologists have found attractive, all of which have a positivist flavour. One of these is the doctrine that preference assignments in economics are just shorthand descriptions of agents' choice behaviour. Although most of these doctrines are problematic, the latter doctrine about preference assignments is a respectable one, I argue. It doesn't entail any of the problematic doctrines, and indeed it is warranted independently of them.
Patient preference predictors (PPPs) promise to provide medical professionals with a new solution to the problem of making treatment decisions on behalf of incapacitated patients. I show that the use of PPPs faces a version of a normative problem familiar from legal scholarship: the problem of naked statistical evidence. I sketch two sorts of possible reply, vindicating and debunking, and suggest that our reply to the problem in the one domain ought to mirror our reply in the other. The conclusion (...) is thus conditional: if we think the problem of naked statistical evidence is a serious problem in the legal domain, then we should be concerned about the symmetrical problem for PPPs. (shrink)
_ Source: _Page Count 30 Millions of children worldwide could benefit from adoption. One could argue that prospective parents have a pro tanto duty to adopt rather than create children. For the sake of argument, I assume there is such a duty and focus on a pressing objection to it. Prospective parents may prefer that their children are genetically related to them. I examine eight reasons prospective parents have for preferring genetic children: for parent-child physical resemblance, for family resemblance, for (...) psychological similarity, for the sake of love, to achieve a kind of immortality, for the genetic connection itself, to be a procreator, and to experience pregnancy. I argue that, with the possible exception of the pregnancy desire, these reasons fail to defeat a duty to adopt a child rather than create one, even assuming that we do have some leeway to favor our own interests. (shrink)
Recent debates on the nature of preferences in economics have typically assumed that they are to be interpreted either as behavioural regularities or as mental states. In this paper I challenge this dichotomy and argue that neither interpretation is consistent with scientific practice in choice theory and behavioural economics. Preferences are belief-dependent dispositions with a multiply realizable causal basis, which explains why economists are reluctant to make a commitment about their interpretation.
An important objection to preference-satisfaction theories of well-being is that these theories cannot make sense of interpersonal comparisons of well-being. A tradition dating back to Harsanyi () attempts to respond to this objection by appeal to so-called extended preferences: very roughly, preferences over situations whose description includes agents’ preferences. This paper examines the prospects for defending the preference-satisfaction theory via this extended preferences program. We argue that making conceptual sense of extended preferences is less problematic (...) than others have supposed, but that even so extended preferences do not provide a promising way for the preference satisfaction theorist to make interpersonal well-being comparisons. Our main objection takes the form of a trilemma: depending on how the theory based on extended preferences is developed, either the result will be inconsistent with ordinary preference-satisfaction theory, or it will fail to recover sufficiently rich interpersonal well-being comparisons, or it will take on a number of other arguably odd and undesirable commitments. (shrink)
In general, the technical apparatus of decision theory is well developed. It has loads of theorems, and they can be proved from axioms. Many of the theorems are interesting, and useful both from a philosophical and a practical perspective. But decision theory does not have a well agreed upon interpretation. Its technical terms, in particular, ‘utility’ and ‘preference’ do not have a single clear and uncontroversial meaning. How to interpret these terms depends, of course, on what purposes in pursuit of (...) which one wants to put decision theory to use. One might want to use it as a model of economic decision-making, in order to predict the behavior of corporations or of the stock market. In that case, it might be useful to interpret the technical term ‘utility’ as meaning money profit. Decision theory would then be an empirical theory. I want to look into the question of what ‘utility’ could mean, if we want decision theory to function as a theory of practical rationality. I want to know whether it makes good sense to think of practical rationality as fully or even partly accounted for by decision theory. I shall lay my cards on the table: I hope it does make good sense to think of it that way. For, I think, if Humeans are right about practical rationality, then decision theory must play a very large part in their account. And I think Humeanism has very strong attractions. (shrink)
Neoclassical economics assumes that individuals have stable and context-independent preferences, and uses preference satisfaction as a normative criterion. By calling this assumption into question, behavioural findings cause fundamental problems for normative economics. A common response to these problems is to treat deviations from conventional rational choice theory as mistakes, and to try to reconstruct the preferences that individuals would have acted on, had they reasoned correctly. We argue that this preference purification approach implicitly uses a dualistic model of (...) the human being, in which an inner rational agent is trapped in an outer psychological shell. This model is psychologically and philosophically problematic. (shrink)
I argue that taking the Practical Conditionals Thesis seriously demands a new understanding of the semantics of such conditionals. Practical Conditionals Thesis: A practical conditional [if A][ought] expresses B’s conditional preferability given A Paul Weirich has argued that the conditional utility of a state of affairs B on A is to be identified as the degree to which it is desired under indicative supposition that A. Similarly, exploiting the PCT, I will argue that the proper analysis of indicative practical conditionals (...) is in terms of what is planned, desired, or preferred, given suppositional changes to an agent’s information. Implementing such a conception of conditional preference in a semantic analysis of indicative practical conditionals turns out to be incompatible with any approach which treats the indicative conditional as expressing non-vacuous universal quantification over some domain of relevant antecedent-possibilities. Such analyses, I argue, encode a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be best, given some condition. The analysis that does the best vis-à-vis the PCT is, instead, one that blends a Context-Shifty account of indicative antecedents with an Expressivistic, or non-propositional, treatment of their practical consequents. (shrink)
When my family discusses how we should spend a summer holiday, we start from certain common understandings about our preferences. We prefer self-catering accommodation to hotels, and hotels to campsites. We prefer walking and looking at scenery and wildlife to big-city sightseeing and shopping. When it comes to walks, we prefer walks of six miles or so to ones which are much shorter or much longer, and prefer well-marked but uncrowded paths to ones which are either more rugged or (...) more popular. And so on. These common understandings greatly simplify the task of choosing between holiday destinations and activities, by allowing us quickly to eliminate many options. But what does it mean to say that we prefer one thing to another? (shrink)
The behavior of individuals currently living will generally have long-term consequences that affect the well-being of those who will come to live in the future. Intergenerational interdependencies of this nature raise difficult moral issues because only the current generation is in a position to decide on actions that will determine the nature of the world in which future generations will live. Although most are willing to attach some weight to the interests of future generations, many would argue that it is (...) not necessary to treat these interests as equivalent to those of the current generation. A common approach in this context is to use a system of discounting to evaluate future benefits and harms. This paper assesses the logic of discounting drawing on the writings of economists and philosophers. Much of the economic literature concerns the choice of an appropriate social discount rate. The social discount rate can be taken to reflect beliefs about the rights of future generations, a subject that has been extensively debated in the phioosophic literature. The writings of both economists and philosophers concerned with the weight to attach to the interests of future generations are reviewed and evaluated in this paper and the implications for environmental policy are discussed. (shrink)
Joshua Gert and Wlodek Rabinowicz have developed frameworks for value relations that are rich enough to allow for non-standard value relations such as parity. Yet their frameworks do not allow for any non-standard preference relations. In this paper, I shall defend a symmetry between values and preferences, namely, that for every value relation, there is a corresponding preference relation, and vice versa. I claim that if the arguments that there are non-standard value relations are cogent, these arguments, mutatis mutandis, (...) also show that there are non-standard preference relations. Hence frameworks of Gert and Rabinowicz's type are either inadequate since there are cogent arguments for both non-standard value and preference relations and these frameworks deny this, or they lack support since the arguments for non-standard value relations are unconvincing. Instead, I propose a simpler framework that allows for both non-standard value and preference relations. (shrink)
Preference is a basic notion in human behaviour, underlying such varied phenomena as individual rationality in the philosophy of action and game theory, obligations in deontic logic (we should aim for the best of all possible worlds), or collective decisions in social choice theory. Also, in a more abstract sense, preference orderings are used in conditional logic or non-monotonic reasoning as a way of arranging worlds into more or less plausible ones. The ﬁeld of preference logic (cf. Hansson ) studies (...) formal systems that can express and analyze notions of preference between various sorts of entities: worlds, actions, or propositions. The art is of course to design a language that combines perspicuity and low complexity with reasonable expressive power. In this paper, we take a particularly simple approach. As preferences are binary relations between worlds, they naturally support standard unary modalities. In particular, our key modality ♦ϕ will just say that is ϕ true in some world which is at least as good as the current one. Of course, this notion can also be indexed to separate agents. The essence of this language is already in , but our semantics is more general, and so are our applications and later language extensions. Our modal language can express a variety of preference notions between propositions. Moreover, as already suggested in , it can “deconstruct” standard conditionals, providing an embedding of conditional logic into more standard modal logics. Next, we take the language to the analysis of games, where some sort of preference logic is evidently needed ( has a binary modal analysis diﬀerent from ours). We show how a qualitative unary preference modality suﬃces for deﬁning Nash Equilibrium in strategic games, and also the Backward Induction solution for ﬁnite extensive games. Finally, from a technical perspective, our treatment adds a new twist. Each application considered in this paper suggests the need for some additional access to worlds before the preference modality can unfold its true power.. (shrink)
Daniel M. Hausman holds that preferences in economics are total subjective comparative evaluations—subjective judgments to the effect that something is better than something else all things told—and that economists are right to employ this conception of preference. Here, I argue against both parts of Hausman’s thesis. The failure of Hausman’s account, I continue, reflects a deeper problem, that is, that preferences in economics do not need an explicit definition of the kind that he seeks. Nonetheless, Hausman’s labors were (...) not in vain: his accomplishment is that he has articulated a useful model of the theory. (shrink)
We investigate the conflict between the ex ante and ex post criteria of social welfare in a new framework of individual and social decisions, which distinguishes between two sources of uncertainty, here interpreted as an objective and a subjective source respectively. This framework makes it possible to endow the individuals and society not only with ex ante and ex post preferences, as is usually done, but also with interim preferences of two kinds, and correspondingly, to introduce interim forms (...) of the Pareto principle. After characterizing the ex ante and ex post criteria, we present a first solution to their conflict that extends the former as much possible in the direction of the latter. Then, we present a second solution, which goes in the opposite direction, and is also maximally assertive. Both solutions translate the assumed Pareto conditions into weighted additive utility representations, and both attribute to the individuals common probability values on the objective source of uncertainty, and different probability values on the subjective source. We discuss these solutions in terms of two conceptual arguments, i.e., the by now classic spurious unanimity argument and a novel informational argument labelled complementary ignorance. The paper complies with the standard economic methodology of basing probability and utility representations on preference axioms, but for the sake of completeness, also considers a construal of objective uncertainty based on the assumption of an exogeneously given probability measure. JEL classification: D70; D81. (shrink)
People who have not experienced diseases and health conditions tend to judge them to be worse than they are reported to be by people who have experienced them. This phenomenon, known as the disability paradox, presents a challenge for health policy, and in particular, healthcare resource distribution. This divergence between patient and public preferences is most plausibly explained as a result of hedonic adaptation, a widespread phenomenon in which people tend to adapt fairly quickly to the state they are (...) in, good or bad, and adjust their baseline utility accordingly.If patient utilities can be shown to be inappropriate for use in public policy decision making, the disability paradox fades away. This paper offers a critique of one such attempt: the idea that adaptation leads to adaptive preferences. I argue that none of the main accounts of adaptive preferences in fact characterise adapted patient preferences as irrational. Adapted preferences should not, therefore, be treated as synonymous with adaptive preferences. I suggest that much patient adaptation should be understood as a form of the ubiquitous human ability to respond to environmental change. Consequently, we ought not to discount patient preferences. (shrink)
Millions of children worldwide could benefit from adoption. One could argue that prospective parents have a pro tanto duty to adopt rather than create children. For the sake of argument, I assume there is such a duty and focus on a pressing objection to it. Prospective parents may prefer that their children are genetically related to them. I examine eight reasons prospective parents have for preferring genetic children: for parent-child physical resemblance, for family resemblance, for psychological similarity, for the sake (...) of love, to achieve a kind of immortality, for the genetic connection itself, to be a procreator, and to experience pregnancy. I argue that, with the possible exception of the pregnancy desire, these reasons fail to defeat a duty to adopt a child rather than create one, even assuming that we do have some leeway to favor our own interests. (shrink)
This paper defends revealed preference theory against a pervasive line of criticism, according to which revealed preference methodology relies on appealing to some mental states, in particular an agent’s beliefs, rendering the project incoherent or unmotivated. I argue that all that is established by these arguments is that revealed preference theorists must accept a limited mentalism in their account of the options an agent should be modelled as choosing between. This is consistent both with an essentially behavioural interpretation of preference (...) and with standard revealed preference methodology. And it does not undermine the core motivations of revealed preference theory. (shrink)
I argue that Gauthier's constrained-maximizer rationality is problematic. But standard Maximizing Rationality means one's preferences are only rational if it would not maximize on them to adopt new ones. In the Prisoner's Dilemma, it maximizes to adopt conditionally cooperative preferences. (These are detailed, with a view to avoiding problems of circularity of definition.) Morality then maximizes. I distinguish the roles played in rational choices and their bases by preferences, dispositions, moral and rational principles, the aim of rational (...) action, and rational decision rules. I argue that Maximizing Rationality necessarily structures conclusive reasons for action. Thus conations of any sort can base rational choices only if the conations are structured like a coherent preference function; rational actions maximize on such functions. Maximization-constraining dispositions cannot integrate into a coherent preference function. (shrink)
The finding that women are attracted to men older than themselves whereas men are attracted to relatively younger women has been explained by social psychologists in terms of economic exchange rooted in traditional sex-role norms. An alternative evolutionary model suggests that males and females follow different reproductive strategies, and predicts a more complex relationship between gender and age preferences. In particular, males' preferences for relatively younger females should be minimal during early mating years, but should become more pronounced (...) as the male gets older. Young females are expected to prefer somewhat older males during their early years and to change less as they age. We briefly review relevant theory and present results of six studies testing this prediction. Study 1 finds support for this gender-differentiated prediction in age preferences expressed in personal advertisements. Study 2 supports the prediction with marriage statistics from two U.S. cities. Study 3 examines the cross-generational robustness of the phenomenon, and finds the same pattern in marriage statistics from 1923. Study 4 replicates Study 1 using matrimonial advertisements from two European countries, and from India. Study 5 finds a consistent pattern in marriages recorded from 1913 through 1939 on a small island in the Philippines. Study 6 reveals the same pattern in singles advertisements placed by financially successful American women and men. We consider the limitations of previous normative and evolutionary explanations of age preferences and discuss the advantages of expanding previous models to include the life history perspective. (shrink)
The tenuous claims of cost-benefit analysis to guide policy so as to promote welfare turn on measuring welfare by preference satisfaction and taking willingness-to-pay to indicate preferences. Yet it is obvious that people's preferences are not always self-interested and that false beliefs may lead people to prefer what is worse for them even when people are self-interested. So welfare is not preference satisfaction, and hence it appears that cost-benefit analysis and welfare economics in general rely on a mistaken (...) theory of well-being. This essay explores the difficulties, criticizes standard defences of welfare economics, and then offers a new partial defence that maintains that welfare economics is independent of any philosophical theory of well-being. Welfare economics requires nothing more than anevidentialconnection between preference and welfare: in circumstances in which people are concerned with their own interests and reasonably good judges of what will serve their interests, their preferences will be reliable indicators of what is good for them. (shrink)
I argue, first, that the deprived individuals whose predicaments Nussbaum cites as examples of "adaptive preference" do not in fact prefer the conditions of their lives to what we should regard as more desirable alternatives, indeed that we believe they are badly off precisely because they are not living the lives they would prefer to live if they had other options and were aware of them. Secondly, I argue that even where individuals in deprived circumstances acquire tastes for conditions that (...) we regard as bad, they are typically better off having their acquired preferences satisfied. If they are badly off it is because they cannot get what we and they, would regard as more desirable alternatives. Preference utilitarianism explains why individuals in such circumstances are badly off whether they have adapted to their deprived circumstances or not. Even if they prefer the conditions of their lives to all other available alternatives, most would prefer alternatives that are not available to them which would, on the preferentist account, make them better off. And that, on the preferentist account, is the basis for a radical critique of unjust institutions that limit people's options and prevent them from getting what they want. (shrink)
The notion of ‘revealed preference’ is unclear and should be abandoned. Defenders of the theory of revealed preference have misinterpreted legitimate concerns about the testability of economics as the demand that economists eschew reference to (unobservable) subjective states. As attempts to apply revealed-preference theory to game theory illustrate with particular vividness, this demand is mistaken.
We consider the role of preferences in the assessment of an agent's freedom, visualized as the opportunity for choice. After discussing several possible intuitive approaches to the problem, we explore an approach based on the notion of preference orderings that a reasonable person may possibly have. Using different sets of axioms, we characterize the rules for ranking opportunity sets in terms of freedom. We also show that certain axioms for ranking opportunity sets are incompatible.
Adaptive preference formation is the unconscious altering of our preferences in light of the options we have available. Jon Elster has argued that this is bad because it undermines our autonomy. I agree, but think that Elster's explanation of why is lacking. So, I draw on a richer account of autonomy to give the following answer. Preferences formed through adaptation are characterized by covert influence (that is, explanations of which an agent herself is necessarily unaware), and covert influence (...) undermines our autonomy because it undermines the extent to which an agent's preferences are ones that she has decided upon for herself. This answer fills the lacuna in Elster's argument. It also allows us to draw a principled distinction between adaptive preference formation and the closely related phenomenon of character planning. (shrink)
In this paper, I draw attention to comparative preference claims, i.e. sentences of the form \S prefers p to q\. I show that preference claims exhibit interesting patterns, and try to develop a semantics that captures them. Then I use my account of preference to provide an analysis of desire. The resulting entry for desire ascriptions is independently motivated, and finds support from a wide range of phenomena.
For many centuries, philosophers have debated this question: “Does God exist?” Surprisingly, they have paid rather less attention to this distinct – but also very important – question: “Would God’s existence be a good thing?” The latter is an axiological question about the difference in value that God’s existence would make (or does make) in the actual world. Perhaps the most natural position to take, whether or not one believes in God, is to hold that it would be a very (...) good thing if such a being were to exist. After all, God is traditionally thought to be perfectly powerful and good, and it might seem obvious that such a being’s existence would make things better than they would otherwise be. But this judgment has been contested: some philosophers have held that God’s existence would make things worse, and that, on this basis, one can reasonably prefer God’s non-existence. We first distinguish a wide array of axiological positions concerning the value of God’s existence which might be held by theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. We next construe these positions as comparative judgments about the axiological status of various possible worlds. We then criticize an important recent attempt to show that God’s existence would make things worse, in various ways, than they would otherwise be. (shrink)
The literature on human mate preferences is vast but most data come from studies on college students in complex societies, who represent a thin slice of cultural variation in an evolutionarily novel environment. Here, I present data on the mate preferences of men and women in a society of hunter-gatherers, the Hadza of Tanzania. Hadza men value fertility in a mate more than women do, and women value intelligence more than men do. Women place great importance on men’s (...) foraging, and both sexes rate character as important. Unlike college students, Hadza men place considerable importance on women being hard-working, and Hadza women cite looks about as often as men do. (shrink)
A much discussed topic in the theory of choice is how a preference order among options can be derived from the assumption that the notion of ' choice' is primitive. Assuming a choice function that selects elements from each finite set of options, Arrow (Económica 26: 121-127,1959) already showed how we can generate a weak ordering by putting constraints on the behavior of such a function such that it reflects utility maximization. Arrow proposed that rational agents can be modeled by (...) such choice functions. Arrow's standard model of rationality has been criticized in economics and gave rise to approaches of bounded rationality. Two standard assumptions of rationality will be given up in this paper. First, the idea that agents are utility optimizers (Simon). Second, the idea that the relation of ' indifference' gives rise to an equivalence relation. To account for the latter, Luce (Econometrica 24: 178-191, 1956) introduced semi-orders. Extending some ideas of Van Benthem (Pac Philos Q 63: 193-203, 1982), we will show how to derive semi-orders (and so-called interval orders) based on the idea that agents are utility satisficers rather than utility optimizers. (shrink)
Both Representation Theorem Arguments and Dutch Book Arguments support taking probabilistic coherence as an epistemic norm. Both depend on connecting beliefs to preferences, which are not clearly within the epistemic domain. Moreover, these connections are standardly grounded in questionable definitional/metaphysical claims. The paper argues that these definitional/metaphysical claims are insupportable. It offers a way of reconceiving Representation Theorem arguments which avoids the untenable premises. It then develops a parallel approach to Dutch Book Arguments, and compares the results. In each (...) case preferencedefects serve as a diagnostic tool, indicating purely epistemic defects. (shrink)
Changing preferencesis a phenomenonoften invoked but rarely properlyaccounted for. Throughout the history of the social sciences, researchers have come against the possibility that their subjects’ preferenceswere affected by the phenomenato be explainedor by otherfactorsnot taken into accountin the explanation.Sporadically, attempts have been made to systematically investigate these in uences, but none of these seems to have had a lasting impact. Today we are still not much further with respect to preference change than we were at the middle of the last (...) century. This anthology hopes to provide a new impulse for research into this important subject. In particular, we have chosen two routes to amplify this impulse. First, we stress the use of modellingtechniquesfamiliar from economicsand decision theory. Instead of constructing complex, all-encompassing theories of preference change, the authors of this volume start with very simple, formal accounts of some possible and hopefully plausible mechanism of preference change. Eventually, these models may nd their way into larger, empirically adequate theories, but at this stage, we think that the most importantwork lies in building structure.Secondly,we stress the importance of interdisciplinary exchange. Only by drawing together experts from different elds can the complex empirical and theoretical issues in the modelling of preference change be adequately investigated. (shrink)
Preferences play a role in well-being that is difficult to escape, but whatever authority one grants to preferences, their malleability seems to cause problems for any theory of well-being that employs them. Most importantly, preferences appear to display a status-quo bias: people come to prefer what they are likely rather than unlikely to get. I try to do two things here. The first is to provide a more precise characterization of the status-quo bias, how it functions, and (...) how it infects commonly accepted theories of well-being. The second is to give an alternative characterization of an agent's preferences that succeeds in avoiding the status-quo bias. (shrink)
Chrisoula Andreou says procrastination qua imprudent delay is modeled by Warren Quinn’s self-torturer, who supposedly has intransitive preferences that rank each indulgence in something that delays his global goals over working toward those goals and who finds it vague where best to stop indulging. His pair-wise choices to indulge result in his failing the goals, which he then regrets. This chapter argues, contra the money-pump argument, that it is not irrational to have or choose from intransitive preferences; so (...) the agent’s delays are not imprudent, not instances of procrastination. Moreover, the self-torturer case is intelligible only if there is no vagueness and if the agent’s preferences are transitive. But then he would delay only from ordinary weakness of will. And when it is vague where best to stop indulging, rational agents would use symmetry-breaking techniques; so, again, any procrastination would be explained by standard weakness of will, not vagueness. (shrink)
Rational choice theory analyzes how an agent can rationally act, given his or her preferences, but says little about where those preferences come from. Preferences are usually assumed to be fixed and exogenously given. Building on related work on reasons and rational choice, we describe a framework for conceptualizing preference formation and preference change. In our model, an agent's preferences are based on certain "motivationally salient" properties of the alternatives over which the preferences are held. (...)Preferences may change as new properties of the alternatives become salient or previously salient properties cease to be salient. Our approach captures endogenous preferences in various contexts and helps to illuminate the distinction between formal and substantive concepts of rationality, as well as the role of perception in rational choice. (shrink)
To the normal reasons that we think can justify one in preferring something, x (namely, that x has objectively preferable properties, or has properties that one prefers things to have, or that x's obtaining would advance one's preferences), I argue that it can be a justifying reason to prefer x that one's very preferring of x would advance one's preferences. Here, one prefers x not because of the properties of x, but because of the properties of one's having (...) the preference for x. So-revising one's preferences is rational in paradoxical choice situations like Kavka's Deterrence Paradox. I then try to meet the following objections: that this is stoicist, incoherent, bad faith; that it conflates instrumental and intrinsic value, gives wrong solutions to the problems presented by paradoxical choice situations, entails vicious regresses of value justification, falsifies value realism, makes valuing x unresponsive to x's properties, causes value conflict, conflicts with other standards of rationality, violates decision theory, counsels immorality, makes moral paradox, treats value change as voluntary, conflates first- and second-order values, is psychologically unrealistic, and wrongly presumes that paradoxical choice situations can even occur. (shrink)
We explore aversion to the use of algorithms in moral decision-making. So far, this aversion has been explained mainly by the fear of opaque decisions that are potentially biased. Using incentivized experiments, we study which role the desire for human discretion in moral decision-making plays. This seems justified in light of evidence suggesting that people might not doubt the quality of algorithmic decisions, but still reject them. In our first study, we found that people prefer humans with decision-making discretion to (...) algorithms that rigidly apply exogenously given human-created fairness principles to specific cases. In the second study, we found that people do not prefer humans to algorithms because they appreciate flesh-and-blood decision-makers per se, but because they appreciate humans’ freedom to transcend fairness principles at will. Our results contribute to a deeper understanding of algorithm aversion. They indicate that emphasizing the transparency of algorithms that clearly follow fairness principles might not be the only element for fostering societal algorithm acceptance and suggest reconsidering certain features of the decision-making process. (shrink)
Sequel to Armendt 1986, ‘A Foundation for Causal Decision Theory.’ The representation theorem for causal decision theory is slightly revised, with the addition of a new restriction on lotteries and a new axiom (A7). The discussion gives some emphasis to the way in which appropriate K-partitions are characterized by relations found among the agent’s conditional preferences. The intended interpretation of conditional preference is one that embodies a sensitivity to the agent’s causal beliefs.
Recently a new question has emerged in the philosophy of religion: not whether God exists, but whether God’s existence is or would be preferable. The existing literature on the subject is sparse. The present essay, in dialogue form, is an attempt to marshal and evaluate arguments on both sides.
Our goal in this chapter is to draw on empirical work about preference formation and welfare to propose a distinctive form of paternalism, libertarian in spirit, one that should be acceptable to those who are firmly committed to freedom of choice on grounds of either autonomy or welfare. Indeed, we urge that a kind of ‘libertarian paternalism’ provides a basis for both understanding and rethinking many social practices, including those that deal with worker welfare, consumer protection, and the family.
Can teams and other collectivities have preferences of their own, preferences that are not in some way reducible to the personal preferences of their members? In short, are collective preferences possible? In everyday life people speak easily of what we prefer, where what is at issue seems to be a collective preference. This is suggested by the acceptability of such remarks as ‘My ideal walk would be . . . along rougher and less well-marked paths than (...) we prefer as a family’. One can imagine, indeed, that each member of a given family prefers something other than what the family prefers. What, then, do the collective preferences of everyday understanding amount to? (shrink)
An adaptive preference is a preference that is regimented in response to an agent’s set of feasible options. The fabled fox in the sour grapes story undergoes an adaptive preference change. I consider adaptive preferences more broadly, to include adaptive preference formation as well. I argue that many adaptive preferences that other philosophers have cast out as irrational sour-grapes-like preferences are actually fully rational preferences worthy of pursuit. I offer a means of distinguishing rational and worthy (...) adaptive preferences from irrational and unworthy ones. The distinction is based on the agent’s own appraisal of the adaptive preference. (shrink)